Days 10-13: did you know it’s illegal to bring haggis into the United States?

Friday January 20th-Monday January 23rd

I was planning to do a lot of stuff on Friday, but then I was depressed instead, and I only ran the most urgent errands.  At first I thought it was just, yanno, the usual stuff.  Then I remembered what day it was.  Then I got more depressed.

The only good spot was that after searching several different stores (and almost having a mental breakdown in one, hooray) I finally found fragrance-free laundry detergent–it was hiding at Ali’s Cave all along.  I’m allergic to fragrances, both in the air and on my skin, so laundry detergent is an especially important thing to keep fragrance-free because the clothes I wash in it then touch my skin pretty much all the time.  Here’s hoping I’m not allergic to something else in the detergent.


Pictured: the miraculous laundry soap, flanked by a very important purchase.  (They came as a set.)

[Image description: one photo of a plastic bottle filled with yellow-ish soap.  The label is green and says “Liquid Soap Flakes” on it.  There is a small plush doll of Princess Leia from the Star Wars franchise to its left, and a small plush doll of Han Solo, of the same franchise, on its right.]

While I was initially really happy about having a grocery store around the corner, I’m starting to see the downsides.  There are a lot of tiny grocery stores and pharmacies near where I live, and it can be very handy.  But since every store is so tiny, your choices are really limited.  The reason I almost had a mental breakdown in that one store was because none of the very few laundry detergents in stock were fragrance-free (not even the sensitive skin ones) and everything was so strongly scented that it was making me really sick.  When I went to a pharmacy, their stock of mascaras from the brand I use was so small that they didn’t carry the slightly-less-popular formula I favor.  The grocery store around the corner is also kind of expensive.

On Saturday, the fate I knew was coming finally caught up with me–I forgot to switch out my alarm clock and my phone charger in the one plug converter I have, so my alarm clock never went off.  Once I dragged myself out of bed, I got distracted from my grandiose plans of cleaning by Voltron Season Two on Netflix.  However, the fact that I only had two pairs of underwear left made doing my laundry kind of urgent.  (There was also a cereal explosion I needed to deal with.)

Laundry here is hell.

First off, it’s expensive–a little over $4 per load when converted to U.S. money, and I had two loads to wash and dry, which brought me to over $16 total.  I know that the free laundry at Hampshire is unusual, and I don’t mind paying, but this seems excessive.  (And my hallmates confirmed that the high price isn’t just a U.K. thing, because it’s weird for them too.)  I genuinely considered trying to find a laundromat, because it’d probably be cheaper, but they don’t seem to be very common around here.

Secondly, you can’t pay with coins.  You have to use an app.  An app that (at the time of writing this) has 305 reviews, 259 of which are one star.  The common complaints are that it steals your money, it’s not secure, sometimes it’ll just completely screw up your account so it never works again, and it frequently crashes.  But there doesn’t appear to be any other way to use the machines.  I did get the app to work without any problems, but I’m still pretty suspicious of it.  Yes, I’m sure that the reason there are so many one star reviews is partially because of that type of bias where the only people who bother to respond are the ones with strong opinions.  (I forget what it’s called.)  But even then, the sheer number of them makes me think that I probably will encounter issues at some point.

Thirdly, this is a pretty big building with a lot of people living in it, and there are only three of each type of machine.  Because of that, I had a pretty hard time getting my stuff into a dryer.  I also don’t really have anywhere to air dry clothing in my room–and since I’m obsessed with fashion I have a lot of delicate clothing that can’t go in the dryer, plus some medical equipment with the same problem–so I had to put a lot of stuff in the dryer that I would normally hang up to dry.  So far nothing is super obviously smaller than it was when it went in.

And last but not least, navigating to the laundry room involves a lot of tight corners, pillars in the middle of corridors, and narrow doorways.  After spending a bit more time here, I would not recommend Portsburgh Court for a wheelchair user.  I know you can be pretty agile in a chair, but some of these spaces are so hard to get through while walking somewhat clumsily that I think they’d be impossible in even the smallest manual wheelchair.  I could be wrong!  I rarely use a wheelchair, and when I do, they’re always really crappy ones at airports or museums and I make someone push me.  But I don’t see it working here, especially since the doors are really heavy (way too heavy for my wonky shoulders) and not automatic, as far as I can tell.  It might actually be worse than doing laundry in the Dakin laundry room, and I partially dislocated my shoulders (they didn’t come all the way out) on the Dakin basement doors multiple times.  (Also, I know that pillars in weird places can be a serious problem for blind people, so I wouldn’t recommend Portsburgh Court for blind people either.)

On Sunday, I didn’t do very much.  I did, however, find a nice café–due to the aforementioned cereal explosion, I didn’t have much available for breakfast, so I had to find somewhere to eat.  The café I ended up at is called Loudons, and I recommend them because they have a lot of dairy free, vegan, and gluten free food.  Pretty much the only other thing I did that day was finish Voltron Season Two.  (It was really good.  I’m glad I can watch it from the U.K.)  I thought about going to the big, cheap grocery store (which would require I take the bus) but I had a bunch of cleaning to do and I knew I didn’t have the energy for both.  Yay chronic illness.

I only have one class on Mondays, and it was canceled.  I felt bad for being really happy, though, because it was because the professor had a lung infection.  Still, I was grateful, because my jaw had gotten stuck out of place and all the things I do to try to get it back in would look very silly if I did them in public.  It was still out of place after about four hours, and I decided that I really ought to go and get registered with Health Services, just in case it stayed like that for a while.  (Also because I had rather urgent medication things to take care of.)  I got almost all the way to the uni before I realized that I hadn’t brought the thing I’d meant to print that proved I live at Portsburgh Court.  I turned and went all the way back home to print it, since there was apparently a free printer in the basement.  It was a bit more difficult than I’d anticipated–not to be an old granny, but why does everything have to involve an app?  The printing app was glitchy, and I had to restart it multiple times before I could get it to work.  But it finally did, and I printed the thing out and hobbled all the way back to the uni.

Once I got there, getting registered was pretty quick.  I came prepared with my two-inch-thick binder of medical history, and my immunization records, but I didn’t need them yet.  (Well, more precisely, when the receptionist asked if there would be a lot of records to copy and I replied, “OH YES” they decided just to wait on it.)  I had to fill out a few forms, which were pretty standard new patient stuff.  There were a few bits that were confusing, or that I had to leave blank, but that was more due to study abroad stuff than cultural differences or whatever.  Once I filled out the forms, I just had to show them the printout that proved my address, plus my student ID, and that was it!  They said it should take about 48 hours before I’m in the system.  Here’s hoping my jaw works itself out before then.

Update: my jaw popped back into place while I was cooking dinner and talking to my hallmates!  That makes about eight and a half hours out of place, which beats my previous record of about two hours.  It’s still a little sore and wobbly-feeling, but I’m going to make sure to stretch it a lot before I go to bed tonight.

(I found out about the haggis thing in a way completely unrelated to studying abroad.  Here’s a source.)


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