Tuesday January 24th-Monday January 30th
I did absolutely nothing on Tuesday. The class that was canceled on Monday (Current Issues in Semantics and Pragmatics) was canceled on Tuesday too, and I got an email saying it was also canceled on Wednesday. I’m worried about the teacher, because my dad was a college teacher before he retired, so I know canceling three classes in a row with no substitute or anything is a huge deal. (Dad’s said that it was convenient I was born on a Friday afternoon, because it kept him from having to cancel classes.) So on Tuesday, I only went to Pragmatics. I planned on using my extra time in the afternoon to run errands, but ended up just reading instead.
I did realize one thing while I was in Tuesday’s class–I need to be taking notes on my readings. I think this is mostly a difference in the type of class I’m taking. At Hampshire, and in the classes I’ve taken at the other Five Colleges, the teachers tend to discuss the readings in class a lot. You still have to do them, but things that you didn’t understand will generally get explained. That doesn’t seem to be as much the case here, as they just sort of assume you understand the readings, and then they build off of that, often in a more lecture-y format than a discussion-based one. I think I’m also just not retaining much information from my readings because I’m stressed and sleep deprived. And my baseline reading comprehension is only okay, which may come as a surprise to people who know how much of a word nerd/avid reader I am, but it’s usually good enough to get me through classes. So I guess I have to do more work, ugh. (The main problem here is that I have mysterious issues with my hands, and I just can’t process notes on a computer, so I have to handwrite them. Which hurts. Pain is a good disincentive, unfortunately.)
I only had Pragmatics on Wednesday, but I ended up not going because a few different bits of my various chronic illnesses all acted up at once. I did absolutely nothing of note.
On Thursday, I had Pragmatics and Traditional Drama–Current Issues wasn’t canceled, I just don’t have it on Thursdays. I finally got half of those errands I meant to do on Tuesday done on Thursday morning. One was going to the post office. I promised my best friend that I would write her letters while I’m here, and I finally managed to get organized enough to write and send one. Mailing the letter was pretty simple, and not too pricey, plus I got more stamps for future letters. I don’t know if there are mailboxes around here that I can stick letters in, like there are in America, or if I’ll have to walk back to the post office to mail things. Still, it’s a short walk.
Now that I’d caught on about taking notes, classes suddenly got a lot more fun. I spoke up multiple times in both my classes, plus I had a meeting with one of the Pragmatics teachers and I actually understood enough to have a fairly interesting conversation with her about that day’s material. (That’s something I didn’t expect about of the classes here–they can have more than one teacher, and generally only one teacher is even in the room at a time. I’ve taken one class at Hampshire that had two teachers, but even if one was mostly in charge that day, the other still stayed in class and watched. Not so here. Also, that class I switched out of was really more like a lecture series with loads of different lecturers, and one guy who was vaguely in charge of organizing them.) And I said a lot of things in Traditional Drama. That teacher is really great–he’s obviously super passionate about the subject and it makes him a really enjoyable teacher. He also spent about half of class systematically proving that The Golden Bough is an astonishing store of data, but that the analysis is crap. This filled me with unholy glee.
On Friday, I decided that if I’d rearranged my schedule to have Fridays free to run errands, then I ought to actually run those errands. The first thing I needed to do was go to an ATM to get more cash. I use Bank of America (I know they’re terrible, but unfortunately banking with a huge corporation makes this sort of situation a lot easier) and they have some sort of arrangement with Barclays here that’s supposed to let me withdraw money from Barclays ATMs without getting hit with huge fees. Super handy, right? The only problem is that the nearest Barclays ATM is still kind of a hike away. I was planning to walk it, as it’s not unmanageable, but I did something to hurt my feet on Thursday. I decided it would be a good idea to take the bus. I planned to go straight from the ATM to the larger, cheaper grocery store I’d been meaning to go to–that would mean I’d be making three bus trips, which would make getting a day ticket cheaper. They’re £4, so once you go past two individual trips, it’s cheaper just to get a day ticket.
While I walked to the first bus stop, I realized I was going to need to go home from the ATM–even though I was wearing my comfiest shoes, my right foot was starting to hurt, and I was going to need painkillers. And then when I got there, I realized I’d left my water bottle behind! (One of my chronic illnesses makes my body act like it’s dehydrated, so I have to carry a water bottle around everywhere.) So alright, four trips it would be. When I got to the ATM I’d been aiming for, it wasn’t dispensing cash. Luckily, there were two other Barclays ATMs nearby, and I got my money there. Then I took another bus back to my room and took a break.
(So far it does look like I was charged a fee, but I suspect it’s a fairly small one in comparison to what it could’ve been.)
Also, a quick note: I would not recommend riding on the top floor of the buses if you are prone to motion sickness. I learned this the hard way so you don’t have to.
Once I felt up to grocery shopping (in other words: once the painkillers kicked in) I got back on the bus and found the store–it’s called Lidl. (It’s a bit far from where I live, but I think it’s pretty close to some of the other student housing.) I believed my hallmates when they said that the Sainsbury’s Local around the corner was expensive, but since I haven’t quite mastered conversions yet, and I’m not sure what prices are normal here, I wasn’t sure how expensive it was. Lidl is a bargain store, and I got a lot of stuff for way cheaper than I’d get a smaller supply of food at the Sainsbury’s Local. So I guess the normal price for stuff lies somewhere in the middle? There were a few things they didn’t have, though, that I’ll have to get around the corner. One nice coincidence was that I’d been craving lychees all day, and when I looked around the produce section of Lidl, they had a whole bin of them! I bought a bunch–they were far from the best lychees I’ve ever had, but they were okay. After I left Lidl, I took a bit of time getting home, since I waited at the wrong bus stop for a while before I realized that I’d made a mistake. On the upside, someone there was wearing a really cool Danger Days-era My Chemical Romance T-shirt that I don’t think I’d seen before.
I slept for basically all of Saturday, and a good chunk of Sunday too. I did finally rouse myself enough to get stuff done during the afternoon, including taking out the trash and doing the laundry. The laundry all went smoothly, but I’m still suspicious of that app I have to use.
Monday I had Current Issues in Semantics and Pragmatics–the class that was canceled all last week. Right now, the teacher is making sure that everyone’s on the same page re: symbolic logic, so we’re learning (or in my case, reviewing) it. It’s super disconcerting for me because I know all of this–in fact I’m generally pretty good at it–but various bits of notation are different. It turns out that in a lot of those cases, using the version I’m used to is fine, but the handout is still written the other way. (So for example, it’s fine if I use “~” to symbolize negation, but the handout has it as “¬”.) He’s also giving us different names for the rules, and a different format for doing derivations, so we’ll see how that goes. (And, as I said in the title, he showed us a rule that my UMass professor said doesn’t exist.) I’m not sure how much symbolic logic will actually end up in our graded work.
Then, on Monday evening, I went to a protest. See, just past midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning, Facebook told me that one of my hallmates was going to a protest against the U.S. Muslim ban. Now I don’t normally go to protests; there’s generally too much walking and standing, which can cause me to experience severe pain and/or pass out. I also have a hard time with crowds and noises. (I’d love to do a die-in; I was under the impression they originated with disability rights activists, but I can’t find anything to support that in a quick Google search.) Still, I figured this was really near me, and this city is small enough that there shouldn’t be too much walking. It turned out that the walking was fine (except for when I hit my knee really hard on a pole sort of thing because I wasn’t looking where I was going) but the standing during the second part was killer. We’re talking, like, 8/10 pain in my bad hip.
Anyway! I felt kinda blah in the morning, so I thought I might end up not being able to go, but I perked up in the afternoon. I spent a lot of time making sure I was prepared for the police to get violent before I realized that it… probably wasn’t something I needed to worry about? (I know the U.K. still has horrible police brutality problems but I’ve gotten the impression they’re at least not quite as bad as the U.S. Plus this was a pretty official-y protest, and I’m white.) Still, I decided to go ahead and leave my jewelry off, wear shoes I could run in, etc. The protest started near what I think is an art gallery–during that part, I couldn’t hear most of the speakers. The crowd was also super thick, and there was nowhere to sit, so I ended up climbing onto a fence and sitting on a pole that had a wide bit on it, although I also just flat out stood on top of the fence some of the time. (Wearing practical shoes really paid off here, although I did have to get some help when I got down at the end. I’d forgotten how I’d climbed up there in the first place, and someone noticed me failing to reverse engineer it.) This is also how I got some good photos–and I suspect I’m in a lot of photos too.
Then we marched towards Parliament–like I said, the walk itself wasn’t too bad. I was marching next to a choir of some kind for part of the time, and I teared up a little when they sang “We Shall Overcome” because it was really pretty. There were some chants that I felt awkward participating in, as an American, so I mostly just hobbled along quietly. Then at Parliament, there were more speeches–I heard some of those better, but I don’t remember because that was when the pain started to kick in. I finally managed to get a seat on a pillar sort of thing, but that was only a few minutes before the whole thing ended. Then I caught the bus home, except I got on the one going the wrong direction, and it took almost an hour to get back. (It did turn around, but I went really far–all the way to a place called Leith.)
I’m not sure yet if it was worth it–we’ll see how I feel tomorrow–or if I’ll participate in any more protests. Still, I enjoyed going, and it was a good thing to try at least once.
Here are a few of the signs I got decent photos of. My two favorites aren’t actually pictured here, as I suspect Hampshire might, erm, frown on me posting them on a school-associated blog. (The signs pictured in the two photos aren’t obscene, they just… advocate very direct action?)
[Image description: three photos of cardboard signs. The first has one on the left that says, “IT’S TIME TO DUMP TRUMP” and one on the right that says, “REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE”. There is also a sign between them that I’ve scribbled over in black in Photoshop and written “this sign was cissexist” in red Comic Sans with a little frowning face. There is a second picture of a sign that says “COELIACS AGAINST TRUMP” (that’s how they spell Celiacs here) which I mostly took a photo of because hey! disability! The third picture is of a sign that says, “EDINBURGH SOLIDARITY WITH MUSLIMS” with the hashtag #NoBanNoWalls. There is also a sign in the background of that photo that ends in the letters “CK”, which I can assure you actually said “YUCK”.]