Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Episode 8: Trying To Read (And Failing)

The title really says it all, doesn't it? Anyway, it's the second day of school and I've received my timetable. I have no free days, but technically speaking, my weekend begins at 11 am on Friday and lasts till 5 pm on Monday. Like how awesome is that? I had a lecture for EN121 Medieval to Renaissance English Literature, which was okay, I guess. Not really a fan of Middle English, although the history that Christiana traced for us was quite interesting. Tried looking for Dr Gardiner, my personal tutor, but I think he wasn't in, or at least I didn't work up the nerve to knock on his door to find out for sure! Also had my first seminar for EN122 Modes of Reading, which was pretty fun. My tutor, Adam Putz, seems like a cool guy, in the vein of Mr Rollason. A couple of people from my course share the same seminar group, so that's good too. I'm really liking my modules in general, and the hardest thing seems to be the reading that's required, as talking during seminars is more a matter of just saying what comes to mind than anything else. I did that thing again where I shut up for really long and then suddenly say a really long sentence to make a point about something. I hope I sounded fairly intelligent doing that, or I'd have failed to live up to the testimonial that Mr Purvis wrote for me when I graduated. Haha...

Popped over to Arthur Vick again to have dinner with Natalie, Wanxian and Yannis. There was salmon, which made me very happy indeed. If that fish were cheaper, I'd eat it every single day. Fish is, after all, brain food. Haha! I was less keen on the couscous. Taste-wise it's definitely okay, but I just find the texture a bit odd somehow. Can't really explain why. Not that I'm complaining, really, since I didn't even cook, so I've got no business finding fault with the food. Anyway, we got into a long discussion about Christianity with Yannis after dinner because he's agnostic, whereas the rest of us are Christians. It wasn't a very conclusive discussion on the whole. I felt a little disappointed with myself for not being able to provide some solid theological arguments to support the case for Christianity. Apologetics is something that I'll have to look into exploring, I think. No use believing something if you can't properly defend it, right? Guess this is something that I'm going to have to work on in the future.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Episode 7: Back To School...

Today was the first day of lessons, which was pretty exciting, but at the same time, not as momentous as I'd imagined it to be. Perhaps it's because this is still the first week and the full load of work has yet to descend on me. I registered for LL208 French 4 at the Language Centre, as Mel told me places fill up really quickly. It cost me £160 because I chose to take it as an academic module outside my degree. I probably should go check with my personal tutor and see if I can get it added as an extra module. It's not that I mind paying the extra money, but if I can do the module for free, I might as well spend the money on something else! I picked the latest lesson on Thursdays, since I don't have my timetable yet. Hopefully, there'll still be slots in the earlier classes that I can swap to after I get my timetable tomorrow. Met all the undergraduates on my course and they seem like nice people. I recognised some of them from Facebook because we added each other a couple of months ago. It all sounds quite exciting, what I'm going to be studying, and I'm quite eager to get down to reading and writing on a regular basis. Decided to buy a few of my texts today, since the amount I save by buying from Amazon UK isn't enough for me to feel compelled to order my books online. I might still do that, but only for the texts that I'll be using in Terms 2 and 3. Had a lecture for EN123 Literature in the Modern World, right after the library briefing that my coursemates and I missed because we spent too much time waiting outside the wrong room. The lecture was fairly interesting, although nothing tremendously striking was said. I fully expect that to change in the weeks ahead!

My friends wanted to go to Top Banana at the marquee, and we actually queued after dinner. We edged our way through the masses until we were almost at the front, but the bouncers said they weren't letting anyone into the TES anymore, so we gave up and decided to head to Tempo instead, since there wasn't a queue there. Not a few people must have thought the same thing, as the club began to fill up slowly after we got there. I guess you could pretend that we set a trend? Haha! Tempo was the usual stuff. I probably wouldn't go clubbing anymore in Warwick if I didn't have my group of friends to dance and hang out with. We danced until the lights came on, and then I walked back to Westwood with Meera, one of Amisha's coursemates, who also happens to live in Hampton. So for the first time ever, I had company on the way back after clubbing! It does get kind of lonely, just a little, having to walk back by myself all the time. Meera seems like a really nice person, pretty easy to talk to. So now I know at least one person in my hall beyond a hi-bye basis. Go me...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Episode 6: In Search Of Lower Ford Street

Was supposed to attend the service at Lower Ford Street Baptist Church with Claire Yow, Natalie and Wanxian, but we missed the shuttle service from campus. So we decided to take 12 into Coventry by ourselves and walk to the church. What should have been a relatively straightforward journey turned into a literally circuitous adventure through the streets of Coventry, in which we were quite possibly misdirected a few times, only to arrive at the church just as the service was ending and realise that in actual fact, the journey would have been a lot shorter if we had turned one way instead of the other. Well, it was kind of fun to just walk about, trying to convince ourselves we weren't lost. We're going back to this church next week, except this time, we're making sure to catch the shuttle from campus! Lunch at Subway, which seemed to remind some of the rest of Singapore, but for me, it was just an ordinary trip to Subway. I had a Subway cookie! We went shopping in Coventry, and I bought myself two jackets from Primark. They're really quite nice, especially the one with the blue pattern, very different from anything else in my wardrobe. More importantly, Primark is cheap! I could get used to shopping there. What I really want to do though, is visit a factory outlet and get some branded stuff for peanuts. It is, after all, one of the reasons that I came to the UK to study! Places close really early on Sundays though, like around Australian closing times, which is something that I'm not used to, coming from Singapore where Sunday is one of the hottest times to shop. Sigh...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Episode 5: Birmingham Day Trip

Dragged myself out of bed, pretty much literally, to head for Birmingham. The problem with waking up is that I'm always so cold the moment I throw off the covers that I absolutely do not want to get out of bed. Thank God that the earliest possible lecture or seminar slot is at 9 am, so at least I get to sleep till 8 am if I'm lazy and don't feel like putting gunk in my hair, which is what always takes up most of the time I need to get out of my room anyway. The cold always makes me have second thoughts about spending longer than absolutely necessary to get ready, as the water from the cold tap is beyond icy. Why can't they have mixed taps like those in Singapore? Way more convenient if you ask me. Apparently, there are regulations that stipulate the hot water tap has to supply water of a certain temperature, which sounds like a sensible idea for quality control, until you realise it also means that you're dealing with either icy or boiling water. I guess mixed taps are just one of those minor inconveniences that one only notices when they're gone?

Anyway, I didn't register for the Birmingham trip earlier in the week, so I obviously didn't have a ticket. The helper said I could come along if there were still seats left on the coach. I wasn't the only one caught in that situation, but we all made it onto the coach in the end. Only reason I decided to go was because Adrian, Amisha and Natalie were going, otherwise I'd just have stayed in my room all Saturday, venturing out only to Tesco to get sandwiches for lunch and dinner. I probably would have got some reading done too! Alas, instead I found myself in the lovely city of Birmingham. Along the way to the city centre, we stopped at a Cadbury store! I like chocolate in general, but Cadbury is one of the particular brands for which I have great affection. I would have loved to have gone into the exhibition, but there really wasn't enough time for that, so I contented myself with buying three slabs of chocolate. Some book about the history of Cadbury was on sale, but I didn't see any copies lying around in the store, and I couldn't be bothered to hunt for them. A pity, for it might have been an interesting read...

The Birmingham trip was a guided tour that we paid money for, but it was pretty unexciting stuff. Just the coach driving us around the city and the guide pointing out the sights. Natalie was saying how she would rather they just drop us off and let us go off on our own. When they finally did, we headed for the Bullring, which is a huge mall that puts VivoCity to shame. Orchard Road could probably look like that someday, if they converted all the roads to pedestrians-only and built structures to link up the larger malls. Shopper's paradise! We went to Zara, where I saw stuff that I wouldn't have considered buying while in Singapore, but over here, it suddenly feels so much cheaper, even though it isn't actually so. Resisted, until we passed by Topman, where I ducked in for a few minutes to pick up some bling. Got myself three rings! They were already cheaper than the ones in Singapore, and with my ISIC, I got a further discount. I suspect Topman is going to form a large part of my wardrobe eventually, at least while I'm in the UK.

Saw street preachers on our way to and from lunch. Scary people. Really in-your-face kind of stuff, just yelling on the streets. I suppose their hearts were in the right place, but I don't really get how shouting about God is going to attract anything more than derisive glances in a place like the UK. Anyway, we had lunch in Chinatown, which cost us way more than it should have, even for Chinese food in the UK. I had sambal fried rice, a really huge helping, so at least it felt sort of worth it. The rice was really good, as good as stuff I've tasted back in Singapore, even if the menu advertised it as Malaysian-style. It was probably the only moment so far when I truly missed something about home. In Singapore, you kind of take food for granted because it's so easily available, at all sorts of prices. I guess the good thing about not cooking is that I'm forced to eat sandwiches, and that somehow also means I tend to eat less here, especially junk food. I hope I lose weight! All the walking to and from Westwood should tone my legs, I guess?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Episode 4: Coventry Day Trip

It is with grave disappointment that I report that Mr Rollason was pretty on the mark. Coventry has a definite air of danger about it, even in broad daylight. Its sole redeeming quality is its huge Ikea, and perhaps the beautiful, albeit modern, cathedral where the coach let us off. Didn't buy anything here either, but we were there so Natalie could get her stuff. It sort of occurred to me today that I don't really hang out much with the Singaporeans I knew before coming to Warwick. I somehow just don't feel like I'm part of their groups. I can go for an entire day without seeing some of them, and I'm pretty sure there are some people I've never even met before! I guess this is sort of how I wanted it to be though, not always sticking around other Singaporeans. It would suck, however, if I ended up not being able to make any non-Singaporean friends, as by then, all the Singaporean cliques would have been firmly established and I'd just feel weird trying to break into them. Sometimes I wish I were less of a wallflower among new people. It would really help.

Heat was damn fun! It's the kind of event that'd just make my parents freak, or at least shake their heads in disapproval, but as long as you know how to set your own limits, it's pretty okay, and I think I can handle myself. Drank the most alcohol tonight so far, which still didn't come close to my maximum experience in Singapore anyway. We stayed more or less until Tempo closed, and because we were dancing pretty close to the speakers most of the night, my ears were ringing all the way back to Westwood. Speaking of which, I'm starting to get sick of the comparatively long commute on foot from Westwood Campus. It's barely bearable now, but come winter, I don't know if I can handle going up and down so many times. Twice is about my mental limit per day. One trip out and one trip back! I need to either get a bicycle or a transfer to somewhere nearer. Even Heronbank, which is where I'm hoping to transfer to, would be preferable because it's a more direct walk to that place from Central Campus than to Westwood. Sigh...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Episode 3: Oxford Day Trip

In what is perhaps the clearest sign that I've more or less adjusted to life in Warwick, I did something that I've done dozens of times while I was still in Singapore, post-NS: I turned off my alarm when it rang and promptly fell back asleep, fully intending to rouse myself after just a couple of seconds, but invariably ending up asleep for way more minutes than I had any right to be. Today, however, I was saved by a couple of very rude knocks on my door. Well-intentioned as they were (and we all know by now what the road to Hell is paved with), I do not exactly appreciate being rudely woken up that way. I let it slide this time, since it so happened that I'd told Natalie that I'd meet her for breakfast at 9 am, and if I hadn't been woken up, I'd probably have missed both breakfast and the assembly time for the Oxford day trip. So thanks, Shen Ting, for waking me up, but please don't do it again. Ever. Not sure how I'm going to cope with having lectures/seminars in the morning, but I'll have to figure something out, won't I?

So Oxford's actually a really pretty university town! My friends and I took lots of pictures today. Oxford students are so lucky to have fashion brands right at their doorstep. Caleb, I am officially jealous of you! (Especially since I know such convenience is entirely wasted on you.) My friends and I spent a lot of the trip trying not to lose our guide, with varying degrees of success. I find that as a general rule I don't really like taking guided tours around cities. I'd rather do my own research, or just wander about randomly. Didn't do any shopping today, as I'm trying to control my expenditure until my dad gets to London with more cash for me. I already sank $100 into my Warwick Eating card yesterday, as I intend to eat out more frequently than I cook, assuming I ever get around to learning, so I just really need to watch how I use the rest of my cash. Given my tendency to cut things really close, it would seem prudent to restrain myself for as long as possible. There will be plenty of opportunities to blow some serious cash in the future. That much I'm sure of...

The entertainment tonight was Latin dance, but I only went down to meet my friends at the marquee after they started playing clubbing music because I was attending Christian Focus at the chaplaincy before that. It was quite fun! We played a sort of quiz game, and my group came out the winner! Chocolates. Yummy. Anyway, the DJ at the marquee is still a bit screwed up though. Cuts too quickly between the songs, and some of the songs are just plain boring. Why people would want to dance to stuff like that, I will probably never understand. Hung out with the usual suspects, which was good fun as always. I realise that I don't really drink a lot here at Warwick. At most, just a couple of shots and that's all. I guess partly it's because the kind of alcohol available isn't exactly the stuff I normally go for. I'm more of a cocktail person, whereas here it's mostly beer and shots. Anyway, I'm off to Coventry tomorrow, which Mr Rollason once colourfully described to me as 'a shithole'. We shall see, won't we? I expect he's probably right, but I'm willing to keep an open mind about things until I see for myself.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Episode 2: I Have A UK Number!

So if you know me well enough, you can ask for it. Or even if you don't know me well enough, but have good reason to expect to in the near future. While most people were having fun trying out the various games today, I was getting a headstart on the more practical stuff. I got myself a UK handphone number, or to be precise, I got Natalie to buy me a SIM card while I was getting my account at NatWest set up, since I'd already got the student status letter yesterday. Decided to go with that bank out of the three available on campus because of all the freebies Chloe kept telling me about, which includes a 16-25 Railcard, really handy for visiting people all over the continent! Basically, I've settled most of the administrative stuff, which is good news. Tonight's entertainment at the marquee was slightly better, and I even managed to get some dancing done with my friends. I've made a couple of new ones, like Adrian, although I don't think I'll really make many until classes start. I'm not the kind of person who can just end up as friends with someone because we met while we were both high on alcohol...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Episode 1: In Principio

As you may have deduced from this post, I am alive and well in the UK. Not many people came to see me off at the airport. Only five, to be exact, and they included both my parents and my godparents. Can't say I was all that disappointed or surprised, since to be frank, I'm not the sort of person who inspires tearful farewell scenes at the airport. I am sufficiently self-aware to realise that. Anyway, many friends I would have expected to have been present had entirely valid reasons for being absent. For example, Shirley was in Cambodia. Admittedly, it would have been swell to see you guys just before I flew off, but I was too excited about finally flying off to be all cut up about you guys not being there, so no need to feel guilty about it! I made it a point not to look back once I'd stepped through the sliding doors. Guess I just felt that looking forward was more important than looking back? Lot's wife turned back and look where that landed her. I was a bit nervous about flying alone for the first time in my life, but thank God for Changi and SIA. If there's anything I will miss about Singapore, it's the efficiency, particularly when considered in relation to supposed developed countries. More on that later! Spotted Katie and Wayne in the departure hall, and Jason came over to say hi because someone sending him off knew my godmother. Or something like that. I ran into Natalie Pryke and Ken Cheng while boarding, so we chatted a bit while waiting in the queue. I didn't manage to get an aisle seat, but it worked out in the end, although I felt so bad every time I made the elderly man seated beside me get out of his seat.

As for the flight, I personally think Economy Class in the A380 is overrated! It's supposed to have more comfortable seats, but I actually felt more squashed than usual, although that partly had to do with the bulging laptop bag that I shoved under the seat in front of me. Took quite a while to figure out how to plug in the headphones, as I couldn't see the holes without bending forward ridiculously far, so I had to work by trial and error. Mostly error, which wasted some of my time. I took a listen to The Ting Tings' album, which is actually pretty good. I recognised 'Shut Up And Let Me Go' because it was the opening theme for First Class, sort of like how I realised Sam Sparro's 'Black And Gold' was the song used in the Skinscast. I also caught two-and-a-half movies: 21, El Orfanato, and the first part of Sex And The City. 21 was cool and sort of inspired me to play blackjack seriously. Counting cards sounds like it's so easy to do, but I'm sure in practice it's tremendously difficult to reach a level where one can make a living out of the skill. El Orfanato (The Orphanage), directed by Guillermo del Toro of Pan's Labyrinth fame, was a fascinating Spanish film about a woman who goes back to live in the orphanage that she grew up in. She brings with her her HIV-positive adopted son, whose imaginary friends soon invade the tranquil life she has created for her family. Ultimately, the ending is bittersweet, as the woman dies, but is in a sense reunited with her son, taking care of him and his imaginary friends, who are actually the ghosts of her former fellow orphans. There are repeated references to Peter Pan in the film, specifically casting the woman in the role of Wendy, as someone who needs to revisit her childhood in order to unravel the mystery behind her son's disappearance. It was an interesting film, so I'm glad I caught it. As for Sex And The City, although I didn't finish it, I thought it was funny, though not having seen the series, I couldn't really identify with the characters. Sarah Jessica Parker has a disturbingly girlish voice for a woman of her age!

Getting through immigration was a stark reminder of one of the things I'll miss most about Singapore. The efficiency! I waited in line for more than an hour to do something which usually takes around 10 minutes in Singapore. Ridiculous much? Anyway, I got through, collected my luggage, and joined the huge group of Singaporeans in the arrival hall. We didn't have to wait long before the Orientation helpers spotted us, although it took slightly more time for us to be actually on our way to Warwick. Didn't take long to get my keys to Westwood, and I must say that the room's decent. It looks like a mid-priced hotel room, if you need to visualise it. We'll see how it goes after three weeks, then I'll decide if I want to apply for a transfer to Heronbank. Didn't really do much for the rest of the day. There were campus tours, but I didn't really want to go for them. I did sign up with the other Singaporeans for some day trips to Oxford and Coventry, on Thursday and Friday respectively. There was rock and roll dancing at the marquee, so I went with the other Singaporeans to check it out, though I was among those who fled the moment they asked us to get on the dancefloor. So I ended up walking back to Westwood with Sarah Soon and Shen Ting. Yeah, that was pretty much how my first day in Warwick went. Not bad, all things considered, and I don't really miss Singapore, so to all the naysayers who were telling me I would, I still don't believe you. I will be honest and post about homesickness though, if I ever experience it.