raven: subway sign in black and white, text: "Times Square / 42 Street station" (stock - times square)
After a rather stressful day at work ("Can you spend several hours on the phone with a firm of Scottish engineers? It'll be just like Christmas dinner with your in-laws!") I went to London this evening and had dinner with the South African Siren! For late arrivals to the party of my endlessly fascinating life, I spent a year living abroad some time ago and for all of that period of freezing cold, culture shock and broadening horizons, the Siren was my dearest friend. She's visiting London on holiday before going on Contiki ("I'm shy and socially awkward and spending thirty-three days going around Europe with total strangers! This will end well!") and what with everything else going on, tonight was all we could manage. She and Shim and I ate pizza and drank wine and laughed a lot and talked about nothing and everything, and then we went to Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross and took pictures of ourselves pushing a luggage trolley into the wall. It was such fun, but now I am sad because my friend is gone and I probably won't see her again for another year or years. See, kids, this is why you shouldn't live in other places. You end up leaving bits of yourself strewn all over the place and life becomes, if not a mournful vacuum, at least a study in mournful hoovering.

I did extract a promise from her to attend at least one of the weddings - and as for the rest, I guess I have to go to South Africa, sometime. I do want to. The world seems to get smaller but never quite small enough.

Anyway. Enough mournful. I love this meme so here I am doing it again, now I seem to be writing:

Pick any passage of 500 words or less from any story I've written, and comment to this post with that selection. I will then give you the equivalent of a DVD commentary on that snippet: what I was thinking when I wrote it, why I wrote it in the first place, what's going on in the character's heads, why I chose certain words, what this moment means in the context of the rest of the fic, lots of awful puns, and anything else that you’d expect to find on a DVD commentary track.

(Via [personal profile] philomytha.) Oh I should go to bed.
raven: (sapphire & steel - newspaper)
Hello, internet. I am writing this in my departure gate at JFK, feeling so tired I could cut loose and float away like a balloon. I begin to suspect it is the horrible harsh exhaustion of my body saying, okay, law school, moving out, four days in Manhattan in the pouring rain, being nice to family in CT all very well, but for god's sake GO HOME AND SLEEP NOW.

I am going home to sleep now.

Actually, internet, I am rather dreading it.

Um. So, I graduated! There was that. The ceremony was in the pouring rain, and a red-gowned warmly-lit contrast to my very staid, proper, weighed-down-by-fur-and-tradition Oxford graduation. Not that I didn't enjoy that - crossing the floor of the Sheldonian in academic dress isn't something anyone gets to do very often - but this had a little joie de vivre. It wasn't in alphabetical order, so you could gather up with your friends and giggle in the wings when waiting, and cheer offstage when someone you knew took their degree. And, a lovely tradition: in both graduating classes, there were a few people who had had babies during their time in law school, and most of them chose to carry their little ones across the stage with them. One tiny little man was sleeping as his mum climbed the stairs, but woke up briefly in the glare of the bright lights and the gaze of hundreds of people, and promptly gave a small, regal wave, to the total delight of the audience.

The faculty speaker was.... trying. Clearly, clearly, he had taken a section from a paper or possibly a thesis and read out a section in lieu of, y'know, a speech. It was exceptionally long and tiresome and I've been to law school, I could at least follow what he was saying. (The Siren, later: "He used the word 'demos'. Who uses 'DEMOS' in a GRADUATION SPEECH?") What the guests and small people thought, I have no idea.

The student speakers, on the other hand, were warm, funny and fond. They told anecdotes and dabbled in nostalgia, and then, with a certain embarrassed gentleness, "We turn now to United States v Carolene Products footnote four" - to an amused murmur from the graduates and possibly groans from the rest of the auditorium.

okay, who wants to hear about law )

Afterwards we filed out into the rain and retreated to the law school to dry off, and because I made the reservation in February we had somewhere to go out for dinner. (Apparently, dinner reservations for the undergrad graduation weekend had to be made in 2007. My mind boggles.) It was a nice dinner, but. But. Oh, I hate goodbyes. I ordered lemon souffle as dessert, and while I was eating it, Baby E looked at me reflectively and said, "Do you remember? When we'd first come? You said to me, if we're going to be friends, you should know that I eat a lot. More than anyone else you know."

"Well," I said, through the souffle, "we are friends and I do eat a lot, so there."

In lieu of actually saying goodbye, I squished her and said, when you sit down and work for the bar exam, for your PhD, whatever else you do, you child prodigy you, remember me marching into your apartment yelling about ALL WORK AND NO PLAY DULL GIRL and go get a cocktail once in a while.

I couldn't say goodbye to the Siren. We stood there and looked at each other for a moment, and then did what we always do, at the end of the evening; wave, giggle, see you soon.

Soon. I hope so.

The day after that, it rained even more. It poured and poured and poured and I was horribly fed up with everything. I had breakfast with some friends, who made me pancakes and bacon and dispatched me out more cheery into the rain, and then I managed to trek over to see [personal profile] livrelibre and say a quick, rainy goodbye before I had to go home and put all my things in boxes and give them to the Salvation Army. I had about a hundred books. Thirty of them were shipped, ten given to Tobermory (I ran to the law school, gave her the books, my free-coffee stamp cards - yes, okay, so I took two semesters collecting enough for six free cups of $5 coffee, but if her thesis proposal kicks a little more arse because I funded her caffeine habit for a week, I am okay with that) and the rest all given away. I managed, also, to pop in and say goodbye to [personal profile] eruthros, and [personal profile] thingswithwings, thank goodness, and I cleaned my apartment top to bottom, shipped the books, arranged for subletters and handed over my keys.

And left.

The last few days have been, okay, if not exactly restful, not law school. My parents hadn't been to New York since 1999, so the three of us had a good time even if we did emphatically get rained on. (Dear climatic conditions of the state of New York: springtime. Get with the programme, okay.) And I had a lovely, somewhat cocktail-soaked evening with [personal profile] macadamanaity, swapping Doctor Who theories (still haven't seen the last three episodes!) and laughing a lot. I wasn't keen on visiting relatives in Connecticut to be the thing I did on my last weekend in the States - Connecticut! is all green and leafy! in every bloody direction! - but oddly enough it worked out fine. I had a genius idea, and my cousin S and I drove to New Haven and picked up [livejournal.com profile] gamesiplay, and the three of us had one of those unexpectedly glorious days you get sometimes when everything is in flux. The sun was shining, I was charmed by New Haven - it reminds me of Oxford, a little, and Boston, a little, and it's something all of itself, too - and certainly it's the only place I've ever been where you can eat mashed potato pizza and for this to be a good idea. So we did that, and then we went book shopping. My cousin has been long-term ill for quite a while, and after a couple of years flat on her back, she's feeling good, happy, ready to take on the world again - but has, in those two years, discovered reading. She never read as a kid, she was telling me, she never read in high school - but suddenly she's found herself in books.

I was reminded irresistibly of That Time I Read Hamlet (and couldn't find anyone to inform that actually it's quite good), and promised I would compile her a comprehensive list of recommendations. In the end Leigh and I went through the Yale bookstore's entire SFF section from A to Z, recommending things, and yes, basically ended up monologuing at each other. It was delightful. We finished off the day with some surprisingly-unbad chick flick and sweeties, and now it is Sunday afternoon, it is raining in New York, and my flight to the UK opens for boarding in forty minutes.

Well. Well, here's what's next.
raven: subway sign in black and white, text: "Times Square / 42 Street station" (stock - times square)
I appreciate every single damn one of your comments, emails and texts, you are all fabulous fabulous people. I am not replying to things because my parents are here (which, by the way, is cool but EPIC DISCOMBOBULATE) and convocation is TOMORROW, ohmygod, and can you believe I still haven't quite finished my papers yet. (If you can see a logical discontinuity in the preceding, you're not the only one.)

So, anyway, [livejournal.com profile] gamesiplay is a total rock star who has dealt with 12,000 words of my academic writing in the last 72 hours, so a huge round of applause for her, please, and another for the South African Siren who came round last night at 10pm with a Bluebook on the way to the airport to pick up her dad(!) and tomorrow I convocate and Monday I pack some of my stuff, and give the rest of it to the Salvation Army, and I am trying to see everyone I want to see everyone I want to see before I leave as well, oh lord. If I manage all of this, I get on a bus to NYC on Monday evening, am there till the following weekend, and then I leave these springlike shores.

Fairly obviously, I haven't seen today's Doctor Who or last week's Doctor Who (and, let's face it, probably not next week's). All in good time.

kthxbye! See y'all on the long deep oceanic flipside.
raven: subway sign in black and white, text: "Times Square / 42 Street station" (stock - times square)
Here is how I am. Conversation with the nice people at the vegan cafe: "Iona! Iced or regular?"

"Regular," I said, as usual completely delighted they didn't ask the preceding question.

"How can you drink regular coffee on a day like this?" - while getting it for me and not asking about the half and half and no sugar.

"It's my third," I said, and did not point out the fact of its being 2pm because the clock loomed over it all, ticking, ticking, ticking the ten or eleven days I have to do everything in the world.

The bad:

-My first exam in a week, followed by a twenty-four hour exam, oh god I am dreading it, was instructed today that "some people find sleeping helps during that period", thank you so much adorable con law prof;

-Still 10,000 words to write for two papers, need to turn in a first draft tomorrow, argh;

-...thus spending twelve hours a day in the law school. It's a nice place but it doesn't improve that much through long acquaintance.

-And it doesn't help that the charger on Shim's netbook has got a loose connection, meaning I have to watch the thing like a hawk while waiting for a new one to come, you couldn't last one more week you dratted thing.

The good:

-The weather! Twenty-five degrees and blue sky;

-Having been kept going by A Civil Campaign all of last week, I am now fifty pages into Memory and it's still my favourite, and relatedly people like my story yay!

-the law school's End of Semester Therapeutic Massage Party, all initial caps thankyouverymuch.

The neither good nor bad, I don't know, I have all these feelings, okay:

-In two weeks and four days I will get on a bus to New York City and thence on a flight to Manchester, and leave Ithaca behind, possibly for good. I don't want to go. I don't want to go! I have people and a life and way of being, I have restaurants I like and friends I can talk to about fandom and friends I can talk to about law, and every Wednesday the Siren and Baby E and I have breakfast at 10am in the law school cafeteria and argue cheerfully about First Amendment theory for an hour and I look forward to it enough to get me out of bed in the morning and at the vegan cafe they know my name and give me coffee without asking and my adviser tells me I have promise and I have three full CTB punch-cards and no time to go and order the three most expensive things on the menu and on my way home across the span bridge I cross the gorge at Fall Creek and watch the cataracts smashing off the rocks and feel a little of that intensity for a moment every single day.

And the worst part, this arctic wasteland where polar bears go to die has turned sweetly alluring. Green, rich-smelling turf, new growth, daffodils. Twenty-five degrees in the shade and lightning forking into the gorges and all luscious humidity and heat.

I don't want to go.

Back to work.
raven: white text on green and yellow background: "ten points from Gryffindor for destroying my soul" (sbp - destroying my soul)
In the latest from Ithaca's dizzy meteorology, twenty-five degrees and a summer storm. It was minus five last week. I will never understand this place. But I appreciated the t-shirt and sandals. My toes hadn't seen sun since New Orleans.

Shim left this afternoon, in a flurry of incompetence, none of it ours. My boy never has the best luck with flying out of Ithaca, apparently. Last time they tried to deliver him to Schipol rather than Heathrow; this time he was taking a flight at 3.20, and I had class till just gone twelve, so I said, I'll come home and we'll have lunch and then we'll call a cab. I called at 1pm; the cab people said it'd be twenty minutes. Half an hour later I called back, they said it'd be fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes after that they said it'd be fifteen minutes. Then I called back and the guy wasn't exactly intelligible but I heard something about "police". I called Ithaca's only other cab company and we got to the airport a mere hour and a half after planned. And then we stood in line for twenty-five minutes - Continental's computers were all down, apparently - and then when finally he'd checked in they announced the delay.

It was a delay for an hour, so I stuck around, and we watched the turboprops landing and taking off (it's a very small airport) and then he went through security. Just as he was crossing through to the other side, they announced the next delay. He did, in the end, miss his connection through Newark, though luckily there is not exactly a shortage of transatlantic redeyes. I just seem to have a very low tolerance for other people's incompetence today. (My own, now, that's a different story.)

So, it's now April 11th. I graduate, theoretically, on May 15th. In the next four weeks and six days I have to: write 14,000 words; sit two exams; deliver a half-hour presentation on research I have not begun yet; go to class; leave the house; eat, sleep and take showers.

(I also need to keep telling myself that I do not need to take the bar exam. I do not need to take the bar exam. I was going to, originally. Here are the reasons I am not taking the bar exam:

-bar review begins the week after graduation;
-and goes on until the bar exam in the last week of July;
-my visa expires long before that, I'd have to go to Canada and back;
-and besides, I do not need to take the bar exam;
-though it would be nice, and a good thing to have on the CV;
-I am perfectly qualified to practise in England and Wales;
-and speaking of which, will be in practice in England and Wales from the start of September;
-and need to find a place to live, move all my possessions there and also learn to drive before then;
-and I have been in full time education since I was four years old and I am twenty-four now, and I have been in various stages of academic burnout for oh half a decade and I need a damn holiday THAT IS WHY I AM NOT TAKING THE BAR EXAM.

And yet I still feel guilty about it.)

I am already looking around my apartment at the washing-up and the coffee mugs and empty fridge and the clock and making myself hollow promises about decaf and early nights and oh hey remember you almost missed an exam last semester because you can't wake up before one in the afternoon oh yeah. Wouldn't it be nice to be the sort of person who can deal with her partner leaving. Yes. I am feeling very rubbish indeed and dealing it with through the magnificent gambit of ignoring it entirely and abusing italics goddammit. I made a revision timetable. It's not colour-coded.

(As an old friend of mine would say at this point, sometimes you just stand there, hip-deep in pie.)

This entry is just so much alphabet soup. Don't mind the crazy girl in the corner. Go on with your day.
raven: (stock - scotland)
I've had a nice weekend. The Siren is back from Forn Parts, and I'd missed her; we managed to go grocery shopping this morning without anybody crying; yesterday was [personal profile] eruthros' birthday and part of how she chose to celebrate was watching "Bride of Chaotica!" (note, the exclamation point goes inside the quotation marks.)

(My favourite part: Satan's Robot. "Invaders from the fifth dimension! Invaders from the fifth dimension! Invaders!" - Harry dings it - "invaders.")


Me, yawning: Okay, it's late, I should go home.
[personal profile] eruthros: Once again, you get away with seeing The Sentinel.
Me: I promise you before I go, you can show me The Sentinel. You can tie me to a chair and show me The Sentinel.
[personal profile] livrelibre: We can prop your eyes open with toothpicks.
Me: We're gonna need a safeword.

It was a lovely evening.

In other news, I have made no progress on Remix whatsoever, [personal profile] gavagai and I have spent a lot of time recently discussing the many many LOTS of times Rupert Giles is awesome [note: spoilers for the Buffy season 8 comics, if you're into those] and I was pleased to note that although [livejournal.com profile] lgbtfest has retired for the time being, [livejournal.com profile] queer_fest has appeared to take up the slack.

(Partly because of this, I've put all my Buffy fic onto the AO3, after a good long while of dithering about it; the problem is it's right on the edge of writing I am embarrassed to have on the internet - 2002 and 2003 are pretty much a no, so most of my Harry Potter fic and all of my SG-1 fic is not archived, and the M*A*S*H stories have already been read by everyone in the world I am comfortable having read them! - but the Buffy stories were written in 2004. And so they've gone up, with the caveat of I-was-sixteen-when-I-wrote-this appended to the bottom. And they've got kudos! After an initial dislike, I think I can say I'm definitely come around to the AO3 kudos idea. It's nice to know people like stories I wrote seven years ago.)

In matters non-fannish, though, I am not doing so well )
raven: (stock - roses)
One of those nights, my friends. One of those nights. I've been doing well, though, so I won't complain and will sit and read First Amendment common law until the hydroxyzine kicks in.

[personal profile] gavagai is here visiting me, but like sensible people, is asleep at one am. She's been here nearly a week, and it's been quiet and lovely; we've wandered around Ithaca, we've been to Collegetown Bagels and wandered the campus and crossed Fall Creek; we walked around the lake and up gorges swollen with snowmelt and admired the shards of ice like paving slabs; also we went to a formal dance and a bowling alley on the same day, but not together! Bowling was fun and all retro-Americana and I was very bad at it; the law school spring ball was badly-organised but bright with fairy lights and golden wine all the same. We've been watching a lot of Six Feet Under, about which I have thoughts )

I have introduced Laura to a whole bunch of my friends, and [personal profile] livrelibre took us to the Corning Museum of Glass, which was stunning - a mixture, as Laura puts it, between hard science of how glass is made, and gorgeous glass artwork, chess sets, sculpture, fabulously tacky paperweights. Also, a live demonstration of glassblowing by a pair of delightfully nonchalant glassblowers in jeans and T-shirts swinging around globes of molten glass at a mere 1200 degrees Celsius. I'd heard of Corning glass, of course, but had no idea until I moved here that Corning is a small town in upstate New York. It was definitely worth the trip.

(And! The first attempt at the Palomar telescope mirror, a twenty-tonne chunk of scarred glass I remember reading about when I was younger. I was delighted by the information panel, which explained how the mirror got into the building. Answer: it didn't. It was always there, and the building was built around it. What a metaphor for how the world changes around determined people.)

The weather is getting kinder and milder all the time. After last week's epic snowstorms we have bare ground and green grass and a heavy, earthy richness to everything - creeks full of running water, daylight at six, a feeling like the world has promise. In the hubbub as I was settling down for a class, a guy piped up and said, "I don't mean to be poetic and shit, but did you know outside has a smell?" And he's totally right, snow and ice don't smell of much but conifers and wet ground do. There is a lot of mud and rain. I don't care. Equinox next week, spring is coming. Possibly related, my work is going well for the first time in a month or so; I spent some time yesterday reading up on the common law of murder, and losing myself in Coke and Hale and the King's peace and the person in being and malice aforethought and being full of wonder all over again that I get to do what I do, that I get to spend my whole day talking about words mean and what evil is and why people do what we do and what's right and what's wrong and what's a traffic regulation, and it matters.

I'm going to New Orleans next week. Shim is visiting for a week in April. It breaks my heart a little that I have been here eight months and I've had the culture shock and the long hard winter and unlearning of equity and the relearning of the common law, and now the sun is shining and I have friends and an ease borne of familiarity beneath my life... and it's nearly time to go back. I have another life in some parallel universe where I transfer to the JD programme this summer and apply for the Second Circuit clerkship that just landed in my inbox. In this life, the winter's nearly gone.
raven: (stock - roses)
So, I was going to make a cranky LDR post, but, on second thoughts, perhaps not. I am cranky. At some level I always am. Long-distance relationships suck monkey balls. Don't do them, they're awful and sad.

But. Once again, Shim and I have been together for an integer number of years. During that time we have, inter alia: gone on long walks in the countryside; bought a lot of books; started a small kitchen fire; danced to no music under the moon; eaten pancakes in Amsterdam; run drunkenly down the steps of Sacre Coeur; spent hours looking for a stranger's missing keys in the snow; had screaming rows about nothing in particular; drunk wine on the roof of Lincoln at three in the morning; climbed Arthur's Seat in rain so bad the dye ran from my shoes; spent seven months apart; done a lot of dishes; written letters and emails and instant messages; made faces over Skype; been together.

And here we are. Still keeping on and carrying on.

edit fuck it, I am working out my cranky by listening to the Weepies' entire discography on repeat (I pity my next door neighbour) so now you can too.

no, you can't go back now )
raven: (misc - winter)
I went skiing today! It's part of Project Get Out of the House On Weekends, and the Siren came round this morning at nine am when I was half-asleep and half-wondering why I'd agreed to it, but I tumbled out the door and we picked up Baby E and the air was fresh and surprisingly non-chilled - it was a delicious six degrees above today - and the fields rolled picturesquely out under the sky on the drive up, and by the time we got there I was surprisingly enthused about the whole thing. The idea was to maybe do some things that I won't get the opportunity to do after this year, and there was a decent offer on and it would've been foolish not to.

(I am not one of life's natural winter sportspeople, I should mention. The last time I went skiing I was twelve, in the Italian Alps (with [livejournal.com profile] shipperkitten? remind me) and I was very bad at it indeed and also hated it rather. The Siren went skiing in Austria once when she was nine; Baby E glared all round and said, "Yes, there is so much good skiing in sub-Saharan Africa." Great, I said, we shall all make idiots of ourselves together.)

So off we trundled through this odd greyish warmish day, and were giggled at by the person who sold us lift passes because of our utter ineptitude, and having explained to the ski rental people the very good reason why not one of the three of us has a New York state driver's licence, we went for a beginners' lesson on what the Siren persists in referring to as the bunny slopes. (We were sharing them with, predictably, an army of tiny, earnest and horrifyingly competent children. They were very patient. I especially liked the curly-haired five-year-old snowboarder who apologised to me when I got in the way of his immaculate descent.)

And, well... first I still hated it. So awkward! My ankles were not made for this, etc. Then I unexpectedly glided down a gentle incline perfectly balanced on one foot. And after I had helped haul Baby E up one too many times and she declared us all masochists and that it was time for lunch, and lunch had been had, I went up to the top of the bunny slope and took a deep breath and went for it. At first I was terrified, and then I was astonished I was still on my feet, still moving, and then I was starting not to be terrified, and then I'd come to a gentle stop and the slope had my descent marked neatly on the snow behind me. And then I tramped up to the little chairlift to do it a few more times.

And, I get it now, I do, I get why people go such hideous effort and expense to do this. It's because once it clicked - once I could turn and stop and no longer worried too much about losing my footing underneath me - it was transcendent. It's the closest you'll get to flying in this life. And something - something about the silence and the sweep of snow, and the toothpaste-freshness of the air - something just made it right.

I desperately want to go back, and the Siren agrees. It was a wonderful day.
raven: quadrangle of Christ Church, Oxford, under snow (stock - oxford)
So, you might have noticed the enormous snowstorm threatening to hit most of the eastern United States. Four inches or so overnight, with a foot and a half predicted for tomorrow. I really, really love my snow boots, I've said this before and I'm saying it again but oh my feet, they're warm. Of course, the university is dead macho, right unperturbed by climatic events, and will probably not close, despite the fact the bus services are sailing past the northern stops - they fill up well before they reach anywhere near campus, and sail past marked "Bus full", and besides the one I was trying to get on came within an inch of being hit by a snow plough going faster than it was - and there are cars rolling downhill, so maybe walking is the way to go. It took me about forty minutes this morning, but at least my feet are dry, thank you very much LL Bean. I have no idea what people who can't walk a couple of miles through a foot of snow are supposed to do.

The funny thing is, it's not actually cold to walk in, which is something. (Insulating effect of all that snow? I have no idea.) It's about minus five, minus six outside, which was okay to walk through if I kept moving, and I only landed on my arse once! Small things. I am now curled up in my carrel wondering whether I'll have to walk home, but at least I am somewhere safe and warm reading about the congressional budget process, and don't live driving distance off campus. Things could be much worse.

In other news, I have been back a bit more than a week, but it feels like forever; my new apartment, barring a slight incident involving WATER EVERYWHERE, is rather nice, touch wood; it's now two thirty and thus too late for me to get coffee in the law school. Expedition! Into the snow! Etc. Hope you are all surviving snowmageddon. I am looking forward to a rock 'n' roll evening of hot drinks and Deep Space Nine, if I ever do make it. And doing laundry. Hurrah.


Jan. 23rd, 2011 04:10 pm
raven: Paul Gross as Geoffrey Tennant holding up his hand against a blue background (s&a - feeling a little crazy)
I am back in Ithaca. Here are some good things:

-Transatlantic flight, a row of three seats to myself! It was a very long and painful journey otherwise, but that was a marvellous unexpected blessing. I stretched out luxuriously and alternately read and napped my way across the ocean. One day, before I die, I'm going to fly first-class on an Emirates A380. (Yes, my daydreams are inordinately detailed, what of it.) Until then I am glad to have made it across unscathed, and I even got through immigration okay, which was my biggest worry. Also, JetBlue are a better airline than Delta. This bothers me on some level.

-My new apartment is very nice indeed. I'm not sure if I even mentioned it here in all the fuss, but at the end of last semester the nocturnal habits of my upstairs neighbours were driving me to drink, pretty much literally (the problem is that the university gives computer scientists lab time in the middle of the night, and so my neighbours were up from about 9pm to 11am, which was not doing me any good), so when my letting agents offered me the chance to move I jumped. Borrowed boxes from everyone I knew, threw all my belongings into them during the twelve hours between my last exam and my flight home, and left it all in the hands of the movers.

The new place, though billed to me as a top-floor mirror-image of my old apartment, is actually bigger, airier and newer. It also has a dishwasher, a source of endless fascination to me. (In a rare example of good design, it is a teeny, half-size dishwasher, as this is a one-bed apartment! I am oddly delighted by this.) And this morning I had TRIUMPH! I got up early and went over to contemplate my bookcase, which the movers had refused to shift on the grounds it would fall apart en route. I took it apart with the help of the compscis upstairs, and carried it bit by bit up to the new place, and put it back together again, and now it has my books in and looks no more crappy than it did before! Triumph.

-Yesterday it was very evident the difference six months makes - rather than tottering about complaining I didn't know anyone, the Siren put me up overnight so I could pick up my keys, and then we met up with a bunch of other people to do the first-day-back-bookstore-grocery-whatnot run. I didn't go out in the evening because the jet-lag had hit, but, really. I'm so over the whole moving-somewhere-new-knowing-no-one thing.

Here are some things that are bad:

-The air temperature, not accounting for windchill, is minus twenty-three degrees Celsius. According to the Weather Channel - I would like to know when I became the sort of person who took a detailed interest in the Weather Channel - this is close to the record low for Ithaca on this date. I am, a little ridiculously, planning to put on my boots and go for a five-minute walk just to see what it feels like. Am I odd, probably.

-It turns out that experience does not make homesickness any better. I had a vague half-formed feeling that the fact I was coming to somewhere not entirely unfamiliar, with friends and lots of my stuff already in place, would make it better - but it doesn't. It really doesn't. Sigh. Nothing to be said about it, of course, that hasn't been said.

Here are my not-New Year's resolutions: cut because of food )
raven: (doctor who - hello sarah jane)
Precisely three weeks from now I will be half-asleep above the mid-Atlantic. So close, so far. In the meantime I am subsisting entirely off peanut butter, whisky, gummy vitamins and battered Galaxy bars, and spending my time either working, failing to sleep, reading decade-old SG-1 fic or wailing on Shim down the phone. I have done approximately a quarter of my outlining and a quarter of my paper writing (my professor writes: "Nice start - why don't you write about due process?", to which my response has not so far been "DO I LOOK LIKE SOMEONE WHO KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT CON LAW DO I" only through a magnificent quantity of self-control.

On Thursday morning I got up at twelve, stared at the ceiling, went back to sleep. Then hit said ceiling at a hundred miles per hour half an hour later, hit the shower, found clothes, managed to have earrings in and boots on, even, by the time the South African Siren wandered in, looked around and said, "...you just got up, didn't you."

We ran out to the car, which was stuffed with people. "I drove past them all at the bus stop waiting for buses that wouldn't come," the Siren explained, and the bleakness of the sky seemed particularly telling. "It's a day to be kind, I think."

I agreed, squished myself in, and was a model of togetherness and poise, until we got to where we going, and I jumped up and down and shouted, "Shit, I forgot my TICKET!" just in time to be introduced to the Siren's mother, who is looking more regretful by the moment at leaving a southern hemisphere summer. ("I'm so glad she's making friends," she told me gently, a little later, while I was desperately trying to give off the impression of being put-together young professional rather than half-asleep work-crazed caffiene-deprived woman.) The Siren, who is all kindness, really, clapped me on the back, refused to be intimidated by my sheer grey-weather incompetence, ran me home to get my ticket and brought me back again.

Explaining Thanksgiving to foreigners is difficult, as my adviser swiftly seems to have discovered ("We thought the Native Americans suffered," said YJ, an earnest chap of Chinese descent over dinner, and he gave up) but nevertheless, the law school took pity on us all and said they would pay for us to have lunch with the graduate-and-international-students' association. Lunch was, actually, surprisingly nice. Tobermory and Baby E had kept some room for us, and we went to get the food. It was informal - you had to serve yourself and eat off melamime tables - but the food was extortionate in quantity, and the sweet potato was sweet and the turkey wasn't dry and there was good coffee. The desserts were lacklustre, but you can't have everything in life.

Halfway through lunch Tobermory stood up and said, "I'd like to say, I'm thankful for all my friends. Except Iona" - to laughter and applause and people making affectionate faces at me.

I waved a regal hand and ate more pie. A lot has changed in the last fifteen weeks of my life, but it certainly hasn't all been bad.

Afterwards the Siren dropped me off home, and I should add my apartment is a biohazard right now - it's full of discarded articles, sweet wrappers, unwashed dishes and laundry, and to add final insult I had a wee incident with a hole-punch and everything's covered in chads, so help me God - but it was looking suprisingly cosy against the backdrop of the bleakest day I've lived through recently. One oddity of the last week or so has been strange, sporadic power cuts: five- or ten-minute intervals heralded by nothing but a sub-audible whine. Because I spent a good deal of my formative years in Delhi, I have an instinct for a loss of power, even in daylight; it's like the world around you has taken a breath and not let it out, an unspoken question hanging on the suddenly charged air - and then you look up and there are no figures displaying on the microwave or whatever, but just for that second, you know, without being told. That's what Thanksgiving daytime was like, on a bigger scale - bleakly grey and freezing cold of course, a cold I associate with bad things coming, and that loss-of-power desertion; no one on the streets, something missing at the heart of things. It's a lonely place, sometimes, this.

So I got home to my tip of an apartment, and turned on all the lights, and all at once it was warm, and welcoming, and nice, despite the bleak feeling outside. I curled up on the couch and got an hour or two of work done, drinking tea sent in the post, feeling rather okay about things. And once I'd done that, I called a cab and went out again.

See, I had kind of had my doubts whether this was a good idea - whether having more than one Thanksgiving meal in a day was going to get a bit Vicar of Dibley - but then I thought, you know, what the hell, I will love seeing [profile] thingwithwings and [personal profile] eruthros and [personal profile] livrelibre, and they will totally not mind if I don't do their delicious spread the justice it deserves.

That.... was not an issue. Oh, food. More turkey, sweet potato, squash, delicious salad with walnuts in it, a kind of bombastic pinot noir and my subsequent re-realisation that I can eat more than anyone else I know, especially when I am living off a diet of peanut butter and whisky. We got tipsy, talked politics - somewhat depressingly; though we rounded it off with a solid conclusion that clearly the world would be better if we became pirates and went around dispensing loot and social justice - and watched "Dalek", the first new Who episode which features Daleks. (obv.) [personal profile] livrelibre is in the enviable position of just starting to watch Doctor Who and is being shown it in increments. (I cannot wait to show her "Blink".)

"Dalek", actually, holds up to the rewatch. I hadn't seen it since [livejournal.com profile] hathy_col and I were at a con in Milton Keynes back on the weekend it first aired (I remember now, we'd been wandering around all day with little badges marked "Dalek Virgin", and the second word handily came off for the second day of the con.) I was watching it, and there's a marvellous woman in it who is Van Staten's assistant, and gets him dumped by the roadside in the end, and I was watching it thinking "...is that? Yes, it is Osiris from SG-1!"

Of course, reading back my own review of the episode from 2005, I apparently had this exact same revelation in almost the same words when watching it with Colleen. I am so smart. So I wandered home, fell asleep on my couch - and managed to move myself to my bed during the night, which is, sincerely, an achievement - and have made it through the next couple of days without what one might call major crazy. Three weeks, three weeks.

Fall Ball

Nov. 7th, 2010 12:39 pm
raven: text: "There's a full and very reasonable explanation that mostly does not involve me being drunk" (sbp - me being drunk)
The South African Siren came round last night and shouted through the door, "I am wearing a DUVET!"

I opened the door in the middle of a lipstick crisis ("I didn't think," I said to the mirror a bit later, "that I was the sort of person who has lipstick crises", but apparently this is possible) and admired her new winter coat, which is less coat and more protective shell. She came in to my pleasantly warm, room-temperature apartment and started to turn a delicate shade of lobster pink.

Taruithorn held their annual Gandalf's fireworks and bonfire last night. For the first time in several years, I didn't attend. Instead the Siren and I got dressed up in thin layers of chiffon and sparkles, headed out into the sub-zero night and went to the law school's annual Fall Ball. This involved teetering around surrounded by some of the drunkest undergraduates I've yet met - this was eight in the evening, and there were some of them smelling of gin and wearing shorts - and going to pre-ball drinks another friend was having, in a very small, very nice apartment that filled up with graduate law students and their plus-ones and acquired a warm-lit, tipsy quality very quickly.

My friend E., who needs a pseud, I suspect, is the only underage person in the law school, which makes her life very difficult. She's also a very serious, studious person, whose sense of humour needs coaxing out bit by bit. Application of cheap Riesling seems to do the trick. Application of such to everyone is probably what got us through the even-more-sub-zero night to the engineering department. I explained to Baby E, with the help of the golden quality to everything, that as I am all of three years older than her, I have taken it as a personal charge to get her to have more fun. She smiled at me fondly and tolerated me. The entire cohort thrives on an atmosphere of patient, kind toleration. This is, I suspect, a natural consequence of taking seventy people from nearly as many different countries and expecting them to cope with the various caprices of an Ithaca winter and a determinedly idiosyncratic department. It leads to bonding through bemusement.

Where were we? Getting up the hill, through the sub-zero cold, and finding the place.

Which was weird, actually; the ball was held in the atrium of the building. It was full of passing engineering students, who had clearly decided they were going to stay late in the library and get some work done, and now their way out was blocked by five hundred law students in formal dress dancing to "Thriller". I waved at one of my upstairs neighbours. He waved back at me with an expression of confusion, which might have been the dancing, and might have been the sight of me in a red and black sparkly chiffon dress when he's never seen me not in pyjamas yelling at him to shut the hell up, it's two am. He doesn't seem to hold a grudge. He disappeared into the night with a face like the world tilting below him.

One of the real law students, another nice chap who definitely needs a pseud, danced with me most of the evening, and as he was retiring, said, wonderingly, "You... people" - motioning to most of my cohort waving their hands around and kicking up their heels - "really know how to relax, don't you?"

I told him it's because we have one chance at everything. For me, and for most of the rest, this is the last holiday from real life. Where other people might choose to exist, we live - much too loudly, much too excitably, with far too much nineties pop - but we do. I don't know how much of it he understood, but he kept on dancing with me until the cooling down of the night.

By the small hours, the Siren, Baby E and I teetered back down the hill, called a cab and drifted home in a collective mood of mellow, and talking happy nonsense about the people we'd met and danced with and the gossip we'd collected, and at the close of it all I sank into my pillows, watched the last bit of Caramel, and fell asleep feeling good about the world. Less than six weeks, now. We're still here.
raven: stock shot of a wall with "I love you" graffiti (stock - i love you)
I just got back from the airport to drop Shim off, where Delta were most interested to discover he'd been planning to fly to Heathrow when they'd been planning to send him to Schipol. Luckily, the people at Ithaca airport are wonderful. This is entirely sincere. I have previously written them letters detailing their myriad wonderfulnesses. My beloved is going back where he's supposed to be.

Also luckily, [personal profile] happydork has provided me with precisely the tool I needed to express my feelings on the matter.

Ah, the last week or so seems to have passed in a breezy two hours. The South African Siren commented that "you can show him all the sights of Ithaca! The farmers' market, the waterfalls... shouldn't take more than an hour or so." This isn't quite true. It took us at least a day. We did go to the farmers' market, where we bought a butternut squash and a bottle of raspberry wine; we went to the county booksale, where we bought seventeen books between us for the princely sum of five dollars and twenty-five cents; we walked along the Commons and bought nothing and talked about nothing at all. We went to Moosewood, together with a bunch of friends of mine, and, well, lawyers are awful and if you get seven of them in one place they will talk shop, but we ended up talking about the failings of American legal pedagogy over cheese strudel and Finger Lakes wine, and a good time was had by all, I think.

And at the end of the evening, another friend gave us a lift home and we walked the last bit of the way through a sparklingly cold night, beneath the sodium lights, and got home just before we froze. This is my least favourite part of my life, at the moment, walking through my apartment door. When I first throught of it, I mentally called it a substantive/procedural distinction (see abover re: lawyers being awful) but it is, it really is. I miss Shim every day of my life. (I'm sorry, I'm in the mood for winter-afternoon sentimentality.) I do, and I do, what can you do.

But more than that... I miss coming home at the end of the day to someone. I miss cooking for two. I miss each day's half-dozen passing touches between hands. Most of all, I miss not being afraid of the dark. Especially here in Ithaca, the town that public transport forgot,[1] but generally: I miss knowing that I can go out as late as I like, dance as much as I like, drink three glasses of wine and not be afraid to walk home in the dark. It sucks, but there you are.

But I had a whole week of Shim being here, and we did things and went to places but also abused my Netflix subscription, watched random old Blackadder and Yes Minister and stayed up late drinking whisky, and just spent time... spending time. Which I wanted, and needed, and I actually feel much better, now, than I expected. This time we won't be apart for twelve weeks, we'll be apart for seven. We'll be in Edinburgh for Hogmanay. We made plans for next summer (Shetland? Israel?) and for what we'll do if I plan to take the bar, if I don't, if we decide to just skive off life for a couple of months and buy soft furnishings. The long view is coming back into focus.

Speaking of television, we got through The Middleman, too. [personal profile] livrelibre and [personal profile] eruthros showed us the first couple of episodes, and then Shim and I got through the next six in a worryingly short period of time. I really like it: it's dead silly, with bright colours and explosions, but I love the character stuff. I love especially how it quite often passes the Bechdel test in an episode's first forty seconds, and I love the Middleman and Lacey's abortive milk-and-lone-ranger-based love affair, and I love the word "tuba". It's an inherently funny word. A whole episode where they say it in nearly every sentence is like pie to me.

(Speaking of, something insidious is happening to me. Shim was rooting around in my room for a comb or something and I said, "It's on my desk, could you go get it, please."

...and then paused, said weakly, "Go and get it...." - and went to have a metaphorical lie-down.

I suppose it's inevitable. Doesn't mean I have to like it.)

Anyway, I have declared my intention to get a cat, once we move to Cambridge, and name it "The Middlecat!", pronounced with jazz hands. What, I think this is a great idea. Also, I want to know where all the Wendy/Lacey fic on the internet is. It's somewhere, right. This is not a DIY issue.

Now. I am being kind to self, today. Hallowe'en whatnot tonight, my costume so far consists of "Hallowe'en burlesque", whatever the hell that means (the Siren, in the meantime, is going to dress up as a bear if I have anything to do with it), and maybe I'll do some work or maybe not. Someone nice has already claimed my [livejournal.com profile] rs_small_gifts prompt, so maybe I'll work on mine.

Onwards and upwards.

[1] If you're dying to tell me right now that actually Ithaca is pretty good for public transport, as small towns in the US go, just... don't, okay?
raven: (misc - mortimer)
My day, mostly in dialogue:

-Morning. No buses, and a potential TB injection if I could only make into campus for my appointment, and a monumentally bad mood. I complained down the phone to Shim, I complained down the phone to the South African Siren (I figure she needs a pseudonym, by now). When the bus finally came, it was crammed with approximately twelve thousand first-year undergrads and a vuvuzela.

(Quoth the Siren: "It's cultural, Iona! You are, like, oppressing me!")

Text to her: "oh god oh god hell is other people".

Text back: "oh god I am living in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants".

-We miss the free pizza for international students, thanks to combination of buses, TB injections (which I didn't actually have to have) and the marching band that stopped traffic. I ask myself several times along the way why I am going to a football game. No easy answer presents itself.

-Eventually, we make it to the homecoming game, perch ourselves in the stands and are immediately handed free Cornell t-shirts. Refuse to put mine on until beaten around the head by a giant red foam finger.

Discover, that some distance behind us, there actually is a person with a vuvuzela. Dissuade Siren from going up there and proposing marriage.

Quoth Tobermory: "So, right, there's a field of guys with huge shoulders running around, and then there's a bunch of girls cheerleading in stupid ra-ra skirts with stupid red ribbons in their hair, and feminism is totally over and we don't need it any more, right?"

"Right," we agreed.

"I don't get it," I said, after a while. "They sort of run about, and then throw themselves at the ball, is that it? And every so often they sort of bend down and look ready and happy about potential imminent buggery... this is the sort of thing that's going to get us deported, right?"

"No," said Tobermory, "this is what will get you deported."

"You know what," sighed the Siren after a while, "we really should have printed off the rules from Wikipedia before we came."

"It's something to do with the end zone," I said, knowledgably, and one of the non-international students took pity on us and started to meticulously explain what was going on. Which was good in one way, but did mean we didn't have the fun of jumping up and down and making a noise whenever we felt like it. (We'd got in the habit of watching one guy in the front row. When he got excited, we got excited, and banged things together and pointed foam fingers.)

During this explanation a guy in a baseball cap tapped me on the shoulder and said, "This is your first American football game?"

"How could you tell," I said, as dryly as possible, turned around and went "..." for a while at the receding back of my constitutional theory tutor.

...yeah. Academics with social lives, who knew. Further dissuasion re: vuvuzela ("Yeah, I brought one from home, and you know, introduce myself with it: only my mum and my sister said maybe I shouldn't if I wanted to maybe make friends.") and then the marching band came on.

I went home at half-time, did some work, drank some coffee, ate some food, felt much better about life, and then realised I had two packages of food from Shim! Twenty-four Galaxy bars, strawberry laces and packet sauce! And while I was staring at them, another friend called, told me she had a dinner-date and needed company while she flailed. I went over, took some of the chocolate - she gave it one look and said, sit down, drink tea, STAY FOREVER - and I sat down and drank English breakfast tea, which I do not normally drink, but is a great panacea for missing home and we talked about nothing while she made an apple pie. It smelled wonderful, and we made plans to go to the Ithaca annual apple festival - she says there will be more pie and maybe real cider - and somehow I think it will be like the game, difficult to enjoy entirely unironically but lots of silly fun, regardless.

Despite the homecoming game and the apple pie, it's been a day for alleviating homesickness. Still here, still here.
raven: black and white photograph of Asian woman smiling and clasping her hands (misc - me)
It's a humid thirty-three degrees in Ithaca tonight. I, foolishly, live in an apartment which has thick carpets, soft furnishings, brick walls, and no air conditioning. I say this to set the scene; I am draped over a sofa feeling rather like a languishing whale.

It's also September. I said I wouldn't write, until September. I had that eerie experience of talking on the phone to someone, in September, when I was August, and I have been here three weeks, and maybe I can sit still long enough to write this. Three weeks! It feels rather like I've never lived anywhere else. Oxford is a long-ago, rain-soaked dream. I hated Pattern Recognition, William Gibson's last novel, but it had one insight I liked: air travel moves you too fast. When you reach the new place, you're washed out and translucent because you've left bits of yourself behind, and you have to wait until they catch up.

There's more to it than that, though. If you're in a place where no one knows you, it all falls apart rather - you tell the people you left behind, I'll be there in spirit, and in the meantime all the people you meet say, what's your name where're you from, and you tell them, and you both know about the years of detail, the solidity of who a person is, that you can't convey except with time, and you've lived in this place three weeks. It makes people into ghosts, or rather, into outlines, waiting to be filled in. I called Shim at ten o'clock at night, in a supermarket - where else? - and told him this, a little tearfully in an aisle marked "British and Irish food". He said, you like pink wine, and you never met a cat you didn't like. It helped.

work )

culture shock )

The short version: I am a long way from home and culture-shocked, I'll get over it.

Here are some things I like:

-My apartment. It's a small, one-bed apartment in Cornell's north campus. It has a teeny-tiny kitchen, teeny-tiny living room, teeny-tiny bathroom, a quite-comfortable bed, a hideously ugly sofa. I have my pictures and postcards up, and a wilting sunflower in a pot on the table. I love it very much; I think sometimes that maybe I should have chosen to live with other people, but mostly I come through my door and think, ahhh, this is nice. My upstairs neighbours are three Indian guys who are clearly waiting for someone to come along and make a sitcom about them; they lie around on the grass reading thousand-page engineering textbooks and adore each other homoerotically. When my smoke alarm goes off for no reason at all, they come patiently downstairs and fiddle with it for me. It's good.

-New Yorkers, and how weird they are about Wegmans. A late-night scene on the last city bus to the south: me, reading quietly in the back of the bus, three girls, probably undergrads, somewhere near the front. At length it becomes clear that while they are all three freshmen, one of them is an Ithaca native, another is from somewhere else in New York state, and the third has had the temerity to be from Virginia, and therefore her two friends are taking her to Wegmans to show her what she's been missing all her life.

"Don't try and compare it to your, like, non-Wegmans grocery stores," said the Ithaca native authoritatively. "Just don't, okay?"

At which point I gave up and started laughing hysterically. Bear in mind that this was a Saturday night, the last bus out, they are freshmen, and this is freshers' week. I mean. "I have this strange feeling I'm in a bizarre one-act play," I said, very quietly, and then the Virginia girl looked up and said, "Are you from South Africa?" and this was the same night I cried on Shim in front of shelves of Dairy Milk and Colman's mustard.

-Collegetown Bagels. It's the only eating establishment of any note in Collegetown, and it has the same place in Cornell's collective consciousness as G&Ds does in Oxford's. Cream-cheese with raspberry-jalapeno-jam bagel. Sounds revolting. I think I've had four, this week. They also have, oh, amazing sandwiches, and they cater all the law school's events so I'm intimately familiar with their pumpkin cream slices. Also, they pronounce my name right. Small things.

-Deer. A mother and three foals live outside my apartment. By which I mean, I could reach out and touch them. They gambol about in the moonlight, and flutter their eyelashes flirtatiously at me when I'm waiting for the bus in the morning. Not in Kansas any more, yeah.

-Netflix. Where has this been all my life. (Okay, yes, right here.) My subconscious immediately latched onto Buffy as comfort-watching - I'd have thought QI, or Doctor Who, or Jeeves and Wooster, or something, but then it came to me that Giles is my favourite and that choice suddenly made a lot more sense. Next up is 84 Charing Cross Road. Are you getting the theme? I'm getting the theme.

In a fortnight I'm going to NYC to see [livejournal.com profile] macadamanaity, [livejournal.com profile] gamesiplay and [livejournal.com profile] the_acrobat. I'm looking forward to it so much; it will be such a comfort to be with people who've known me half my life. And in two months Shim visits, and by then I want to have places to take him, things to show him, people to introduce him to. I'm doing okay, I'm still here.


Aug. 16th, 2010 05:57 pm
raven: black and white photograph of Asian woman smiling and clasping her hands (misc - me)
In another life I would be in Edinburgh tonight, probably weaving gently down the Royal Mile after Lashings of Ginger Beer.

But it's early evening here, still hot, and, well, I'm not. I'm sitting in my apartment at the end of a very busy weekend cleaning, tidying, unpacking, sorting and looking the wrong way when crossing the street, and I have nothing to do until nine o'clock tomorrow morning.

What to even say, then? My apartment is teeny tiny, but lovely. It's a ground floor one-bedroom apartment, and I'm waiting for the catch - it's nice, quiet, and cheaper than the cheapest studio on-campus graduate place - and it has a little bedroom with a little bed and desk and a little kitchen with a teeny stovetop and a teeny living-space with a big ugly sofa. I have my postcards and pictures and calendar up, and it looks homely for all there are only eight books in it.

I'm doing okay, too. On Saturday I went food shopping. It was... a little overhelming. It was very large. It had a LOT of stuff I have never heard of. Oh, it was very large. Can I even encompass how large it was without flapping my hands about and saying "oh, it was large!" I have never thought of Cowley Road Tesco with fondness before. Anyway, so, I went to what I am told is a perfectly ordinary grocery store, and looked for things like cherry tomatoes and bread and cheese and honey and cereal and tins of soup, and it was all going, if not fine, then bearably, until I tried to buy milk. I only put milk in my coffee; otherwise I don't drink it. Even when I was de facto living with Shim, we only got through one pint a week.

...one pint. Given that I didn't want soy milk, rice milk, lactose-free milk or vitamin-D-enriched milk, or organic milk, or milk from local farms, and I wanted it to be full-fat or whole or blue milk, depending on what you call it, I couldn't find a bottle with less than six pints.

I took a very deep breath and got over it and picked up two pints of organic milk instead, and tossed it into the trolley and headed to the checkout. Where a chirpy woman chirpily said, "I think you'll find this is the ten items or less line!"

Because I am well-balanced, and not at all rattled by my new surroundings, I shrieked, "Ten items or FEWER!" and ran metaphorically into the night.

Other than that I'm doing fine. I have a sunflower in a pot on my desk and some idea of what I'm doing tomorrow, and I want to take a quiet moment to tell you all how much I adore you and am grateful for you; I wouldn't have been so sad to leave if I had had nothing to leave behind. Thank you for sending me playlists and stories and good-luck messages, thank you for putting me up on your sofas and taking me around your cities and not minding when I cry all over you; thank you for being you and wanting me to be me. If I return from this year with half the numer of new friends and experiences that I had at Oxford, then it will be more than a success.

Have some music, for a thank-you. )

Tomorrow, orientation; now, dinner.


Aug. 13th, 2010 02:53 pm
raven: subway sign in black and white, text: "Times Square / 42 Street station" (stock - times square)
Hello, I am alive. I arrived in Ithaca last night after a hellish twenty-six hours in transit, apparently it is impossible to get a coffee at La Guardia after ten o'clock at night WHO KNEW, but I have made it here and the sun is shining and I have my apartment keys and all is, for the moment, well. I don't have internet in my apartment yet - this is the public library! I joined the library, gosh I must be staying - so I may be out of touch for a little while. I also don't have a US phone number yet, but I hope to put that right quite soon.

Anyway. Am here, am alive, miss you all, very busy, orientation begins on Tuesday! Also, apparently I have an accent!


Jun. 14th, 2010 07:48 pm
raven: subway sign in black and white, text: "Times Square / 42 Street station" (stock - times square)
Ithaca, NY to my front door just off the Cowley Road: 4000 miles, three flights, two trains, and one long and bizarre detour through upstate New York, oh my. Also thirty hours in transit. Sic transit gloria mundi. My head hurts.

The problem, you see, is that Ithaca-Tompkins regional airport is an, um, regional airport, and lacks such modern conveniences as instrument-aided landings and X-ray scanners. (All bags are opened and inspected, and bottles of liquid opened, and then the suncream cap not screwed down again properly leading to suncream everywhere, TSA I'm looking at you.) And when I left, early in the morning I think yesterday, there was fog. Thick, slightly eerie, muffling fog, and I was watching while the visibility dropped to twenty metres and then ten, and then nothing at all, and then the incoming flights from Philadephia and Newark circled the runway and turned back, and then the airport was closed.

I went to the Delta desk with a feeling of encroaching despair. (US domestic airlines, hi, they all indiscriminately suck.) But for once, they didn't. I frantically explained that unlike the people around me I was not making a short hop, I was trying to make a connection through Detroit to Heathrow. The agent typed and clicked while I panicked, and then said, how about this. "We fly you out from Elmira, NY, to Detroit, then to Paris, then to Heathrow."

And before I could say anything else, "We'll get you a cab to Elmira. Oh, and I'll put you in first-class transatlantic."

I could have kissed him.

The taxi-ride through upstate New York was eerie. Elmira was the closest airport with the capability for take-off in fog, so that's where the diversion took us, and it was about an hour's drive through a landscape that soared around through the low-lying mist. In England, the landscape rolls; there it loomed. Elmira when it appeared was pretty tiny, and the aircraft even tinier - propellors! - but it got me safely to Detroit, and thence onwards towards Paris. The upgrade was fabulous. I got served dinner on a tablecloth! And then slept lying flat whilst 30,000 feet above the Atlantic. It was marvellous. I even caught myself wishing the flight were a couple of hours longer so I could really catch up on sleep. (I have just emailed Delta about their wonderful customer service, in lieu of kissing their agent.) I got home this afternoon entirely exhausted, but it really wasn't the worst experience ever. I even got to practice my very bad French in Paris.

But, but. Ithaca, you guys. Ithaca is gorgeous. (Despite the tourist board's sloganeering, I liked it so I put a U in it.) It really is. It is teeny teeny tiny - you wander around the downtown area and keep coming to the end of it by mistake - and a good half of it is made up by Cornell, which sprawls handsomely around the town with its imposing buildings and enormous swathes of greenery. Everything is so trim, so pretty, with the gorges as these sudden, beautiful gashes in the landscape. Because I am the smartest person on the planet, I picked Cornell's reunion weekend as my weekend to visit (how I found somewhere to stay is still beyond me), and the town was buzzing with people, and something of their excitement was in the air; at any rate, I thought it was auspicious to see Cornell for the first time when it was surrounded by people who loved it enough to have travelled miles to get back that weekend.

The law school, in particular, was having its fifty-year reunion, and was thus full of balloons and the class of 1960. They all added a suitably surreal touch to what was a surreal journey - I mean, I applied to Cornell, I was accepted, I've seen pictures, but still I couldn't picture myself there, in those halls that aren't so much hallowed as entirely alien, and I don't know if I can yet. But I made a step, I think; I made several steps. I opened a bank account, I signed a lease, I discussed with the registrar which courses I should take, I figured out Ithaca's rather marvellous public transport system, I climbed a lot of hills. (Am I doomed to hills? I currently live halfway up about the only hill in Oxfordshire.)

Mostly, I was surprised by the kindness of strangers. I got lost and was led to where I was going for miles out of their way by gently amused undergrads, a guy who was passing made calls on my behalf when I missed an appointment with a potential landlord, the people at the law school loaded me up with information, leaflets and gift cards to the local bagel shop. Strangers stopped me when I was clearly going in the wrong direction and put me right. About twelve different people assumed I was an admitted freshman but were still kind when I told them I wasn't. I would say, o hai, do I look seventeen to you, but I'm sort of afraid of the answer. One of the undergrads blushed and told me he liked my accent. What a wonderful place. And I'm glad I thought so, because I'm committed now: I signed a lease, and fell in love with a local restaurant (Moosewood, possibly the best vegetarian restaurant I've ever been to).

More than anything else, I was sorry to leave. I think I'm really doing this.

October 2017

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