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BE THE MAGPIE

PhD’ing on tactile access to microscopic objects. All about anthropology, archaeology, museums, cats and bad puns. Tell me your favourite history fact.

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  • Kate

Hello all,


After returning quite grudgingly from the wonderful weather of the Canary Islands with some pink on my face and sand still coming out of shoes, we all dove straight into Christmas overdrive. I went back to Leicester for a few days to do some laundry and pack up some more presents, then back to Colchester. Last minute gifts were wrapped and we were then picked up and brought out to Wiltshire, where I was warmly welcomed for my first English Christmas. I regret not taking more photos, but it was a really great time and taking pictures kind of slipped my mind.


Christmas is different in every home you have it in, whether you’re in another country or the other side of your own, with family traditions making each celebration unique. With this in mind, Christmas in England is basically Christmas in America. Well, minus the Christmas crackers. They’re starting to slowly show up in the States and I fully support this adoption into the Christmas spirit as they’re pretty fun. If you don’t know what they are, they’re cardboard tubes tied off on each end, about 8 inches long. You find a partner and pull both ends, which will cause it to pop and spill out a toy, a paper crown, and a silly joke. The toys can be simple or complex, depending on what you get. Or you can take scraps of the cracker and pimp out your toy entirely.

All in all, it was a great Christmas and thanks to modern technology I even got to talk to my family back home as they were opening presents. Skype and FaceTime are the way to keep in touch for sure. It’s also nice to know my family isn’t the only one that makes everyone open presents in a circle one by one to draw out the Christmas joy of surprises. 🙂


New Year’s, like Christmas, is also pretty much the exact same thing as in the US, but there’s really only so many ways to ring in the new year and alcohol with friends seems to be a popular choice.


Short post, but I’m trying to get back in to the swing of things and posting once a week again. So many apologies for the slacking, but it just became a case of time mismanagement and dealing with the uglier phases of culture shock. I’ll write about it eventually, but next will be the excitement of my first rugby match and a visit to the Museum of London. Talk to y’all later!



— Kate

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  • Kate

Hello all!


Between catching plague and prepping presentation notes, I did manage to get some living done and just didn’t have the strength to type away at a keyboard about it. None of it is going to involve epic storytelling this week, but just getting back into the swing of things.


So what did I manage to see? Well, I stopped in at St Margaret’s Church on the way to visit Abbey Park…


The church was beautiful and the people there for mid-week services were lovely. Had a cup of tea and talked with them about how they kept up such a massive building and still tried to keep to the Christian mission of good works. (Basically, it’s a challenge.) From there I continued on to my planned destination of Abbey Park, which houses the ruins of the old Leicester Abbey with the burial of Cardinal Thomas Wosley (of Tudor era fame) as well as the charred remnants of the Cavendish House, which looks like something straight out of the video game Fable II.


About a week later, I was treated to a fantastic English rendition of Thanksgiving to keep the homesickness at bay. If only it had kept the regular sickness at bay too, but alas! There was turkey and green bean casserole, and it was altogether wonderful. 🙂 Christmas could finally begin, so after a gruelling round of Trivial Pursuit, Christmas music was played and a tree put up!


Finally, this weekend saw some of us adventure out into the county and visit Bradgate Park. Only 4 miles out of the city, but it felt much further out than that. Will definitely go back at some point to enjoy the nature and solitude of it all.


I am now convinced that not only do most fantasy themed video games base their storylines off of English history (Fable, Dragon Age, and the like, I’m looking at you.), but they base the background of the game off it too. Walking through Bradgate felt eerily familiar.


So next week will either be Friday or severely delayed until the weekend after as we’ve got a week of intensive hands-on courses this week and then I’m off to Fuertaventura with my favorite fellow adventurer for a week. Will hopefully speak again soon!



— Kate

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  • Kate

Blood, sweat and tears have been spilled, but the word count has been reached and the grammar has been checked. The module one essay was turned in Monday morning and I’ve been trying to recover since. Have finally gotten to the tail end of whatever gunk I caught, just in time to start a new module. The lesson learned from this? I should never, ever become an ethicist. If it’s not practical and real world work, I’m out of my element. Needless to say, it’s not been an exciting week of traipsing the English countryside for me, though if the weather isn’t too miserable I may go check out Abbey Park this weekend. The Weather Channel is predicting only a 20% chance of rain Saturday, but trusting the weather forecast here that far in advance is lunacy.


Aaaaanyway… I was lame and did not go out for Bonfire Night. Instead I wrote on my essay and watched fireworks in the distance from my flat whilst hacking up a lung and going through obscene amounts of camomile tea. Actually, I watched fireworks go off for the next 3 nights after.


For most of the week it was some variation on this grumbling, but somehow between the frantic bouts of inspirations and the frequent breaks for Buzzfeed articles a miracle happened and a paper appeared. From this point I’m just choosing to not think about it any more and start focusing on the next looming deadline – presentations.


Back home, it seems that my parents have gotten SNOW already, and tonight the weather is threatening -20 to -40 F with the Arctic chill sweeping through the North American continent. I will take drizzle any day over that, thank you very much. In fact, I’ve gotten to the point of walking outside without a jacket when the sky is grey because “it doesn’t smell like rain outside” and it’s accurate. I’m impressed with myself.


Oh! Speaking of dying, I got to visit a real-live NHS doctor’s office this week. Was actually just for the routine check up I booked before coming down with plague, but that’s life for you. Of course, this is only one clinic in one city, but I was really impressed with the service. At the front desk I signed in through a touch screen that told how many patients were ahead of me and then sat down in the waiting room. In the room was a scrolling marquee that would chime whenever a patient was to be seen with their name and the room they should go to on the screen. When it came to my name, I walked to the room and was greeted by a friendly nurse who took my vitals and asked what I needed to be seen for. She updated my prescription and even helped me out with it because there’s no direct version of it here in the UK. (Definitely check your medicines before studying abroad for this!) It felt really weird just walking out of the building after without talking to the front desk about billing. It felt even weirder filling the prescription. It literally consisted of me handing over the paper, the pharmacist finding the pills and putting the data in the computer, then handing them to me. No insurance fuss, no dread over what the final bill was going to be. Granted, I didn’t have to pay for my medicine in this case, but not all medicine in the UK is free. It’s a complicated system, but it’s still much clearer and less dread-inducing than medicine in the US.


Otherwise I’ve been more resident than tourist. Some of the things that get me the most are the food products. Sometimes the food is exactly the same as in the US, sometimes it’s arbitrarily renamed, and sometimes you’ll find something completely unique. I’ve learned to not go into the shops for groceries with any preconceptions.


I’ve also been really missing my fuzzball kitty and I’ve been told he misses me, though it seems Mom and Dad have been excellent cat keepers thus far as he’s snoozing behind their heads on the couch in the evenings.


And to end this fascinating blog update, there was this weirdness I ran into today walking to the Fees Office on campus and laughed harder at than I probably should have. There were no gardeners in sight and though overcast it wasn’t raining. However, it looked like someone just kinda thought, “Meh, this is good enough for now,” and just walked away from it. Maybe it’s just the adjustment of living with what feels like a ‘meh’ mentality here from most people, but I found it hilarious. I dunno.


"Meh, this is good enough for now."


I guess if I’m laughing at a lone lawnmower it’s probably time for me to get some sleep. Hope all is well where you are, and I hope to write again this weekend!


— Kate

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