Monday, May 30, 2005

My awesome roommate welcoming me back with balloons and a sign... I love Veronica!

The Reichstag!

The awesome dome of the Reichstag

Corie and me in Potsdamer Platz-- the center of the city.


New Belin and Oxford pics here:

I got back from Berlin on Saturday in a very tired state. But it was a very good trip! There were like 60 Stanford people there from six different overseas centers, plus German interns from Siemens and Lufthansa, who were the corporate sponsors of the shindig. The conference itself was pretty decent. Speakers were good and the activities were passable. I totally felt privileged knowing that I was attending a school that could afford to organize and pay for this conference that seriously brought students from all over the world together.

The best part was definitely hanging out in Berlin with new Stanford people for free. I really liked the city. It was different from the other European cities I've been to so far-- a lot more modern and interesting in its architecture. The history of the city itself is so new, with the Berlin wall coming down in 1989. It was also neat seeing the divide between East and West Berlin, although the sides are more similar than different now. We didn't have time for much exploring, but we did get to do a bus tour of the city. We saw the new Holocaust Memorial, Blandenburg Gate, and I got to go to the Reichstag, which I'd really wanted to see. The Reichstag had an awesome dome that you could climb through and get a 360-degree view of the city, which was amazing. We also went to the Hackescher Market area in East Berlin (thanks Lauren!). We also had really yummy gelato, but no German food (I was a little relieved). It was really hot all weekend in Berlin (90 degrees!), but I was greeted with rain today in wonderful Oxford.

On Friday night, we went to the Stanford in Berlin program's VILLA! They actually have a villa! It is three stories and really really cool. The President of Germany actually has a house on their street, where he receives visitors. Pretty cool stuff. We also went to a gigantic club on Friday night-- the biggest I've ever seen. It was only one story, but it had four dance floors and 20 bars. Insanity. It also had people of all ages-- like old 40 yr olds and teenagers, all under the same roof. There were also strippers, which was kinda gross. BTW, German guys are way better dancers than British dancers. But I was soooo exhausted after the weekend because of the total lack of sleep. I crashed big time when I got back. Now I'm leaving for Paris on Friday morning and coming back on Monday, so you can expect the next entry to be about that!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A cool picture of a bunch of us at a club!


So David, in a very professor-like comment, asked that I write more "substantive" stuff about the people I am living with. I will attempt to do this, but it's a little weird, especially cuz they're just normal Stanford students and they might be reading this (not that I'd write anything mean, I promise). But everyone is really nice and friendly. I don't think we had any like best friends coming into the program so we all hang out together. There seem to be two big groups. One group that goes out and one that doesn't, which is probably about normal. But that means there is a whole half of the house that I don't know very well at all. But I like how at least half the house likes to have fun. We went to "The Bridge" club last week and we had a group of 19 people!!! I was really impressed. More generally, we seem to have three academically-focused groups: the English majors, Social Science people (poli sci, econ) and Hum Bio people. So we're all interested in pretty different things, I think. Something I wonder about is how many of these people I'll continue to be friends with next year. I really like them, but at the same time, it's a little funny because we don't have each others phone numbers! We dont have cell phones here, so if I like wanted to call someone next year, I'd have to look them up on facebook, which is mildly sketchy. That's just a really random thought...
I can't think of more to write. But you can email me or comment me with any other questions. (I like getting comments, so leave me more!)
I'm leaving for Berlin on Wednesday, where I'll be till Saturday, so I'm super excited about that! It's a Stanford overseas conference on globalization, with people from all the other Stanford abroad programs, including Corie from Chile, so that will be lots of fun. This is actually my last whole weekend in Oxford because after Berlin, I'll be in Paris and Vienna for the last two whole weekends here. Kinda crazy. But I have no idea when I'll be in Europe again, so I wanna see EVERYTHING!
Oh, and some interesting things about Britain:
Their movie ratings are divided between 12 yr olds, 15, and 18. But unlike our system where you can get into an R-rated movie with your parents even if you're underage, they dont let you do that here! I heard this story about a mom who tried to buy movie tickets for herself and her son for some random 15-level movie and they wouldn't let her!!! I always thought Britain was more liberal than the U.S., so that was weird to hear.
Also, Oxford has a really strange practice where they'll turn your bachelor's degree into a master's degree five years after you graduate if you pay them a given sum of money. Sketchy, sketchy!!!

That's it for now. But next post will be in a week or so about BERLIN!!!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Pros and Peeves about the U.K. experience

The stupid faucets that have separate spouts for hot and cold water
I can't check out books from the library so I spend WAY more time there than I ever have before
Looking on the wrong side of the street before I cross- I will be getting myself killed very soon
The fact that British guys are really bad at approaching girls
Abundance of potatoes, butter, and mayonaise in food
Having to write a paper every week
Being relieved to only spend 10 pounds on dinner in a restaurant-- $20 USD!!!

The 6-pack of raspberry tarts I get from the grocerry store for only 22 pence!
British accents
Having only five hours of class a week
The antiquity of Oxford
Being close to the awesome city life of London
Amazing frozen and fresh Indian food
Proximity to fun bars and clubs and having the time to go to them
Being in Europe
My amazingly big room

I'll add to this list as I think of more things, but I thought I'd let you know how I'm evaluating things here...

I haven't really done anything too cool this week. We had a Bing day trip to Statford upon Avon yesterday, which was a very cute little city/town. We saw A Midsummer Night's Dream there, which was very well done, but I have decided that I am not really a big Shakespeare person.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Beautiful London (that's Big Ben behind me!)

British Election, London, Stuff

I've put some Oxford/London pics up! Link is on the side and here:

(skip if you don't care)
So the British election was on Thursday and as you probably know, Tony Blair got a third term. This is a big deal only because his party, the Labour Party, has never served for more than two terms. The big outcome of the election was that his party kept their majority in the Parliament (as expected). The only questionable thing was the margin of victory. Blair ended up losing 45 seats, which is kinda a big deal. Most people think that he lost the seats because of the Iraq war and that his party didn't do enough with their huge majority. He now has a 67-seat majority. That's definitely big enough for most stuff. The problem could come with the "rebels" in the Parliament. These are a pretty big group of reps in the Labour Party that don't always vote with their party. If they team up with the other parties, Blair could have probs with getting legislation through. So here are some things I found interesting about the British election and politics in general:
  • The Labour Party is the more liberal party of the big two. But they are the ones associated with the war in Iraq (opposite from U.S.). This was weird for me in the beginning because I thought Blair was a total Bush lachey, but he's actually liberal on most stuff. And he's closer to Clinton than Bush personally, I think. I guess before Iraq, Democrats were associated with war, so maybe it makes sense...
  • I read an article somewhere that Iraq was actually the #11 issue on people's minds, way behind healthcare, education, gas prices, etc... also very different from the U.S...
  • People thought that a lotta people might be mad at Blair and cast protest votes for the third party, the Liberal Democrats. This didn't really happen-- the Lib Dems only gained 3 seats. People don't really like the leader of the Lib Dems and he just won't step down.
  • The leader of the Tories (Conservative party) stepped down yesterday cuz his party didn't get the 200-seat goal that he had. But they still gained 35 seats. I think it's kinda silly that he stepped down especially when his party is technically on the rise! Instead of the election being like a celebration, it seems like defeat for his party.
  • I think the election in general has no one really claiming a victory. Everyone is kinda blah... the biggest question post-election is when Tony Blair will step down. It's pretty funny because apparently, in 1994, he made a deal with his buddy Gordon Brown over who'd take over the party. Gordon Brown agreed to let Blair do it as long as he'd step down after some time for Brown to do it. But Blair is said to have overspent his time at the top and he and Brown are supposed to be rivals now. Brown was still campaigning with Blair (he's like the VP) and he's still waiting for his turn to be Prime Minister. This is SO different from how things are in the U.S.!
So that's my little summary and analysis of the election. It's awesome to be learning about this in class during the election time.

So here's a topic that normal people might be interested in...
I went to London yesterday (Friday) to do some sightseeing. It was actually a very unsuccessful trip. We wanted to see Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London. So Westminster is closed till May 18, Buckingham Palace is closed to tourists until September, and Tower of London had closed five minutes before we got there. The trip was still pretty cool. We saw the places from the outside and walked along a lot of bridges and the Thames River, all of which were very pretty. I also just love being in cities and London is an awesome one.

I don't know if this has been made clear, but I am definitely having a GREAT time at Oxford this quarter. It isn't OMG-my-life-wouldn't-be-complete-if-I-wasn't-here great, but it is amazing to be in a total different continent and culture and just taking a break from Stanford. I love exploring new places, so I'm actually becoming a little concerned about spending a full nine months at Stanford next year. But yeah Oxford is cute, quaint, wonderful, fun, chill, and super cool!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Tons of people all over the place

Choir sings atop this tower (part of my college!)

People about to jump off bridge.

May Day!

So yesterday was May Day, which is a huge deal here in the lovely U.K. It's basically New Year's, Spring style. People stay up all night on May Eve and party like crazy. The highlight of the day is at 6 am when everyone is gathered on the bridge and the choir sings from on top of a tower. This si when all the families and people come out. Part of the attraction that I heard about was college students jumping off the bridge in the morning. I got to see a few guys and girls jump off into about 3 feet of water. I was actually amazed that I didn't see any ambulances or anything because that sounded kind of dangerous. But this morning I read an article in the newspaper that said there were about 100 students who jumped off the bridge this year compared to like 12 last year and tons of people got injured this year. So they might actually close off the bridge next year. Kinda crazy and it reminds me of Full Moon on the Quad at Stanford.
But the whole event was pretty neat. I definitely couldn't stay up all night, so I went to bed at 2:30 and then woke up again at 5 am to get a spot near the tower and bridge outside. The streets were loud and crazy all night.
We started off our night at a college "bop"--the second one we've been to this quarter. I expected bops to be like Stanford frat parties and they're definitely... not. They're just very... interesting. I remember a friend of mine from Cal who came to visit Stanford called our parties really "wholesome" and he should take a look at these parties. The kids are so good! The girls are way more covered at the parties than American girls are. Guys don't come up to you and just start dancing-- they actually don't really approach girls at all. And there is very little hooking up/ sketchy business on the dance floor. I was very surprised. They also play a lot more techno music, but I think that's Europe in general. So that's the Oxford college party scene. I think bars and clubs are probably the way to go, but I think it's cool that they still offer on-campus options.
Next topic: British election on May 5! Stay tuned...