Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Think It Might Be Winter...

Last night, I was inexplicably exhausted. So, at around 7pm, I decided to make like an 8-year-old and go to sleep. I left my light on, and woke up at around 10pm. I got up to turn off the light, and then glanced toward my window, where I noticed it was gray outside. Out of curiousity, I opened the curtain further and looked out.


Yup, that's right. Snowing. On October 28. In London, where it almost never snows. I was so excited I started jumping up and down. I haven't seen snow since I was 18, so this was a very big thing for me. I naturally ran ouside immediately and froze to death running around my block. You know those movies where they show London in the snow, and it looks just like Christmas was meant to look? Like Muppet Christmas Carol, Hook, etc? It looked just like that. There's a cobblestone street outside my window, and a 19th century brick building across the road with those old-fashioned chimneys that have 4 or 5 chimney pipes coming out of them. Looking at that in the snow at night was incredibly awesome. I couldn't have been more excited. Needless to say, I didn't get back to sleep for a very very long time.

However, London being a city, the snow naturally all turned to slush within an hour, and by this morning was all gone. It's still unusually freezing though, so today I finally broke down and bought a pair of gloves. No more pretending I still live in Miami, I suppose...

In other news, I mentioned in my last entry that I would talk about the manuscript I get to analyze this year. IT'S AWESOME. It's a book from the early 12th century comprised of sermons and parables of unrepentent deaths. The really cool thing about it is that the stories are all from St. Ephraim in the early 2nd century, and are translated from Greek into Latin. So really, the book is a bunch of second century stories and sermons, just copied and translated in the 12th century. As far as I know, the Greek copies are no longer surviving, so this manuscript is actually reasonably valuable. Also, either the scribe who copied it or the guy who bought it was a doodler. They even cut a clover-shape out of one of the pages. What they did with their parchment clover I couldn't tell you. But it was funny to stumble across a folio with a clover-shaped hole in it.

Anywho, I fear I must now run to my Latin class. Bring on the public humiliation!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I Knew Latin Would be the Bane of My Existence...

So remember how I keep complaining about Latin class? How it's like getting my soul dragged through the mud 3 times a week? Yeah.

I was in the British Library yesterday for my manuscripts class (more on my super-awesome manuscript later) and my course tutor was wandering around, helping each of us in turn decipher bits and pieces of our manuscripts. He gets to mine, and we go over to the reference room to look at some resources about my book. When we're in there, he pulls me aside and lowers the boom: "So, your Latin professor tells me you're really struggling through her class."


Now to be fair, I know I'm struggling. I suck at Latin. A lot. Anyone who didn't know me and only saw me in Latin class would think me a complete dunce. Languages are not nor have they ever been my strong point. But I didn't think I was SO bad that my teachers would talk about it behind closed doors. Ouch. He was very nice about it-he asked me if I would feel more comfortable dropping down to beginner level Latin, and I said no-it's not that I don't understand the concepts of the language-I very much do. I just suck at memorizing my declension and verb endings, and rush through my translations, making a lot of silly mistakes. There's nothing anyone can teach me that will make that better; it's something I need to do on my own. I told him that I feel like I'm learning more in a class that's a little above my level, and he understood.

But herein lies the bigger problem-I need to start my PhD applications. Like, yesterday. I was planning on asking him for a recommendation, simply because he is my advisor after all, and the head of the department. But after he spoke to me yesterday, it dawned on me that all he really knows about me is that I suck at Latin and I'm also not a great paleographer. I joined this programme for exactly that reason-I'm not a linguist, a historian, or a paleographer, and I wanted a program that would play to my weak point, helping me to improve and give me more job skills for the future. However, that doesn't change the fact that because I'm studying things I suck at, I constantly look stupid. My advisor doesn't know that as an undergrad, I wrote papers that I've been told are near-publishable. He doesn't know that when it comes to discussing theology, I really am very good. I know more about the theology behind evil than most PhD religion students. I'm not stupid or uneducated in my field. However, if he hasn't seen any proof of that, then how in the world is he supposed to recommend me for doctoral programmes? It's a conundrum. I'm starting to consider maybe taking another year off in between the masters and my doctorate. Not that I particularly want to, but I need time to write my thesis and get everything in order and prove myself not completely inept before asking for recommendations. I don't know.

It's all very stressful.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dissertation and Thesis-ing

My dissertation topic got approved! Yay! I went to see my advisor yesterday to discuss it, and though he's not entirely convinced that I'm right in my thesis, he thinks I should give it a go and see where it takes me. Basically, I wrote a paper as an undergrad (actually, it's the paper that got me into UCL) arguing that the depiction of the relationship between Judas and Satan in the Gospel of John was a catalystic changing point for the development of the modern idea of Satan and his relationship with humanity. I want to follow that thread into the Middle Ages and find theological commentary and sermons and whatnot that address that passage, and explore how that relationship affected satan theology throughout church history. Not sure if it's really a feasible topic yet, so I haven't officially submitted my topic for approval, but David (my advisor) informally approved it and told me where to start looking for ideas. We shall see...

On the social front, things are going really well. I've really started to bond with the other people in my program, and we've all been going out for drinks a couple of times a week for the last few weeks, mainly just to get ourselves out of the library/computer lab/graduate common room, a combination of which takes up about 90% of our waking hours, while the other 10% is spent in class. It's nice to get out and clear my head (or fuzzy it up, as the case may be) every so often.

I've also met a guy who I'm really starting to like...he's VERY British, but in a cute way. I won't say any more as I don't want to jinx it, but I will note this-he was at a black-tie thing for work last night, where he was seated next to a PRINCESS. Like, an actual real live one. How a girl competes with that I have absolutely no idea. If anybody has any clever ideas on how to usurp her attractiveness with my unclassy, unlettered, unprincess-y charm, feel free to chime in. In the meantime, I will sit here quietly feeling threatened. :/

That's about it for now-it's now off to the Batcave, Robin! (And by that I of course mean "off to spend my entire weekend in a library, Robin!")

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Guess Grad Students are Anti-Social For a Reason...

So this weekend, I made a valiant effort to have a social life. On Friday night, I went out with a few people from my course to a grad student night at one of the on-campus bars (of which we have tons...I love English schools for that). I definitely had too much to drink, but hopefully I didn't embarass myself too horribly. I did manage to bond a lot more with one of the girls in my course who I've really liked since the first day I got was nice to feel like I'm getting closer to making more actual friends vs. friendly acquaintances. I paid dearly for the sambucha shots the next day, but it was worth it.

Last night (Saturday night) I was invited to attend the 30th birthday party of a guy that worked at camp with me way back in 2004. I didn't really know him particularly well whilst at camp, but his wife, who also worked there, was my boss, and I knew her reasonably well. The party was a costume party (called a "fancy dress" party over here, which I find hysterical), and the theme was "British". My friends Kendall and Rhys and I had been debating for weeks what we would dress as...first we were going as the Spice Girls (Rhys obviously being Baby Spice as a 6'2 man), but there were only 3 of us. Then we were going to go as Amy Whinehouse at three different stages of her career. However, in the end Rhys decided not to come, so Kendall and I had to think fast. We dug through my wardrobe and found some brown slacks and white tops and ties (don't ask me why I own ties; I'm not really sure. The ghosts of costume parties past, I think...) and ran around central London in a tizzy for hours looking for Sherlock Holmes and Watson attire. We managed to find it, but not before almost giving up and tying black bedsheets around our shoulders and finding some sticks and going as Hermione and Cho from Harry Potter. In the end, it all worked out, and we managed to find the hats, the pipes, the magnifying glass, even some stick-on mustaches and fuzzy eyebrows. We didn't win the costume competition, but everyone loved our idea anyway. We were the only girls who didn't try to look nice in our costumes, which was mildly detrimental. Everyone else actually looked very pretty in their Maid Marion or Alice in Wonderland or Queen Mum costumes. And we were in drag. Awesome. I feel it shows boldness on our parts. :)

The party in the end was a lot of fun...I couldn't bring myself to touch any alchohol, but there were a lot of people there that I haven't seen in years, so it was really nice to reconnect with everyone. Good times.

Today, however, I am paying for trying to have a social life. I've got so much homework that I'm actually worrying if an all-nighter will be enough to get it all done. I wouldn't be that concerned, except for the fact that in a stroke of masicism, my Latin teacher assigned us 3 more poems to translate...from English to Latin, which is SO much harder. Ugh. Wish me luck.

P.S. I know I said this already on Facebook, but in case you read this-Happy belated birthday, Jake!!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Is It Really That Time Already???

It's started. The moment I've been dreading since getting my acceptance to UCL. The time I prayed would never come, but knew deep down always would as it sat there peeking around the corner of time, blowing raspberries at me.

It's time for PhD applications.

Now, normally this wouldn't seem like such a bad thing. True, it's a little soon after starting my MA, but as master's degrees in the UK are generally only 1 year long, it's only natural that I would need to start now. I only dread application season because I have spent the last 2 years of my life thoroughly ensconsed in it without escape. I made the catastrophic mistake in my first year of applications of only applying to 4 schools, all of them Ivy League (for anyone who's wondering: no, Harvard is not impressed by a 3.4 GPA from a 3rd-tier school), and thus got lots of very nicely phrased rejections letters. Last year, I broadened my horizons and tried again, having little more luck in the US (Pepperdine was the only US school to accept me), but by some stroke of luck, magic, or a severe crack addiction on the part of my advisor, I was accepted to UCL, which is really a gift from the proverbial gods, as UM is ranked about 100 spots below UCL in the international rankings, which to UCL is more important than the Gospels.

Now that I finally escaped the dreaded application process, I find myself pitched right back into it headfirst. It's not that the applications themselves are that bad; it's that I don't know if my fragile mildly narcissistic ego can take another two years of rejections. I'm sincerely hoping that as long as I do reasonably well this term, I can hide behind UCL's name and hope that some Ivy League school will assume that if I was smart enough to get in here, then they too should bank on me. I'm not sure how much stock US schools put in the ranking system (here it's a huge deal), but UCL just got pushed to #7, behind only Harvard, Yale, and CalTech in the US and Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial internationally, so maybe that will be enough to push my application through to the top of the pile. We shall see.

As of right now, my short list of schools is comprised of Stanford, Northwestern, and Columbia. However, I REALLY don't want to make the same mistake I did the first time around, so I'll probably also apply to Catholic and Fordham as well (though they both rejected me in the past, I'm hoping a UCL MA will be enough to make them reconsider). I may also apply to UChicago. We'll see. Either way, I've really got to get going on this. I think Stanford may be my first choice; I do love Columbia, but honestly, I'd rather eat my own foot than live in New York (nice place though it is to visit). Given the choice, I would stay in London forever, as I rather love it here, but I can't get a doctorate for free here as I can in the US (discounting, of course, the sale of my soul to whatever school I attend). Maybe I'll come back when I'm 78 and am finally done with school. Who knows.

Just when I felt I was getting settled, my life shoots once again decidedly up in the air...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Just so everyone's aware, my phone is out of calling credit, which means I can't place calls or texts. If you call me and I don't respond, I'm not ignoring you. Just try me again until I pick up the phone. I'll top up this week, but in the meantime, that's why I've gone AWOL.

In related news, happy belated birthday, Dad! Sorry I wasn't able to call for the aforementioned reason...but I did in fact remember. Donna, I know you probably read this more than my dad does, so pass along the message. :)

So on to updating. I didn't know so much homework existed in the world. I've probably already said that in a previous blog. I don't know. My brain is so clogged up with Latin that I now have trouble concentrating on anything that's not written in the ablative case...on the homework note, I went to the library to pick up some of the recommended reading for a class I have on Friday. Neither of the books are in English. Naturally. I'm slowly becoming of the opinion that a day without spending at least 4 hours in the library is a day wasted. What a sad existence I do lead.

On a completely unrelated note and with absolutely no segue whatsoever, I am discovering once again how small the world West Side rehearsal the other day, I started talking with a really sweet girl named Ginny, who's also American. Upon chatting, we discovered that not only are we both in the same department at UCL, but lived 20 minutes away from each other in Maryland and in fact have taken class from some of the same dance teachers. There's another girl in my program who grew up in Silver Spring, and a third who apparantly went to college with me, though she's just sitting in on one of my classes, and is from another program. How small the world indeed is...

On a positive note, I'm slowly starting to feel less stupid. I mean, I always feel stupid in Latin class. That's a given. And in Paleography I feel just kind of average. But in my Cloisters to Classroom course, I actually feel like I'm in my element. Understandable, as it's a course on theology and my background is early Christianity. I've actually got to start picking a topic for our first's due in December, and we can basically write about anything we want. I'm thinking I might write about the theological connection between the Judeo-Christian Essenes and the 4th and 5th century monks. Not entirely sure, though.

Oh, and I'm playing a Shark in West Side. Like, one of the Puerto Rican chics. I find this endlessly funny. Also amusing is the fact that the guy playing my boyfriend is clearly a fresher and is probably about 6 or 7 years younger than me, though I feel like I look old enough to be his mother. Awkward much? He's a sweet kid, though. I suppose it doesn't really matter. I just find it amusing.

Also, postage is really cheap here, so if anyone wants me to send them letters, just send along your address...I've yet to purchase a DVD player, so I will write letters. I really am THAT bored.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Well, I got cast in West Side. I don't have a main part or anything, and honestly, that suits me just fine. Primarily, they cast me to sing the "Somewhere" solo, and to be in the core group of dancers. Instead of doing the show in the traditional manner where all of the actors also do all of the dancing, they decided to have an extra group of ensemble members who just dance and are not actually members of either of the gangs. But apparantly, I lucked out-the director told me he's putting me onstage for most of the show in one of the gangs, having me dance with the dance ensemble, and having me sing "Somewhere". Not bad, if I do say so myself. I don't have any dialogue, but it looks like I'll actually get more stage time than most of the principles, which is always nice. Sounds like fun to me. :)

In other news...there really isn't a whole lot of other news. I never knew the world contained so much homework. It's only the first week, and I've already got a favorite desk in the library, which I have occupied until the library closed-twice. Le sigh. I'm finally starting to get the hang of Latin again. I'm still not good at it by any stretch of the imagination or twisting of definitions, but when I looked at my assigned translations for the week, they only looked like about 80% gibberish, which is a vast improvement. I hate going to Latin class because it's so above my level, but at the same time, it's really forcing me to remember my grammar. Very, very quickly. Pressure, but productive pressure nonetheless.

Um, let's see....I played the role of classy grown-up this weekend. My friend Kendall entered a photography competition and made it into the top 50, so she and I went to the gallery opening of all the finalists on Thursday, and drank free champagne and ate yummy finger foods. Then last night, I met a friend for cocktails at the bar on top of the Tate Modern, which was really fun and classy and all that. And today I'm going to tea at the home of a professional contact I made from the V&A Museum; basically I'm going to try and whore myself out to her for an internship or something. We'll see how it goes. :)

As the pig said, "That's all, folks!"