Cambridge Year

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Catch-up round 2

The day before David and I left for home we walked around Cambridge for a bit, taking pictures. A bunch of them aren't fit for posting (by my standards), largely because I'm very very bad at taking pictures of landscapes. It's surprisingly difficult to take a picture of a nice expanse of lawn with buildings behind it and make it seem pretty and interesting. I'll try again some time and hope it comes out better. =) But in the meantime I have no pictures of the backs (the part of Trinity along the river); all I have are pictures of the main section.

First, you enter Trinity through Great Gate

which is a darn big gate. Over on the right-hand side you can see a bike, for scale. Above the entrance are two "lions" holding the Trinity crest:

The reason I put lions in quotes is because I can't really take the that seriously at lions. I mean, could you take lions whose heads look like this

seriously? ...I didn't think so.

Once you walk through the gate (actually a small door in the smaller gate) you are in Great Court

which is a very big courtyard with grass and a fountain

in the middle. (The fountain is very nice, although it would be even nicer if there was a place to sit next to it.) The part of the building on the right in the picture of Great Court is the "buttery" (the strange British term for the cafeteria) and most of the rest of the court seems to be dorms, for both professors and students.

If you head out of Great Court you end up in a little alley, on one side of which is New Court (which is obviously very old) --- which I am apparently incapable of taking a good picture of --- and on the other side of which is a street which looks like it's from forever ago:

Most of Cambridge doesn't look like this, although it doesn't look like a normal street at home either:

Cambridge also has a market,

which happens every day. The market confuses me: it's very expensive, and the food that it sells isn't any better than the stuff in the grocery store (and is, in fact, often worse). So what's the point? Who shops there? It's a mystery.

Next to Trinity college is St. John's, which I include here just because it's very pretty and easy to take nice pictures of:

I don't really know much about it other than that it's cool. And looks like a castle. Oh, and the students get free laundry.

Of course, no series of pictures of Cambridge would be complete without a couple of pictures of the Cam

as well as a picture of people punting

which they seem to do in the worst of weather. One of the funniest things I've seen here is punts (those flat boats) filled with umbrellas and some poor student getting wet poling the boat along. When everyone in the boat has umbrellas it sometimes gets to the point where you can't really see the people sitting under them, which always makes me wonder about the point of being out in such weather (if I can't see them, can they see me?).

Last, and probably least, some silly signs around Cambridge:

Friday, January 19, 2007

Playing Catch-up, round 1

So I haven't posted in a while. I'm going to play a few rounds of catch-up so that I don't just have one humoungous post. I'm basically going to split up the last two months into three posts:
1. Thumb and concesquences.
2. Cambridge pictures and vacation.
3. Starting a new term.
I might split it up slightly differently after I actually start writing, but that's my basic plan.

On the 15th of November I sliced off a bit of my thumb. I was happily working along, cutting up vegetables for dinner when I thought that maybe I should use the slicer that came with the new grater that I'd bought. (This was the point where I made a mistake. Clearly, any train of thought that starts with "It might be a good idea" and includes the word "slicer" is obviously going to have dire consequences. I can't even grate a carrot without grating a bit of finger, what was I thinking using a slicer?) So here I am, slicing a zucchini when my finger slips and I nick my thumb. And it doesn't hurt, just stings a little, so I think "Phew! Just a nick!" Then I take a second look, and realize that, no, it wasn't just a nick, and I should really really figure out what to do with it. (In case you're wondering how much was cut off, click here to see.)

If I were at home, or in Boston, I'd know what to do. But here I just had no idea whatsoever. I knew that Trinity has a nurse (somewhere) but she likely was not going to be there at 7 pm. So I did what I would do in the US if I had no clue what to do, which was call 999 (the British equivalent of 911). Now, in the US there would be a nice person there who would tell you what to do... likely (in my case) something along the lines of get a towel to cover it and call a taxi to go to the nearest emergency room. Here I just got a person who said "Fire, police, or ambulace?" I told them that I didn't need any of those, that I had cut a piece of my thumb off and could they please tell me what to do. (I'm not sure I said please, but I know I wasn't particularly rude. No more rude than I usually am, anyway.) The guy said that he could get me an ambulance if I needed one, and when I told him that I didn't he hung up on me.

At this point my thumb was beginning to hurt a little, and it was bleeding quite a lot, and I didn't really have any idea how to go getting a taxi or where the hospital was. So I did the next best thing, and grabbed some toilet paper to cover my thumb and went to talk to the porters (who are kind of like security). I didn't grab a book or a sweatshirt or anything, either (which turned out to be a problem). My conversation with the porter went something like this:
Me: "I just cut a part of my thumb off. what should I do?"
Porter: *pause* "I suppose... you should go to the hospital."
Me: "OK. Where is the hospital? How do I get there?"
Porter: *longer pause* "I'll call you a cab."
At this point, the porter calls a taxi, and then starts filling out paperwork, occasionally asking me a question about what happened. After a couple of minutes a taxi pulls up outside, but the porter just keeps filling some things out and asking me questions. After a few minutes of this I ask whether I should just head out to the taxi, but the porter says no, Trinity is going to pay for the taxi, he just needs to fill out the forms explaining why I need one. So I wait a few more minutes, while the porter keeps filling out papers, until finally the taxi driver comes in and asks whether someone called a taxi and what was going on. When the porter told him that he's just filling out the paperwork so that the taxi driver can be paid on account the taxi driver asks him to call the dispatcher to make sure that it's ok. So the porter calls the dispatcher, and while the taxi driver is standing there doing nothing, and I'm standing there holding my thumb (and bouncing up and down a little, it was really starting to hurt), and a couple more students who have come in with questions are all watching this, the porter figures out that Trinity does not have an account with this taxi company, he called the wrong one, sorry, he'll just call another taxi. (At this point, the only reason I didn't just take the taxi that was already out there was because I didn't have much cash and I didn't know how much the ride would cost.)

A few minutes after that a different taxi arrived (this one from the right company), all of the paperwork was filled out and I had the correct vouchers, and I finally got into the cab to go to the hospital. It was 40 minutes after the actual accident. (The taxi driver, by the way, was shocked that the porter didn't know which company to call, since he said that he himself went to my dorm at least once a week to drive people to the hospital.) It was a good thing that I hadn't tried to walk, too, cause it was a 20 minute drive.

So finally I get to the hospital and I come up to the receptionist. There are two people sitting there, talking, and completely ignoring me. I just stand there, wondering what to do (and completely unable to yell at them for ignoring me as British accents just make people sound too polite to let me yell at them). Eventually they noticed me, asked me what my name was, where I lived, what had happened, and my GP's name. My GP's name? I had one (Trinity made me register for one) but I had no clue what their name was, where they practiced, or anything. I knew how to walk there from my dorm, but that was pretty much it. After a bunch of discussion they decided that they knew which one it was (they were wrong, it later turned out) and I was told to sit down and wait. (I didn't have a book. I'd asked the porter whether I should run up to my room and get a book to wait in the emergency room (which is called the "accidents and casualties department") and he just looked at me like I was nuts and told me of course not. Obviously, he was wrong.) After about half an hour (during which I never managed to sit down, but did manage to read every single printed thing in the waiting room) a nurse asked me what happend, asked me to show her my thumb, and then told me to go wait some more. At this point I was pretty sure I was driving everyone in the waiting room crazy because I couldn't make myself sit down, so I kept wandering around reading things, including all of the warnings on the vending machines and the instructions on the pay phones. I was a bit jittery. So I called Tom from the payphone and we talked for a bit, and then he had to go.

After about another hour and a half I was called in to get my thumb taken care of. The doctor who looked at it was very dry and very bored. For some reason, when he started looking at my thumb (which hurt at first and then stopped, but looked very icky, at least to me) I started crying and just couldn't stop. It was weird... my thumb didn't hurt, and I didn't feel particularly sad, but I just couldn't stop crying. I asked him why this was, and he told me it was because I was in pain. But when I told him that no, I wasn't, I just can't stop crying, he said "Then I guess you're just special." Which kinda pissed me off. I was already annoyed enough as it was, I didn't need a doctor treating me like I was dumb.

Later it was ok. My thumb needed two stitches as I'd nicked an artery, so he left to get the stitches-making stuff (which was supposed to dissolve on its own but didn't, I ended up jerking them out accidentally later). He reminded me of someone (it turned out later it was Jean-Baptiste, a grad student I'd worked with) and when I asked him where he was from --- as I thought it might be an accent that I recognized --- and that he reminded me of someone, he said "please don't say Dr. House." Which made me laugh, and then we talked about House for a bit.

I finally got home about four hours after I'd left. I had a HUGE dressing on my thumb (which was really annoying to deal with) which I'd ended up having to get changed about four or five times before they told me I could just use a band-aid. (It took about two weeks.) The really annoying thing was that even after I got the stupid thing off and my thumb looked mostly normal it still hurt to do random things with it. Like, the flesh around where the thumb got cut off was more sensitive to pressure and touch even after the rest was healed. And the skin peeled like crazy. Oh, and now I can't feel in the bit that grew back, so my thumb feels like it has some clay or something stuck to the end of it on one side. But it looks all fine now, and most people don't notice that there's anything wrong with it. (I notice because I know where the scar is and it feels all strange on the inside.) Which is all nice and good, and I am never using a slicer again. =)