Let’s cut to the chase here: I’m really, really behind. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I’ve wound up in blogger’s hell. By good intentions, I mean that I intended to continue my summer pattern, which was writing when weird shit happened. Or when lawyers happened. Lawyers haven’t happened yet, thankfully, but apparently Cambridge is full of weird shit, and I get to witness it all the time.
Life is lovely.
So, thus far, my Cambridge List of Ten:
1. Colors are hard.
This is not blue. This is sea foam green. Or celeste. Or Tiffany green*. But it sure as hell isn’t blue. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t see anything wrong with that picture. At all. But that’s still not blue.
*Tiffany actually calls it blue also. I’m just trying to make a point here.
2. Tea = coffee. Or something like that.
I think this is best described by one of the most Dutch people I’ve ever met:
“They don’t have coffee here. Tea has the same colour as coffee, which says as much about the coffee as it says about the tea … Real coffee drinkers will have to make their own coffee here.”
The coffee is just plain bad. I know the US isn’t exactly known for great coffee, especially among Europeans, but England is truly the worst. It’s bitter, oily, and more or less reminiscent of Starbucks. I’m sure I’ve just gained a few enemies with that statement. I thought England was known for its fine tea, fit for the Queen. Either she’s keeping the good stuff for herself or has no taste buds left, because the tea I’ve had here so far, with two (expensive) exceptions, has been some of the worst tea I’ve ever had in my life.
Sorry England, I’m sure I’ll be deported soon. I’ll go pack my bags now.
3. Punting is a spectator sport.
Imagine Cambridge. Picture huge, grand buildings, cobbled streets, people in suits and gowns all the time (guys, you can stop wearing your suits to 9 AM lectures, we get it already). There’s a lot of port and whiskey floating around, leather armchairs in random places, and porters dressed in full gowns at college gates.
And then there’s punting. The river Cam more or less encircles Cambridge, and it is largely shallow enough to steer a boat by pushing off the bottom with a long pole. That’s punting. It can be a lovely ride, and if you’re lucky enough to have someone in your boat who has been to Cambridge or The Other Place before, you can move like a motor.
Or you can be a tourist group.
One of the bridges I go over daily happens to be in a rather narrow part of the river that has stone walls on both sides. Prime punting accident location. I have been late to lecture twice already because I was so amused by watching people try to put a dent into St. John’s (and rightfully so). It also seems that tourists (and not to be racist here, but this appears to be a particular problem with Asian tour groups) don’t understand that wind in England is WINDY. Windy enough to blow rain over from over a mile away. Windy enough to be called “the biggest storm of the century” (come on England, let’s be honest about that one). Certainly windy enough to pin a punt full of tourists up against the lock in the northwestern part of the Cam.
Perhaps this is best left to professionals. The broad-shouldered, well-practiced professionals.
4. Cars come from the wrong direction.
The first thing I did when I flew overseas from the US back in September was to get behind the wheel of the car belonging to the family friend who picked me up from the airport. I’ve definitely gotten better since then, and it only took me about two close calls to figure out how to cycle on the correct (= wrong) side of the road.
However, for the life of me, I still cannot figure out which way to look when I cross the street. I’ve officially reached the point in my life where I am safer moving by bike than I am by foot.
5. Common sense is not so common.
I have heard tales told of, for example, an attempt at putting washing liquid in the dryer because the washing machines were all occupied. There was another incident of some lost soul cooking his ramen and boiled eggs directly in the kettle, rather than on the stove.
On the other hand, I recently had a non-native speaker explain quantum physics to me in, more or less, layman’s terms. Everyone here is arguably quite smart, but I think we should probably leave Grant’s Tomb and some housekeeping chores out of the equation.
6. Rowing is easy on the eyes.
If I’m going to have to wake up at 6:45 for training, I’m at least happy that it appears that the men’s varsity team has land training on the same schedule as we do. It makes things just a bit easier. See number 1. And number 3.
Rowing has also become a lovely source of one-liners, ranging from “we had the best cox this morning” at a rather noisy dinner table, or “Jesus, do you want to pass?” during an early morning outing. I have discovered, however, that no matter how well my feet reach the ground, I am still at moderate disadvantage compared to my rowing teammates, who range from 5’8″-6′.
7. Fancy dress and formal dress are not the same thing.
Cambridge is host to more parties than I ever thought I would attend. I’ve already dressed up as a flapper once, will shortly dress up as a certain character who looks like a goddess while eating a croissant out of a paper bag, I have a stash of black tie wear in my closet ready to go to battle, and have been in formal wear at least twice weekly since I’ve arrived.
BUT HEED WARNING: fancy and formal dress are NOT the same thing. And when someone says “fancy dress,” especially at Cambridge, you sure as hell better check that the “fancy dress” doesn’t need to fall in the confines of “formal dress.”
Moral of the story: don’t show up to a Formal Hall in a tiger-striped onesie.
8. As it turns out, I don’t look sick all of the time.
It turns out that the Britishism for “what’s up?” is “are you alright?”, which sounds more like “yourright?” when slurred together in the proper British manner. As of this morning, I still forget that the question is meant to ask how my day is going, not to tell me that I look like I should be on my deathbed. And as of this morning, I still respond by saying “uh, yes, why? Is there something on my face?”, followed by a frantic rush to the mirror and leaving in my wake a poor soul who just meant to be polite in the most British fashion possible.
I’M SO SORRY EVERYONE.
9. Tourist season is every season.
See number 3 again. My apartment complex is actually about a ten minute walk outside of the center of the city, which initially made me a bit upset – living in the center would be amazing, surrounded by all of the old buildings and getting to witness an array of walks of shame, ranging from “my bow tie is still on my neck” to “I don’t actually study here, can you help me find Jesus?”. But after a recent trip into the center on a Saturday morning for a bit of shopping, I’ve come to one simple conclusion:
Every city, no matter how small, has a Times Square. And here, TS just happens to be my shortest route into town.
10. Classes? What classes?