Friday, October 24, 2008


We've settled in. Our apartment is lovely, albeit a little far from Brad's job and my university. It's very comfortable, though, and Brad has taken control of the kitchen, while I spend most of my time sitting in the living room, alternately reading and getting tired of reading. As it gets darker earlier and earlier, I have an easier time concentrating.

Our neighborhood is lovely and quiet and our location in Old Catton means we're a bit closer to that picturesque English countryside that we all know from Jane Austen and Merchant Ivory. There are some cows and horses, some farms, and some parks that will look lovely when (or if) it snows this winter.

the park around the corner

There's an eerie sort of low-hanging fog that blows in and out, and that combined with all the pastures and foliage makes for a nice walk. There are a few large grocery stores within a couple miles of us - Tesco's, Somerfield's, and the Walmart-owned Asda - and these lovely surroundings make the walk almost entirely bearable. The grocery stores here are as massive and busy as the supermarkets in the States, and they are chock-full of frozen cornish pasties and chicken tikka masala in cans. The abundance of pre-prepared food in this country helps me to understand why someone like Jamie Oliver feels like this country's relationship with food needs to be reevaluated.

But on to the cheerier stuff. This town is beautiful.

elm hill

The center of town is all twisty lanes that meet at odd angles and we've finally gotten a handle on how to get around. There are small family-owned shops and gigantic corporate stores side-by-side, though all of them are probably getting slammed by the recession that just hit England like a tidal wave. The pound is weaker than it's been in many years, and if the American economy wasn't also crawling along at rock-bottom, it'd be a great time to come visit. Any takers?

Brad and I live pretty much on the cheap, though. The most that we may spend money on is perhaps a shirt or a pan from the multitude of charity shops in town, through which I paw hoping for some hidden treasure. My access to the amazing library at the University helps with my generally uncontrolled book addiction - not that I would have time to read for pleasure these days, anyway. Aside from the theoretical and academic books, I only read the occasional piece of fiction, or maybe one of the books in the poetry series that my professor edits. For anyone interested, the book titled Camp Notebook by Hungarian poet Miklos Radnoti is wonderful. Distressing, but incredible.

Contrary to how we normally operate, we haven't had any little excursions. Too much school, too much work, not enough motivation. We will, though...and you'll be the first to know about it. In the meantime, autumn is here, and I'm happy enough to watch the leaves change and wander through town when I have the time.

chapelfield gardens

Now I'll get back to watching that wacky UK television and chewing my nails over the upcoming presidential election. Remember - vote early and often! Good luck, everyone.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

2.5 Months Later

We've left Berlin; we spent some time in CA; some time in WA; some time in NV; and here we are in Norwich, UK. Today's weather forecast: rain.

We are lucky enough to have landed in a beautiful town, more specifically in a roomy, lovely flat in the north end of the city. Our neighborhood smells like woodburning, soil and fish'n'chips. It's not a stereotype about an abundance of fish'n'chips here...they are all over. There's one right down the block from us, though I haven't tried it yet. The reason for that isn't that I don't have a burning love for fried fish and french fries...rather, things here are quite expensive, almost prohibitively so. Luckily, Brad got a job.

So let's have a look at our place, shall we?
Living RoomKitchenBath
There are some differences now: we have a dish drainer, so imagine those drying dishes in less disarray; the bookshelf is now abundant with books on stylistics, translation, linguistics and Russian Symbolism; usually, I am on the couch, reading. Incidentally, I love my program.

The campus, however, while being situated on an extremely beautiful piece of land, looks, well, sort of Soviet. It is a mass of concrete, heavy and grey, harshly dropped next to the river Yare. It's on what is referred to as the University Broad, which is a sizable lake bordered by marsh. The land is really quite lovely.
There are thousands of bunny rabbits on campus, but they hide from the students, sadly. They are much more endearing than the rude little squirrels that ran wild on the Berkeley campus. From that picture, you can't really see the hulking mass of the Uni...
Katie at UEA
That's more like it. The whole thing was built slightly raised off the ground, with all the buildings connected by walkways; the idea behind the design was that it would force students from different fields to intermingle. "Say, I was popping out for a sandwich and bumped into a physicist!" Like that. The idea is more compelling than the execution, however. Mostly it results in bottlenecks.
Though I haven't yet gone inside, there is also a pretty big museum on campus, the Sainsbury Center for the Arts. It's very modern and sometimes free for students, which recommends it highly.
Brad floating
We haven't spent very much time sightseeing since we arrived here. Mostly we've been taking care of things. We've been fairly successful at that so far, you'll be pleased to know. We have been here for less than a month and are already fully entrenched in what will be our lives for the next year. I have a bus pass! I have a cell phone! We have a place to live! We even have the internet! It's pretty amazing. With Bradley's new job (at Rare Grill & Steakhouse), we may not have as much time to travel as we had in Berlin, but I think that bodes well for my studies.
The city itself is very endearing. The town center has one of the oldest outdoor markets in England and the city mostly retains its medieval plan, which means I get turned around trying to get from one end of the city to the other. The streets in the center, mostly pedestrian-only, are very twisty and sometimes cobblestoned. There is a castle (and the mall beneath it is hidden very well) and Norwich Cathedral has the second-tallest spire in England and is exceedingly beautiful inside.
Katie at Norwich CathedralBrad's Birthday!
Soon we'll spend a day somewhere - somewhere in the East of England, maybe Cambridge, maybe Oxford, maybe Great Yarmouth. What? Never heard of it, you say? I never had either. I get the feeling it's like a less-urban Coney Island. We hear there are gypsies there.
In the meantime, I'll be studying. The rainy weather is conducive to reading. As I compile random observations about the English way of life (for instance, bus drivers telling people that the bus is full when it is clearly not), I'll pop back and share them. See that? "Pop back?" Stuff like that. Be back soon.