Sunday, 17 October 2010

A delayed start

Hi all. Sorry this has taken me three and half weeks to start. I kept meaning to start, but I never really sat down. So, I figured while my courses are still slow maybe I should actually start! To catch everyone up, I left for Durham, England on Wednesday, September 23rd. I took a flight to Copenhagen, Denmark for a lovely 4 hour and 45 minute layover where I pretty much just sat down with my computer and a book and read. Danish is a very interesting language to hear spoken. It definitely wasn't what I had expected it to sound like (especially after seeing it written). I arrived safe and sound in Durham at 1pm on Thursday, September 24th. Since I was on a flight from another EU country I was the only person who didn't get the luck of going through the speedy customs line. However, I stopped a man who, feeling sorry for me (I was online behind close to 50 Asian exchange students) lead me to the front of the line. After I got my passport and visa checked at customs (I held my breath the entire time) I grabbed my suitcases and walked outside in the crisp Northeastern English air. Let me just explain, Newcastle Airport is beyond tiny, Copenhagen was too for that matter. Both are comparable to Stewart Airport. After grabbing a taxi I sat back and enjoyed the 25 minute ride to Durham. 

My first weekend in Durham was fairly quiet. A housemate, Tom, who was only staying until the end of September, invited myself and two other housemates to a friend's barbecue. I was still pretty tired from adjusting myself to 5 hours ahead, but the party was nice. It was 80s theme and let me just tell you, the Brits don't fool around! Everyone, with the exception of my housemates and I, were decked out and looked completely authentic in 80s gear. Kind of put my themed party costumes to shame. The following day (Sunday, September 26th) I went on a small tour of Durham city and once that ended I went on one of Durham Castle (which is owned by the university and during terms houses students). I had also previously visited Durham Cathedral (built between 1093 and 1133) which is beyond amazing. Absolutely breathtaking. If anyone ever plans a trip to the northeast I highly suggest stopping in Durham, if only for the Cathedral. Every day around noon you can hear the bells (not from my house, I live a little too far from them) but when you walk through the city centre you can hear definitely hear them. They are enchanting and I cannot wait until the Christmas season. 

Wednesday, September 29th was the first day of the "pre-term" meaning I could register with the university. For a college as big as Durham University it's surprising that they are behind in the electronic age. I had to go to about five different locations to fully register (and, ironically there was a mishap with my form so I'm still not technically enrolled). I had a few more days to kill before I met with my department and finished my enrolment process so Sunday, October 3rd my two housemates (Doris - from Southern Germany and Kate - from Massachusetts) and I went to Newcastle for the day. The morning was raining, but figuring that it's England we didn't let that stop us and went anyway. Note! Sundays are a lot like Bergen County hours. We wanted to go to a museum to get out of the rain, well museums in Newcastle (and as I do further research, seems in most of the UK) are only open in the afternoon on Sundays. So, to kill more time we went to a pub to have lunch (cost me about 7 pounds for a burger, fries, and a beer). As we were finishing up a mob of people came in to watched football. The experience was really something, if I can manage it I would love to get tickets and see a football game live. The energy is insane. We spent the rest of our afternoon at a small museum that was essentially a mini Museum of National History. The most interesting exhibit was on Hadrian's Wall, which is a wall that stretches from one coast of England to the other. It was built by the Romans as a way to keep out those damn Scotsmen! There's still parts of the wall and surviving forts just outside of Durham. One of these weekends I plan on going out there. From what I've read there are artefacts laying everywhere. When we left the museum, the sun was of course shining bright. Unfortunately for us it was almost 5pm and everything was shutting down so we decided to head back home. 

Tuesday, October 5th was the day I had been waiting for. I was finally able to complete my enrolment and choose my modules (courses). The MA program here seems almost laughable compared to what goes in to securing an MA in the United States. To start, I am only taking 3 modules for the ENTIRE YEAR! One, Research and Study Skills (RSS) is a year-long course that will give me everything I need to know about working in the field of archaeology as well as helpful hints if I want to continue and get my PhD or to secure a job. The other two modules - Archaeology of Towns in Britain: 12th-18th centuries (the current one I'm taking) and Archaeology of Burial Practices in Britain: 12th-18th centuries (taking it next term). Can you guess which centuries I'm focusing my studies on? So far, I've had two classes for the Towns module. The first one was an archaeological tour of Durham city with my professor pointing out lots of original Medieval houses and structures, as well as Victorian ones and store fronts that were placed over original Medieval fronts. There is a huge prison hidden behind all the pretty houses and building, my professor knows one of the officers and is hoping to take us into one of the offices because in the attic are original Medieval structural beams. I'm pretty excited. And don't worry about the prison, there are really high walls and barbed wire, plus my house is pretty far and up a nice hill so, I doubt any escaped killers will end up at my doorstep. My second class of the Towns module was an archaeological tour of the Cathedral (she even pointed out a fake wall that was built for a scene in Harry Potter. It's kind of a pointless wall, it's more of a extra pillar in a corner). The Cathedral was more interesting to me because with every new Bishop a new section was added or a new design was imprinted on one wall, but because everything was done by hand a Bishop would die because the rest of the wall was completed. If you look closely at the small details within the Cathedral's wall you'll see a lot of mismatch patchwork. 

In the ten days that has passed since my registration I've been keeping myself busy around the house. I haven't done much more exploring since I finally ran out of my original funds last week and am waiting on my money from my US account to transfer over to my UK one. Once I have it, I have lots of local trips I want to embark on. In January I already have a week-long trip planned out when Wayne visits. It's going to start in London and work down southern England and up the west coast and border of Wales. When we finialize everything I'll be sure to add more details. I apologize for the delay in creating this blog and I apologize if any of my updates seemed rushed. I promise now that this blog has been created I will update at least once a week! 

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