Thursday, December 22, 2011

Travel Weekend: Definition: Relax at home.

Do you know what happens when the professors on a study abroad tell the students that they are free to go wherever they want for an entire weekend starting Thursday? No? I'll tell you. Wednesday morning, you wake up in a ghost town.

Okay, it's not completely empty. But your one class of the day doesn't do anything (well, we watched Art 21 videos on contemporary artists rather than a drawing lesson) because it's little use when 70% of the class is gone to do something gradeable. Maybe 50% was there, but that was in the beginning of class. Couldn't have been more than 30 by the end. And I rather liked it. See, I figured that the group I would have wanted to go with was going to Wales, and I was going there after the program ended anyway, and it would have cost me more and I didn't want to spend more, so I decided I'd take advantage of the empty center. Hey, there were still places to go and things to see in London, anyway.

I don't know if I mentioned, but I became somewhat well known for my corner. See, it's a busy center and I like my privacy, so I found my own privacy in the form of a corner of the parlour, which was one of the less populated rooms normally and had the added advantage of being where people gathered for dinner so I didn't have to worry about missing it, with my computer, whatever homework/artwork I was working on or book I was reading, and my wool. Did I mention I started doing some spinning? (Wait, that was a week after this post, so I probably didn't. Well, consider this not so much foreshadowing as foreoutrightstating.) So that's where I was when I wasn't out and about, in classes, eating, or socializing. Fond memories of that corner. Kind of. Which was also nice because people knew where to find me. End side note. I mean, I did spend time here over the travel weekend, but not important. NOW end side note.

So that Wednesday, people left for Wales, Barcelona, Portugal (not sure which part specifically), Madrid, Milan, I don't even know if I've got them all right and I'm pretty sure I don't have everything, but you get the idea. I spent the time doing a bit of schoolwork, a bit of fun work (I may or may not have been thinking of costume ideas and how to put them together and sketching them out) and kicking back from a *coughcough* strenuous semester of work. Stop that, I have too been working. Just differently and slightly more casually than normal school demands.

The next day I slept in, ah bliss, until probably 10 (See, unless you're in seminary, have a 7 a.m. class or just inflict early rising on yourself, you probably get up later than I normally do. Adjusting for time difference. Because otherwise you probably got up hours after me.) and got my sketchbook, then went to the British Museum to sketch. I had a bit of difficulty with my sketch of a tea house (They have an entire Japanese tea house in the British Museum! I mean, the entire thing! According to the plaque, some people came from Japan and constructed it specially. Oh, and there's one in the Korean area, too.) because the angles and distances were disagreeing with my idea of where they were, but I spent a while on that, then walked home. I took a bus halfway, anyway, then walked back across the parks. It was a beautiful fall afternoon and the sun was beginning to set even though it was only probably 4 or 5 (I may have taken longer to start out than I acted like.) but then again, it's 3.39 as I'm writing this and the sun is already dipping pretty low to the horizon. Reminds me how far north I am sometimes, when I forget because Provo's colder than here. They were setting up some sort of fair in Hyde Park which I was later to learn was the Winter Wonderland park, a pretty big attraction apparently. I was also passed by a gang of bicyclers who I recognized as Fat Bike Tour bikers, partly by their beach cruisers and also by the sign. Down by the Long Pond, assuming, I have my park geography correct, there was a feeding frenzy as the aquatic birds mobbed a person who was feeding them. Slightly more politely than that—they only ganged up on each other. I also ran across SSID, the severely survival-instinct deficient squirrel, who, when I first saw him, was climbing up a guy's pant leg. The outside. I assumed the gent in question had been standing there coaxing him for a good while and I was going to get a picture. However, upon my pausing probably 2-3 yards away, Ssid looked over, saw me, and charged across the gap to go climbing up my jeans. I laughed, took a step, he vaulted clear of this suddenly moving and unsteady perch, noticed I'd stopped again, charged back up and, after I took a picture of him, started climbing over my camera. I began leaving and after vaulting clear again, he started following me. An elderly couple who had been watching found the whole thing highly amusing, offered him a piece of cooked pasta, which he grabbed, nibbled, and threw away in disgust. When you're survival-instinct deficient, I suppose you can be a food snob if you want. But then he tried to grab another piece they were offering a different squirrel. By this time, I was concerned for his continued existence because I knew a lot of dogs frequented the park, but then one showed up and Ssid showed as a gray streak on his way to a tree trunk, assuaging my worries and I continued home merely highly amused.

The next day was Remembrance Day, which I discovered was also Veteran's Day (I didn't realize this until people began posting on veterans on Facebook with what I was sure was more than coincidental numbers and I finally ran across a post that explicitly stated that it was Veteran's Day). I spent the afternoon (following another sleep-in and a late brunch) at the Natural History museum, where I picked up my own Remembrance Day poppy which I had no lapel for so I ended up carrying it. I think I explored pretty much the entirety of the NH museum, from Dippy the diplodocus (sp? Spellcheck doesn't like it but I don't see anything but “diplomatic” in the corrections.) to the geology and all the sparkly rocks in all sorts of colors (ooOOooo...sparkly minerals! And other types of hardened matter! Some of which is polished and some not! In an impressive array of colors people sometimes don't suspect rocks of being capable of!) where some children were, from what I could tell of the running back and forth and conversation, either saving the world or stopping a spy or possibly both, to the dinosaur section with their animatronic T-rex who was not full-sized or he would not have fit in that tiny room and probably was very frustrated that all these juicy meat bits are passing by staring at him when his feet are glued to the floor and many other fossils (and a few more animatronic dinos scattered about who also seemed vaguely hungry, but that's probably just because they haven't eaten for several thousand years, at an understatement). There was also a mammal side which I'd been through before, a cross-section of sequoia that was as old as some of the fossils but had been living a good deal more recently, a preservation area, a plant section, the Planet Earth area that I actually went through instead of speeding past (I sat in the shaking earthquake grocery store through two vibrations and saw a bit about volcanoes), and the ecology bit. One thing I thought was interesting was the comparative ecology, Africa to Australia bit. The dingos and hyenas were comparative, obviously, as were the kangaroos and zebras, I think (they showed the African animal and when you pressed it, they showed the Australian equivalent and then why—this was because they travel in herds and eat grass and are therefore a large prey source), and giraffes and koalas. Which made me laugh because they're both such singular animals, but it's true, they both eat leaves up top of trees where the other animals can't reach. They had a display about the life cycle of a rabbit, and by life cycle I mean it was sitting there innocently, died, and went through various stages of decay. Wow, I thought, definitely a kid-friendly exhibit. But that was nothing to the human biology exhibit where they had displays on hormones and how much you have at any given time, had displays on pregnancy, and some other things. I mean, there wasn't anything graphic, but it was still kind of surprising. They also told me I had a bad memory, or short-term. I hardly thought this was fair; the page full of acorns and the page full of peanuts look rather similar, and having seen a lot of pictures, I've probably seen them before anyway even if not on that screen. (They showed about 40 pictures, which you'd obviously never remember all of when you only saw each for one to two seconds, then asked you if you'd ever seen one of 10 others before, some of which weren't on there. As in the example above, but I can't remember which was actually there. Or even if that's the one I got wrong, just that I only got 5 or 6 right.) They also had a bit about memory in high-stress situations, which I thought was funny because I read The Alloy of Law not long after in which one of the characters starts writing down details of the robbers during a robbery because she knows in stressful situations people don't always remember everything or even remember the instance incorrectly. So you can see why I didn't have time for much else that evening.

Saturday I spent mostly at home. There was a good deal of writing going on, as well as a bit of drawing and calling family. And people were returning from their breaks. The girls who'd stayed home—well, me, Ashley, and Sara, anyway, went to Nando's for dinner which holy tastebuds, Batman, is worth it by a lot. Oh, wow. I got a medium-heat chicken which is among the juiciest, most flavorful chickens I've ever had the opportunity to taste and I'd get it again in a heartbeat. Okay, maybe not. But only because I would want to try, say, the steak which was only a pound or two more, or the wraps or so on. Because their sauces and their food in general are a veritable party for the taste and otherwise mouth-wateringly delicious. I mean, not to be over-enthusiastic or anything.

And so ended the second weekend of the month of November. And verily it was a weekend of great delight.

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