28 April 2007

24/7 Library Hours & Flashback for last week

Submitted all my essays and now try to get started on my revision.

Spent Thursday night in the SOAS library and took advantage of the 24/7 thing for the first time. You won't believe how busy it was there! Nothing like what the librarian told Rita, namely that "from my experience, we do not provide additional hours for studying but sleeping space". The library t is quite cool actually, the students are all by themselves except for the security guard downstairs. I've seen people walking around barefoot, sleeping, chatting quietly. Many studious people there but it is not dead serious. When you need a break you can just check out some Asian or African movie from the Teaching Collection.
There is a Tesco that is open 24/7 (but throughtout the year) at Russell Square, so you can buy food&drinks. At 4am it started to get very quiet and the sky was becoming lighter. People playing football at this hour outside on the campus. I went to sleep, my Dev studypack improvising a pillow stuck below my head in a secret place where I would be alone. At around 6am or so, a cleaning lady came in and apologised that she has to do some vacuum cleaning "but only very little". I was so tired, I fell asleep again before she was finished.
I got up again at 10, by that time people were studying again around me. On my way to the bathroom I caught some strange glances, I guess it must have been pretty evident that I just got up. To wash my face, I used the soap from the dispenser in the toilet and in lieu of a towel, I used the dryer (interesting sensation on the face!).

Concerning last week, I met up with Heidi from the LTU to go through the handbook draft while having a chat. She told me she studied at the PädAk in Vienna (paedagogic academy) for a while! Unfortunately, I had an essay deadline and a half-finished essay on that day so I was a bit tense and stressed. I believe my inter-personal qualities suffer when I am in stress.
Kay asked me yesterday after a month where we didn't see each other, what I did during Easter. I had troubles recalling and seemed to be quite passive all the time. My brain was just empty! I think I even failed to tell her that I went to Amsterdam...
Lila and I met up in Camden where we had some coffee before her job interview there, poor her! Always on the hunt for a job! I got lost on the tube on my way there. While I was waiting for her, some guy came up and asked me sth, it took me a while to register that he had just asked me if i had a boyfriend. I ignored him. He went away, then turned on his heel after a few steps and said (I didn't even so much ask look at him!), "You know why I ask you this? Because all th,e pretty girls I've asked usually said yes". Yeah, there must be sth wrong with his approach, then. *rolling eyes* After our brief chat where she filled me in with the details of how she got Serrula to pay her her money (the guy she talked to on the phone just hang up on her, so she had to stomp from her uni straight to them). When I went back home, I got on the wrong bus (the 214 and 274 look the same and I misread the sign on the bus) and had a nice tour through an area I've never been to before but beautiful! I saw Regents Park (some nice townhouses there), the Zoo and the London Central Mosque before I got off at Baker Street to take the tube home. Another way to get to know the city!

*sigh* Gotta go back to studying mode...

26 April 2007

My courses next year

Yesterday I pre-registered online for the modules I am taking next year. These are as follows:

_ Advanced Ethnographic Study
(Instead of classes, I will write a 5000-essay on a subject related to Southeast Asia)

_ Anthropology of Gender
Ever since I've overcome my Gender Studies prejudice at univie and after I found out how complementary the subject is to SEA Ethnography, I decided I HAVE to do that. I've heard it is REALLY cool, too!

_ AFRAS 1 & 2
(African & Asian Diasporas in the Contemporary World & African & Asian Diasporas in British Society)

_ Global Forced Migration Studies
My only core course this year, I've heard you have to read ~100 pages per week. But luckily about a rewarding subject.

_ Ethnic Minorities and the Law
I chose my floater from the law department this year - this is going to be fun... I wanted to do this last year already but thought it might be reasonable to practise English first before you do a law course. I was glad, now I can do it simultaneously with related subjects. The SOAS law programme is one of the top ranking institutions in law - I knew that - someone even said it even comes before Oxford - I'd have to check that. Look at the interesting topics we will discuss throughout the year: family law (forced marriages, divorces), immigration law, ethnic minorities in the UK, legal pluralism etc.

*sigh* No Indonesian/Malay/Tagalog this year unfortunately! My opinion is, you can ALWAYS study a language but I HAVE to seize the courses on offer that are unique to SOAS.

25 April 2007

Uni Update

I wasted one month on this damn TIA essay. Thanks to Clifford's & Marcus's Writing Culture postmodern experimental writing, 1) I wasted one month I could have used for revision 2) I had to turn in another essay late 3) I know have less than 24 hours to write my last essay for this year - at least I hope so. If any of the essays is marked as failed, I have to submit a new essay within a given time about another topic WHICH WOULD BE NOT GOOD considering that exam start soon and I really should do some revision.

I should write a programme or sth (too bad I left my TI-83+ at home) that calculates the overall grade, so I know what I have to aim for. At the moment though, everything is about limitation of damage, at the moment I really don't care about the results of my essays, as long as it is a pass grade (still, I am quite delighted that I achieved a 64% in Jason's SEA GP essay!).

I wonder what I need to really dedicate all my resources to my studies in my last year. It is money, secured accomodation and time. Probably will have to take up a maintenance loan for next year so I don't have to struggle with dodgy employers such as Serrula (btw, I am now joining the trade union!) or look for work at all. It takes a lot of worries off your head.

Last week I somehow managed to juggle ISO responsibilities, friends, essays and other stuff.
More another time. I really have to get writing on this last one here.

20 April 2007

Random IT Services Frustration Rant


_ They exchange old printers = copiers for new ones BEFORE EXAM PERIOD and THEY DO NOT WORK. There is currently ONE SINGLE printer (of the former brand) working in Russell Square.

_ They take down the SOAS e-mail server BEFORE EXAM PERIOD instead of the beginning of the Easter holidays for unknown reasons (they fail to communicate with the general public, partly due to the fact, that the SOAS e-mail network is down but still, no posters in advance or during maintenance or repair).

_ The desktop PCs put in place in the Main Reading Room of the library only several weeks ago have been set by default to display only special (not even all!) SOAS websites and Google. Guess which search engine the SOAS webpage and JSTOR (cross-referencing) use...

_ The front desk people from the helpdesk are unfriendly (apart from one), do not listen carefully to the problem description but rather classify you as pre-computer revolution dummy who cannot tell cable internet from wifi.

_ They never reply to the first e-mail.

_ Internet cables in the main reading room were plugged out (guess how long it takes people to find out why they can't log in) when I came in today. I went to IT. The guy did not know where the Main Reading Room was (even though I told him, IN THE LIBRARY) and that there were computers there (there is regular maintenance!) and when he finally realised there MUST BE computers in the library, he thought it was the public ones for catalogue use and tells me there is nothing to log in because they are set for OPAC only. I reminded him that the freaking PC prompted me for my log in and that it is the PCs IN THE MAIN READING ROOM (the others are outside). Useless. On top of it all: "The library doesn't have anything to do with us" (!!!) There must have been something lost in communication! I thanked him and said, I would try something else. I go to the Library Enquiry Desk and the Librarian actually was the one who knew I had to plug in the cable when I repeated the error message to her! *shaking head*

I don't know what these people do or who monitors their activities but I am close to writing a UGM motion to assess their work.

19 April 2007

Random Essay Overload Rant


17 April 2007

International Students Officer Training

Last week, I spent an AWESOME weekend with other student officers at Royal Holloway for training. The location was beautiful! You should know that Royal Holloway is a campus-based university, that is it has its own compound and is like a little village. It reminded me a bit of the CERN in Geneva (it actually has a partnership with them for research, as far as I have heard) and I rightly predicted that I would see a golf cabbie to get from A to Z. They have their own little forest with lake and everything and you can actually hear the birds chirping and smell the humid air of the plants (people must have thought I was mental because I couldn't stop myself saying "Do you hear this?" and "Do you smell this?" all the time while we were on our campus tour the first day). And the best thing: Utter peace and quiet at night. No cars. No buses. No drunken people shouting around. I loved it!

The training was targeted at officers from Southeast England Universities and I met some great people that contributed greatly to the success of the weekend! Interestingly, there were also a few UK natives present which I find is a particularly great thing. Everyone had loads of fun!

The very well organised workshop itself was funded by the Prime Minister's Initiative for International Education and the programme included Accomodation, Academic Welfare, Pastoral Needs (Father Vlad for Pope! Look it up on facebook) and if UK is meeting the demands of trends in UK Higher Education (HE) concerning International Students, among other things.

In general, it also provided us with the opportunity to exchange our experiences from our respective universities. Something everyone agrees on is that being an ISO is a part-time position not a sabbatical position, that is you usually don't get paid just like other voluntary part-time officers (environment, women etc.). However, the scope of your responsibilites is much wider than that. At other unis, they at least have their own desk in a room where they can hold office hours in. At SOAS, the Union doesn't have the facilities but I will try to find a way around that.

Repeating what I have learned at the workshop would result in an over-dimensional blog post. Maybe some other time. For now, I have to write my damn essays.

11 April 2007

Uni Update

So finally, SOAS has reopened after the Easter weekend. I am now trying not to panic and stay focused on my three essays and the exams, even though I am unsure how to best structure my daily studying schedule and which concentration technique is the best.

If you are wondering why I am so stressed out: Unlike in Vienna, I only have four lectures a year that I can write exams in and each is worth 15 ECTS points. The exams are not about regurgitating what your teacher has said or one single author. During the exam, you have to answer three questions within three hours. Ideally, you present an argument for each of these answers and carefully balance theory and evidence (depending on what lecture it is, the focus might vary). All this in three hours. In a language other than your own.

Also, the exam results of Year 2 and Year 3 together comprise the overall grade of your degree from SOAS and consequentially, your likelihood of getting a good graduate job in the UK.

To give you the right idea about why my post-modernist ethnography essay is such a pain to research on, I will let Clifford and Marcus's first editorial reader give you a synopsis of the thematic:

A Hermeneut's Dilemma
Twas prelapsarian, and the hermeneut
Sat huddled with his faithful trope,
Sunk in thaumasmus, idly strumming his lute,
Lost in subversion with nary a hope.

Then with heartfelt apoplanesis he cried,
O come, interlocutor, give me your ear!
In my pathopoeia I’ve slandered and lied;
Now of my grim project this discourse you’ll hear.

I’ve dabbled in vile phenomenological rites,
And joined in a secret synecdoche,
Squandered my received knowledge in bibulous nights,
And embraced epistemological heresy.

O, but now my metonymy is too great to bear!
This ecphonesis has become too deictic to hide!
I’ve lost all the poesis I once held so dear. . .
And, with typical hypotyposis, he died.
(Kepp, Jane: A Hermeneut's Dilemma. In Clifford, J. & Marcus, G. E. (1986): Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. London: University of California Press.)

Will now try a bit of meditation and auto-hypnosis.

08 April 2007

Follow me... to Earl's Court and Jeffrey Sachs!

I found an absolute DREAM FLAT! It is situated in SW5, Earl's Court which is a wonderful residential area. The flat was on offer via a facebook group and is occupied by three girls, one of which is moving out. The other two are Swiss and French respectively. Unfortunately, the room has been given to my competitor, a Japanese Studies student.

- My room would have been TWICE THE SIZE of my Dinwiddy cell for the same money.
- I would have had a WINDOW TO OPEN with a lovely view on a small private park.
- I would have had a BATHTUB and a proper bathroom with tiles on the floor which is at least four times the size of mine at Dinwiddy.
- The whole flat was very light and had all household appliances (vacuum cleaner, laundry and BROADBAND INTERNET etc.).
- It had a kitchen with a familiar atmosphere.
- It is in a quiet side street but right around the corner from the tube and the shops.
- It is on the Picadilly Line (directly to SOAS in 20-30 minutes), the last station in Zone 1 (that is central but not central)
- Kensington High Street and Holland Park (a PARK!) are just 10 minutes away (see below).
- The Filipino community is quite active there, I saw a lot of them on the street. There is also a Filipino supermarket and a restaurant.
- The area was like Mödling, it felt quite suburban as the big buses are not there and it had loads of mini markets and shops.

(The fact that I show a "normal" park demonstrates how precious it has become to me and how long I haven't been in one)

In the evening I was at SOAS where Jeffrey Sachs, a key development economist who is also involved in the UN Millenium Project, gave a lecture as part of the BBC Reith Lectures. I responded within the first hour to an e-mail sent to all SOAS students and was lucky enough to get one of the limited free tickets. These were allocated so fast after BBC received more than 300 e-mails in the first two hours! You can listen to the broadcast on 11 April at 9 am (repeated Saturday 14 April at 10.15 pm) - GMT on BBC Radio 4. His core proposals to alleviate the health problems and deaths of people on a microlevel in developing countries sound simple and cheap and include bed nets (against moskitoes, a main transmitter of diseases) and access to condoms and anti-retroviral medicines. His idea is to employ modern science to benefit the poor which he demonstrates in his millenium villages. I haven't analysed his projects in detail but it sounds like a good idea, at least short-term. In how far this is sustainable and what about arid areas and the impact of political instability or refugee camps? Who are the winners in Western science centres? Where is the catch? Interesting was to listen to the passionate debate which ensued and the display of researcher ego ("I spent most of my time talking to people in African villages" and "I have discussed this with you for years and I find it impertinent that you bring this up here!").

03 April 2007

Nothing but complaints

Finally, I am going to give you all the details of why I have enough of getting the short end of the stick and why 40 £ is never too low to upgrade from a ~12h couch journey to a low fare airplane ticket:

First, Kat and I missed our bus to Oxford. We looked around and around at every possible bus stop in Victoria Coach Station, where all major coach companies depart in London. The megabus departing to Oxford was nowhere to be found. Long story short, in the end we caught the following bus (15 minute intervals). The conductor looked me up and down as if I was some stupid secondary school girl when I explained to him that it was NOT (EXPLICITLY) STATED IN THE ONLINE BOOKING PROCESS that the route to Oxford is served by the Oxford Tube. I had printed out the booking confirmation AND there were five other people who had joined Kat and me in finding the bus stop. It is usually possible to take the next bus if you miss the one you booked for but no later one. Still, I will complain about this.

The real trouble started in the evening when Kat and I found out our coach to Amsterdam was one hour delayed. Not only that, people were fighting to get in as if it contained the holy grail or sth (I was shocked at the display of anti-gentleman-ness of some male individuals) and I ended up sitting in the row in front of Kat because my neighbour (#1) didn't want to sit with his friend (#2) who was occupying two seats for him alone on the other side of the aisle. I asked them if they didn't like each other. #1 just smirked and stayed seated. #2 didn't move his leg from the second seat. I found that so arrogant! Ah well, it was late at night and finally the coach departed for Amsterdam. It soon became apparent WHY the guys were acting so mysteriously: #2 started snoring as if he was on the Eurovision Snore Contest (I didn't even know people could snore so loudly!). The whole bus could hear him and Kat and I were of course at the centre of action, I even more so. The men in front of him put the back of their seats back as far as possible and also rustled with a newspaper over their heads so to wake him up. It helped but he would fall asleep again. In front of me sat a couple which kept chatting very loudly, a lot of people had to listen to how she enlightened her friend on the phone that Amsterdam is NOT part of the UK. Both of them kept talking for AGES on the phone and kept me from reading about name bestowal for anthropology! However, to the credit of her boyfriend, he took out his mobile phone to take pictures of Mr Snore. *lol* I have to admit, that the latter had quite a socialising effect on the people +/- three rows in front of and behind him - on both sides of the aisle. A lot of people tried to get some sleep. Everyone was tired, damn him! In Canterbury, a group of young people came into the bus, filling up the last seats on the back. One poor unknowing girl had to sit next to Mr Snore. It was only five minutes later that she discovered she had the golden seat. She turned her CD player on very loudly and sulked. When her friends were making fun of her, she - bless her - turned around and shouted across the bus so everyone heard: "SORRY BUT THIS GUY KEEPS SNORING INTO MY EAR!!!" She absolutely expressed the emotions of us sufferers! I was so annoyed, I considered reporting him for disturbance of the peace or whatever they call it over here. We had just passed Dover where police officers are stationed for customs. In the end, I took out my pyjama trousers and tied them around my ears, helped a little. Luckily, we crossed the Channel soon thereafter, one and a half hours of peaceful bliss. After we returned to the coach at 4am, Mr Snore tried to pull himself together. Finally, we were able to fall asleep even if mobile phone man left me hardly any space for my feet. His friend must have talked to him or sth on the ferry. Before, I was close to offering him to pay for two cups of coffee if only that keeps him from snoring. Although Kat was angry too at the impossibility to sleep, her opinion was that it's not his fault if he snores (due to physical conditions). I say, if I know I have that kind of condition, I fucking take a DAY COACH or a plane ticket!

Anyway, I also met a guy on the coach (Kat and Ping, I KNOW what you are going to say!) who saw my Theory in Anthropology studypack and turned out to be a German tourism researcher who had lived in Austria for several years and tried to get to some conference papers from London Met through me. Amazing where I always pick up guys.

On the coach journey back from Amsterdam, a group of immature, silly and cheerful young girls had to sit right next to us. Kat and I had already hoped for a peaceful journey as it was a day journey. No way. These girls were laughing ALL THE TIME. I wonder when they actually had the time or breath to say anything funny. No chance to continue with my TIA pageturner. Also, we nearly froze on a warm sunny day because the air condition was on and I had to ask the driver to turn it down as everyone at the back was cold.

Eurolines (which is the state-owned company) is currently conducting a customer satisfaction survey. They will get hell from me (Kat and I also didn't like that the driver had the motor running while we were still in ferry, even if the ship would unload any minute).

I also complained to post.at because my mum paid 8 € for a priority upgrade and the package arrived later than promised. Taschi complained to post.at because they messed around with my birthday present for her which in the meantime has been sent back to me.

I haven't bought ANYTHING in Oxford Street since winter sale, I haven't even shopped there ever since. When Kat and I went there this week, I "sinned" (I have a bad conscience in this expensive city if I spend on clothes) and bought a pair of earrings. Of course, they were broken and I had to exchange them for another one.

I also had my blood drawn before I left for Amsterdam and still haven't heard from Gower St about the results.

I got my Dinwiddy neighbour from the adjoining core building busted by security (Steve is now my personal hero!) because he was having a party after midnight. I have got tired of always knocking on his wall. He now received a disciplinary. Two more to go until he will be asked to quit his tenancy. I can't believe he turned the music on loud again the day after. Unfortunately, I was too tired to get up and inform sec, so I just used my ear plugs. I am sure he will give another opportunity though. There are a lot of people who would love to have his flat shortly before exam period (no time for flat hunting and 20 minutes away from the library for cheap money).

A propos library, I fixed the chaos with the book which was supposed to be reserved for me but which got lost. I got a call from the Deputy Librarian after I sent a long e-mail. I saw her and she was really helpful. It seems that in the unstaffed hours in the evenings, books have been stolen. Also, some people hide books so that they can take them out again after they expire.

It seems to be my destiny to complain! I still have HSBC which is waiting for a LOOOONG letter of complaint from me!

01 April 2007

Follow me... to Amsterdam! (Day 2)

Since our only plan for today was shopping in Nieuwendijk, Kat and I were sleeping late and chilling in bed when, upon reading my map more closely, I discovered that the Royal Tropical Institute is in fact, NOT a botanical museum (there is a huge park next to it) but an anthropological one! As you might know, the Dutch engaged in colonialism in the Dutch East Indies in SEA, the most prominent examples being Indonesia (tons of indonesian restaurants across the city) and Sri Lanka. Kat gratefully agreed to accompany me to have a look.

It cost 6€ concessed, so we split up another time: She wanted to see Vondelpark while I indulged in the SEA collection and some of the others. My map had praised it to the skies and it really is good value for money. You could spend a whole afternoon there! It is nicely arranged and interactive for both parents and kids. See below for a Philippine Muslim artefact. I still wish I could have seen the one in Leiden. It is said to be quite good as well and Leiden has a distinguished reputation concerning anthropology and SEA studies.

In the evening, Kat and I met up with the crowd to go to an Irish Pub of all places in Amsterdam where I courageously tried potato skins (yes!) for 6.30€. Bart was entered to sing "It only takes a minute, girl" without knowing the song. Unfortunately, there was no musical talent he could have compensate this with - in short, it was hilarious! The unforeseen highlight of the evening though, was Kat who "happened" to give a real concert, including backvocals and dancers (see below)!

After dinner, we moved to "11", a nightclub on the 11th floor of a building. I paid 15€ entry for staring two hours at disturbing animations on videowalls trying not to fall asleep while dancing. I guess some people find it a "cool place" but the only cool thing about it for me was the splendid view of Amsterdam at night.

At around four, we called it a night and returned home to our beloved hostel because our coach back to London leaves at 11.30 and we wanted to catch some sleep before that. On our way back to "the island", we drove through Brussels and the Eurotunnel, the latter of which was a bit of a weird experience.