Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Name is Not What I Am. Thank you very much...

Since coming to England, I've had more than a few comments about the origins of my name. Today was the strangest yet.

"Hi, my name is Monica."

"Moe-nee-cah. Sounds like an Indian name." Says the Indian girl.

This is the latest in a long-line of guesses to the origin of the name "Monica". Since September, my fellow students and British locals have guessed where I come from soley on the basis of my name. So let me set the record straight. I am not Spanish, Mexican, Indian, Arabic, Eastern European, Irish, Scottish, South African, Canadian, or South American. The only guesses I haven't got are Asian names, for obvious reasons.

Here's a description for any who may have doubts about where the name comes from.

Gender: Feminine

Usage: English, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian

Pronounced: MAHN-i-kə (English)

Meaning unknown, most likely of North African or Phoenician origin. In the 4th century this name was borne by the North African saint Monica of Hippo, the mother of Saint Augustine, whom she converted to Christianity. Since the Middle Ages it has been associated with Latin moneo "advisor" and Greek monos "one". As an English name, Monica has been in general use since the 18th century.

So, Please, Please, do not ask me this again people. Guessing where I'm from based on my name will get you no-where. My name does not tell you anything of my ancestry and my last name certainly does not help matters. I know and accept this.


I'm allowed to have a mixed-up name with no perceivable cultural tie to my ancestry. Americans borrow other cultures, we're funny like that.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


So I had one of those moments. You know the ones where a thought enters your mind that simply leaves you speechless. I had one while riding the bus today. (I couldn't resist getting the rest of the trilogy from Trudi Canavan, her books are addictive. And I've finished the first one already.) the realization was...

Most of my friends are guys.

I know, I'm as shocked as you probably are. I'm generally a shy person who has the ability to fake being outgoing when circumstances demand it. Other than male relatives, I've never had one guy-friend before. So when I realized, since coming to England I have somehow acquired eight guy-friends and many more guy-acquaintances, needless to say, I was more than a little shocked at myself. Two of the guys are from my course, and the rest are from archery. And all I consider pretty good friends.

The next question you may have is, "Is there any romantic possibilities?"

Unlikely, since only 3 out of the 8 are actually my age or older. One has a girlfriend (which I don't mess with since I believe in Karma) another is a crazy-funny Indian and the last, a fellow American dating a freshman from archery (again, I do not mess with Karma). All the rest are either slightly younger than myself or undergrads ranging from 18 to 21 years old. I'm a few weeks away from 24, so that would be a "no" to the romance question.

The really shocking thing is that none of them are gay. Which is sad because gay-guy friends are the best. But I like my guy-friends in spite of their un-gayness.

I have girl-friends, only 2 though, and from my course. The girls at archery are more like acquaintances, than close friends.

Another event that happened on the bus: Sighting of a woman who's hair was a cross between a Mohawk and a mullet. She had whacked the hairs on top of her head and left the rest of her long hair alone. So the short hair stood straight up in the middle. Umm...okay.

So two shocks on the bus. One mental and the other visual.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sugar Snaps and a Mouse

Today has been one of my favorites since coming to England. No pints of beer were involved or random snogging, sadly. I finished my paper early this morning, which was very satisfying. But that left the rest of my day open, and I did have errands to do.

At 8am I walked into Beeston for some food (grocery list in blog below if interested). It's nice on Saturday mornings at the store, because it's not really crowded and you can see the locals waking up, running their little errands. A man took his two children in for haircuts, the local florist was setting up the day's selection outside, the bakery's front windows were foggy with steam. I luckily all my groceries into one bag and lugged it down to the post office.

When I got there, an older man was standing in the doorway. I motioned toward the post office, "Is it..?"

He cut me off, "Not open."

"Do you have the time?"

He replied tersely, "10 till."

Okay, not a friendly one here, and I had ten minutes to kill. So I went across the street into the park, sat on a cold metal bench. Recently I've realized, I haven't ate anything green lately, and my culinary skills without a cookbook extend to cooking eggs and soup, so I had bought some sugar snaps at the store earlier.

While sitting there eating my sugar snaps, crunching each one with a satisfying bite, I saw something rustle in the bushes from the corner of my eye. I sat really still and eventually, two little eyes peaked out. It was a tiny mouse! Every time I sat still it would cautiously try to creep toward the bench, but as soon as I moved even slightly, It rushed back to its hiding place. We played this game for a while. I crunched on sugar snaps while playing hide-and-seek with a mouse until the post office opened, and I could get envelopes.

After this I went into Nottingham, wandered around Waterstone's. Drank tea, ate a ham and cheese panini. And yes I bought a book. I'm weak, but I rationalize this purchase by thinking it's a prize for finishing my work with time to spare. And if you're wondering, it's not a romance, but fantasy: Trudi Canavan's "The Magician's Guild". I'm only two chapters in and I'm hooked. I'll probably finish it before classes begin, so no worries.

I don't really know why I loved this day. It had a bit of everything, I guess. Finishing work, completing errands, book browsing (and buying), and tea drinking.

And of course, a bit of mischief with a mouse.

Exams DONE!!

I know I said this last time, but this time I'm done with my 4 papers. They're due Monday, and boy am I glad that's over with. It wasn't so much that they were difficult to write, just very boring. I'm more of a relaxed writer, and being forced to write as though I'm a scholastic snob, is tiring. Because I hate writing like that. Unfortunately, for this degree I have to. I enjoy the topic and the lectures are usually fascinating. But writing the papers is almost painfully boring.


Tomorrow morning I'm going to shoot my new bow in it's first friendly competition within the club's practice session. This last month, I've just been pulling the string back (no arrow!) and aiming at a target on my bedroom wall. And not letting go, which is more difficult than it sounds. This conditions my arm, shoulder and back to the weight it takes to pull the string back. Right now it's at 28 lbs. That doesn't seem like a lot, but trust me, it is. It's a lot different than picking up free-weights.

My sleeping schedule is off again. No idea why. At around 3 or 4 pm, my neighbor 2 doors down begins playing his music that vibrates my room. I go to sleep around then, mostly because I know I can't get any work done with my room vibrating around me. So instead I go to sleep, wake around midnight, and begin to work in the quiet. Lovely, peaceful, silence. But now that I'm done, I have resigned my fate to looking like a zombie for the next few days. Oh, well. My work is done. That's all that really matters.

Today I'm going to do some chores, and maybe go into town.

Post Office: A4 size envelopes for exam papers

Grocery List:frozen dinners, apple juice, yogurt, bananas, and dish soap.

Waterstone's Bookstore: wander around, drink tea, read. Try to stay awake.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

DONE!!! (with exams, at least...)

My exams are DONE!!! I can't tell you how relieved I am about that. This last week I've kept really odd hours, and have probably never slept so randomly in my life. Earlier this week I don't think I slept for over twenty hours, and then on Tuesday night I slept for fourteen hours only to wake up at two in the afternoon. So I figured I would stay awake all night for my 9 am exam in the morning. My brain always does better at night when writing is involved. I don't drink coffee and I'm not addicted to any stimulative substance, so I simply think better as the day progresses. I think I did quite well on my exam. One question pertained to the philosophy of science and its benefits toward psychology. All I had to do was make a logical argument, with appropriate references, and it was done. The next question wasn't as easy, but I think I did alright.

After my test on Tuesday, I forgot to turn my phone off silent. So during the fourteen hours of sleep and then the remaining hours of studying, I missed six calls. This was such a shock! I'm lucky if six people call me in a week. I'm not really a phone-person. I hate texting and I would rather write a long letter or meet in person than speak over the phone. But it was just my friends from class panicking over this test, since there was very few options on how to study for it. Nerve-racking to say the least. Mom, called me as well, panicked. She even emailed me: CALL ME! I rarely go two days without calling, mostly because it's nice to hear a familiar American voice and beyond being my Mom, she's a friend. With a calling card.

After my test today, I went food shopping with my friend Sarah. It was nice having someone to talk to while walking around Beeston. Usually it's just me, trying not to look like an American tourist. Which is more difficult than it sounds. Then I went back to my room and tried to stay awake, but it was a losing battle. In the middle of watching Doctor Who? (David Tennant and Billie Piper, need I say more?) I fell asleep at two-ish. Only to be abruptly awakened at 7:30 pm when Mom called. So now I'm awake waiting for a decent hour when I can go back to sleep.

This next week I need to write two and a half papers that are due the 26th. Not really looking forward to them, but they need doing. At least I can have resources at my fingertips, unlike the exams.

I hope I can catch up on my reading. My mind needs a break once in a while or I start to resemble a person with narcolepsy. Or it begins to play tricks with me. Lately it hasn't been a cat noise from next door, but there is the sound of an ice-cream truck coming from inside the building. Maybe I'm just craving ice-cream, I can't remember the last time I've ate any. Whatever the sound is, I hope it stops.

So that is my hectic life lately. Not exciting, but very stressful.

How's your life been?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

You know you've studying abroad in the UK for a while when...

Since my last list was a hit, here's another good one I've found. I have found these from personal experience to be true and factual. Scary as that is. And yes, I am procrastinating.

1. You wake up every morning knowing that it's quite unlikely that you're going to see the sun.
2. You see people having a pee while they get money
from a cash machine.
3. You see people drunk in the streets at 8pm.
4. You are kicked out of a pub at 11.30 pm
5. You have learned the difference between pasty and pastry.
6. You've said "cheers mate" more than twice.
7. You realize the most important religion is not Christianity but Rugby or Football(Soccer).
8. You hear and say "sorry" at least 10 times a day.
9. You've seen naked women on the second (and first, and third...) page of the daily newspapers.
10. After a failed conversation with someone in the street you wonder whether he/she was speaking in Scottish, Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Irish or English.
11. You see Tesco (convenience store) as an important social meeting point.
12. You have struggled trying to convert from Farenhait to Celcius, from Miles to Kilometers and from Pounds to Dollars, but you know a pint is 0.56 litres.
13. You have been driving on the wrong side of the road.
14. You see 3 kebab shops and 2 indian restaurants in every street.
15. You've thought more than ten times that the car you have just seen was driven by nobody.
16. You see a group of people wearing Halloween costumes every time you go out at night. And it's not Halloween.
17. You find machines in pubs in which you can buy condoms, vibrators, lubricant and even a Hair Straightener.
18. You see potatoes everywhere, in all different forms and shapes, i.e. boiled potatoes, jacked potatoes, smashed potatoes, chips, crisps, etc.
19. You realize that being served alcohol in an academic seminar is completely normal.
20. You learn that 4 cups of tea per day is good for you.
21. It's only 5 pm and every single store is closed!
22. You realize that British people are queuing (standing in line) politely everywhere except at the bar counter.
23. You are addressed as "treacle, sugarplumb, darling, sweetheart, love, ...."(and all other versions of nicknames in that genre you normally only call your wife/lover) by the staff in supermarkets, pubs and restaurants.
24. You hear "WHA" instead of W-H-A-T ! and "THA" instead of T-H-A-T!!!
25. Your umbrellas have got broken at least twice and you are still hoping not to break the new one even if it's January!

Friday, January 9, 2009

My Mind is Playing Tricks...

I've never considered myself an insomniac. I love sleep, no, I crave sleep. At least usually. But since Exams are looming ever closer, I have unintentionally done something monumentally stupid. I've somehow reversed my sleeping schedule. One night I couldn't sleep and stayed awake the entire night and then went to bed at 9 am. Woke up at 5 pm and since then I can't get back to a regular sleep schedule. It's as though my body has decided it's fed-up with this European crap schedule, went on strike and my internal clock is back to West Coast US time.

However I have to say, nighttime is much quieter and more conducive to studying. For about a week I had a neighbor blast his music and bass vibrated my room from two doors down. Impressive, right? At least I know he won't do that at 3 am.

Now it's my goal today to stay awake till 7 or 8 pm. If I can make it to 8, I know I'll be fine for exams. The only thing is, when I get that tired, staying awake longer than 24 hours, my mind starts to play tricks on me and I get really shaky. For example, I tried this last night, and I could have sworn my next door neighbor had a cat in his room. Usually all I hear is random Arabic, sometimes a group of them and his bed squeaks every time he sits on it or turns over in his sleep. I'm hoping it was the squeaking I heard, and not an actual cat.

I'm going to go grocery shopping at 3 pm. Hopefully the cold snap in Nottingham will wake me up. And I need food for exam week. I don't want to have to worry about food shopping between exams.

I've emailed a few of my friends in my classes and from what I hear I'm ahead of the curve on the studying and papers. Especially the papers, since I'm done with one, halfway through another and should be done by the end of next week. After that I have ten days to complete two critique papers that are simply giving the pros and cons of two studies' scientific method. My friends tell me they haven't even started to write the papers. That gives them TEN DAYS to write FOUR papers. I do not envy them. Although one, I did in one sitting. It was a personal development paper, so there was no wrong answer, since it's just my account of where I want to be and how to get there in 5, 15, 25 years. Easy.

I say good luck to them, and wish good luck to me. I may just need it. For my exams and so I don't lose my mind from lack of sleep.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


I found this list and thought I'd quickly share them with all of you.

1. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.

2. It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside-down.

3. In Liverpool, it is illegal for a woman to be topless except as a clerk in a tropical fish store.

4. Mince pies cannot be eaten on Christmas Day.

5. In Scotland, if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of your toilet, you must let them enter.

6. In the UK a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants, including in a policeman's helmet.

7. The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the King, and the tail of the Queen.

8. It is illegal not to tell the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing.

9. It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament in a suit of armour.

10. In the city of York it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow.

Now, I'm back to studying...