Saturday, October 31, 2009

So......Now we've been in Bath for appoximately 5 1/2 weeks.  I've had enough time to settle into my new life as a student at the University of Bath and the experience has been very positive.  On that note, I thought I might write a little bit about what it is like to be a student of death studies.

My program, as most of you know is entitled: A Post Graduate, Course Taught Master's Degree of Science in Death and Society- Msc.  My reason for choosing this particular program is that there is none like it in the U.S..  In addition, the sociological research advanced within this field was generated mostly by scholars in the UK throughout the past 20 years.  With that said, I must acknowledge that there is indeed a very broad amount of literature in the States that focuses on issues of death and dying.  However, most of it is produced by scholars who, by and large, emphasize a medical or psycho-social approach to such matters.  Therefore, many significant authors producing work on death and dying in the States typically fall into certain professional categories such as: doctors, nurses, palliative care specialists, social workers and psychiatrists/psychologists.  In the words of Austen Powers "That's not my bag baby!"

No, I prefer looking at issues of death and dying via the sociological lens.  This is to say that I am interested in how we generate meanings of death and dying via social structures, institutions and various other spheres that exhibit social organization.  Examples include (but are not limited to) families, hospitals, medical centers, medical examiner offices, churches, hospices, bereavement agencies, bereavement support groups, funeral homes, nursing homes, morgues, cemetaries (yes, cemetaries too), cremain (ashes) scattering tours, racial groups, ethnic groups, societies, cultures (broad or underground) and state departments that may be concerned with regulation or legislation (e.g. The Human Tissue Act- 2004).

So what has come out of this studious experience?  Currently I am enrolled in 3 courses.
They are:
1. The Social Context of Death and Dying.
In this course, we've looked at the ways in which primarily western society has historically responded to or changed in the face of death and dying.  For instance, we've asked questions such as: How have economic structures, medicalization, and secularization impacted the ways that we deal with death and dying in contemporary modern society?
2.  Ritual and Belief
This course has focussed on a number of issues and requires an integration of the sociological lens with those of anthropology, history, religion and archeology.  This is actually quite fascinating as it has involved trips to cemeteries, abbeys and a crematorium.  We ask questions like: What cross-cultural commonalities exist in the ways that we memorialize the dead.  How does corruption of the corpse relate to or impact the ritualization of funeral practices?  In what ways does the dead body become commodified via the funeral industry?
3.  Research Issues.  Ways we can validate, determine, and exercise approaches to researching in death studies.  As a research course, I don't have much to say about it that might be of a more general interest.

This past week I handed in a short (2000 word) essay.  The purpose of the essay was to help us get our wheels turning and think about how we might approach our course writing assessments.  This essay won't count towards my grade, but it was nonetheless a fun and challenging assignment.  My topic was on Cryonic Preservation (this involves the process of preserving the body of newly deceased individual in a vat of liquid nitrogen in the hopes that one day, medical technology and nano-scientific advancement with allow the person to be thawed out, physiologically restored and brought back to life).  Although it sounds a bit Frankensteinish if not down right, totally led me to wonder about how it could be happening, how it is happening and how, as a movement- it is growing.

Aside from all of this, we generally have a really good time.  I am fortunate to be part of a group of folks who represent various professions including: nursing, palliative care, social work, funeral directing, potential coroner, real estate, and sociology/philosophy.

Okay, that's it for now.  It's Halloween and there's some good, deathly entertainment on the tele.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Makin some peeps

So today, I might have signed Chad and myself up for a karate dojo, received my book club book in the mail, and gotten an e-mail from a super sweet girl who runs the Bath Stitch n Bitch group, which meets on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Now that I've got a little job security, I'm looking to branch out in free or cheap ways, and to start making some friends!  I have to say, I'm not terribly impressed by my social scene thus far - primarily hanging out with all Chad's death friends (how morbid does that sound?  they're actually a super great group of people!).  I do really appreciate the various ways they've extended their friendship to me, but I realize that I need to get a life.  I've also been going to a bunch of classes at the Keynsham Leisure Centre - Zumba, yoga, and pilates, and chatting amiably with some women there.  I've also sent out a ton of enquiries into volunteer positions, primarily either massage or environmentally oriented, that will help me meet people and improve my skills.  I know I'm going to have a lot less time on my hands coming up pretty soon, so I just wanted to commit myself to a bunch of activities now so I can pick and choose later what suits me best. 

Tonight, we're headed over to Sheila's flat for dinner, and the GM at Sweaty Betty is having a birthday party with all the girls from the shop next Wednesday, quickly followed by my training in London on Thursday (where I'll also be picking up my sweet new Thai massage mat!  Thanks, Ebay!).  Next Thursday is also the 5th of November, Guy Fawkes Day, which almost makes the total lack of Halloween celebration here worthwhile.  Also known as "Bonfire Night", Chad, the roomies, and I are going to head into Bath to watch the fireworks and general merriment.  Friday is my first "real" day of work, but I'll be at the shop in Bristol for that, and "real" work for me starts on Monday, 9 November.  Let me tell you: I cannot wait.  I am so done with trying to entertain myself all day.  I need some stimulation, hard, and to be making some money so I don't feel so guilty living off our savings. 

So I'm off to walk the Nug, groom her for her first trip on the train this afternoon (Sheila insisted that we bring her, so we'll see how that goes.  I think I'm going to take her for a super long walkk to tire her out), and probably start my book club book.  I know I'll look back on these weeks as an extended holiday, and wish for them back, but it's important for me to feel useful, and that's the last thing I feel right now. 

Side note: Skip and Carol Thompson's granddaughter, Phoebe, had her most recent MRI yesterday, and all seems well.  I know that some of you have no idea who or what I'm talking about, but it's music to my ears. 


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sweaty Betty Assistant Manager, reporting for duty

Yes, it's true.  Last week, I was offered, and accepted, the position of Assistant Manager at a high end women's activewear boutique called Sweaty Betty.  I haven't started yet as they're sending me to London (!) next Thursday to train.  I really love the idea of the company, which is all about empowering women through exercise (and still eating Cornish clotted cream).  The clothes are amazing, (particularly because I get them free :).  All the girls working in the shop now are super petite and look adorable in the clothes, so I was a bit nervous to try them on, but, and I say this without pride, I look pretty OK in them, too, even the leggings.  I feel like they're sized well and are meant to fit a wide range of women's bodies.  All the trousers are long enough for me, which I know is probably bad news to all my height-challenged friends, but there are some that you can actually cut to length and they just roll up at the bottom and are good to go (wow, I apologise to any guys out there who are reading this.  You must be bored stiff).
The GM I'll be working with, Rachel, is sooooooo super sweet, as are all the girls I've met so far.  They have two groups that meet weekly - one is a yoga group and one is a running group, and I'll be supervising one of them each week.  Rachel's birthday is next week, and even though I haven't started yet, they've already invited me to join in the festivities. 
I think the best part about this job is that it will get me involved in a group of active women who are into yoga (and therefore taking care of themselves), so I may be able to start forming a clientele for massage, specifically Thai massage.  I've ordered a massage mat on Ebay and am picking it up when I head to London next week.  There's a bulletin board up at the shop where I can post my advertisement, and a place for business cards at the front till.  I guess we'll see, but it will be a great support as I'm training for the Bath Half and will certainly encourage me to stay in shape!  I'm also hoping to volunteer in some capacity, either doing fundraising or massage, and am waiting for my book club book to come in the mail.  I won't be able to join the Bath Community Singers for at least a couple of weeks since we have plans for the next two Thursdays, but I'm looking forward to getting involved now that I have steady income!
I'm just going to send out the call for Skype addresses again...we've been having such a good time talking with many of you and would love to stay connected!
That's all for now, kids! Three blog posts in two days!  I think Chad might even post one soon - can you believe it? 

Thank you!!!

Jessica Brophy (JBro), and
Melissa Ryan
 for already putting me 69% of the way to my fundraising goal for the Bath Cats and Dogs Home! No matter how small a donation you can make, you are making a difference!  I really appreciate your support!


Monday, October 26, 2009

The Glastonbury Adventure

Hi all,

I feel like I left you hanging at the end of the last long blog post when I talked about Glastonbury, so I'll share that story and then update all that's happened over the last week or so.

A couple of weeks ago, as you may rememeber, my aunt and uncle were here.  They were staying about an hour away in a sweet little holiday cottage (side note: I cannot believe how cheap self catering holiday cottages are - like £250 for the WEEK!).  We took the train down to Castle Cary, a straight shot from Keynsham that takes about an hour.  Chad met the most adorably quintissential elderly British woman and chatted with her for a while after they both saw some sort of bizarre creature bounding off into the shrubbery.  It was tres cute. 

When David and Barb picked us up, we had no idea where we were going until they suggested the Tor of Glastonbury. 

The Tor is what remains of a series of medieval church that has been restored, and is also the site that is mythologically linked to the Isle of Avalon.  Now, for those of you who don't know, I have read "The Mists of Avalon" more times in my life than any other book, so as we were hiking up the hill, it was really amazing to imagine the land that I was walking over being submerged in water, as it once was, and the boats that traversed across it making it to the Tor (or instead landing on the Isle of Avalon). 

Either way, it was really a most breathtaking experience.  The Tor itself was visible for miles around on its hilltop, and the 360° view of the countryside from the site itself was extraordinary.

Following this, we trekked down into Glastonbury and went to see the remains of the Glastonbury Abbey. 

Now, as you might imagine, due to the proximity to a popular fantasy legend, Glastonbury is a bit of a hippie town.  There are crystal shops and outdoor markets and dredded guitar players at every turn.  So it's particularly interesting that literally in the middle of all of the magick and wizardry is the most stunning ruin of an abbey that I have ever seen (granted, I've seen two, but this was the more stunning).  First, it was absolutely enormous...the ruins and the grounds.  This was supposed to have been the burial place of Arthur and Guenevere, before their remains were stolen and then lost (really, how do you misplace the remains of two of the most historically significant characters ever?).  There was a completely awesome herb garden and a kitchen demonstration where the different types of food, herbs, drinks, and even dyes and soaps were displayed.  Otherwise, though, there was a really deeply profound sense of time standing still.  It was really beautiful and peaceful, and everyone really seemed to respect the history that they were lucky enough to be experiencing. 
So, many many thanks to my super cool relatives for letting us experience those two magnificent places with them.  It was truly a highlight of our stay in the UK so far.

So, updates...
Chad is continuing to enjoy his classes.  He is sitting next to me as I type, working on his first 2000 word essay about cryogenics.  Earlier this week, he went on a tour of a crematorium.  Sheila and I were supposed to meet them at a pub, but realized that all routes to said pub were blocked, so instead made an impromptu trip to the crematorium as well.  Let me tell you, not what I was expecting to do that day.  I won't go into details, but it was actually very interesting, and should you ever have the urge to visit one, there is (fyi) a window in the chambers to look through and watch the bodies burning. 
Needless to say, a drink in the pub, when we finally got there, was in order.

Chad has officially accepted his two scholarships at two different award ceremonies.  I found a totally sweet cashmere blazer for him to wear, and let me tell you, wear it he does.  I have the most handsome husband ever.

Barb and David also took me up to Cadbury Castle, the alleged site of Camelot, but unfortunately, I don't have any spectacular photos of it, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was pretty super cool.

So that's it for now.  I hope you're all doing well and are continuing to enjoy our latest adventures!  I hope I have more to post re/a job for me in the very near future.  Much love!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Half Marathon Fundraising!

Hi all,

Just a quick note to acknowledge the new widget on the side of our blog.  I've signed up for the Bath Half Marathon in March and have decided to make it my first fund raising initiative.  I'm hoping to raise £175 for the Bath Cats and Dogs Home.  I would really appreciate any support you may be able to give.  The organization is sponsored by the RSPCA here in the UK and provides re-homing for thousands of animals in the Bath area.  For more information about the organization, visit:
If you have any questions for me, please feel free to e-mail me at my personal address: 
Thanks so much!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A week already?

First off, I'm trying not to dominate the information that winds up on this blog.  Chad has promised to post info about his first couple of weeks of school this weekend.  Many of you have asked about his experiences thus far, and I don't feel qualified to relay it all, so stay tuned!

It's been almost a week since our last post, and wow - I can't believe it's gone by so fast!  Lots has changed, and all for the better.  First up - employment.
I had my first interview today with a recruiter who sifts out candidates for employers who he represents.  I applied for a job as an assistant manager at a busy Bath restaurant via, a website that posts jobs in the hospitality industry.  Simon called about five minutes after I sent in my CV and we met up today for a preliminary interview so he could gather some more info about me before recommending me for jobs.  We had a really great chat, which lasted about 40 minutes, and he's decided to recommend me for assistant/deputy managing jobs at two restaurants, which is pretty promising as he only recommends 1 or 2 candidates per position.  He's scheduled me for one interview on Monday at a restaurant in Bristol, and I managed to secure an interview of my own at a restaurant in Bath tomorrow, for the same type of position.  I don't necessarily see myself managing restaurants for the rest of my life, but it's something I have 10 years of experience doing, and it would be a great skill to learn, not to mention bringing in a few pounds!  It doesn't pay a ton, but it would be enough for us to support ourselves without dipping into savings anymore, which would leave us with plenty of play money for traveling and such.  Not to mention, I'd get a life ;)  So I'm pretty pleased with that turn of events.  Send good thoughts my way!
In other news, we had a great weekend, starting off on a trip to a local pub with our roomies on Friday night.  We got to see the "other" side of Keynsham (there are some characters out here, let me tell you), and I found a new favourite cider.  Good times were had by all.  Sophie and James are great and have been so awesome about introducing us to their friends.
Saturday was also super fun.  The farmer's market in Keynsham only happens once a month on the second Saturday, so I was excited to see what they might have.  I picked up some really amazing apple juice like I've never tasted before, some really beautiful salmon and smoked makerel, and an awesome, AWESOME venison and stilton pie.  Let me tell you, England knows how to do pastry.  We had it on Sunday with some peas - quite a quintissential English meal for a couple of Yankees - and it was right lush (how do you like that lingo?).
Later that morning, we met up with Chad's class and Tony, the professor who's house we went to for dinner, at the Bath Abbey, the huge cathedral in the centre of the city.  WOW.  I can't even tell you how gorgeous it was.  The ceiling was made up of fluted fans that just went on forever.  That, in combined with the stained glass windows that surrounded the structure, gave the most amazing feeling of light airyness in the middle of this huge stone building.  The reason for the field trip was the fact that more people are buried in Bath Abbey than in any other church in England, and all of their memorial stones are displayed on the interior walls.  There were some really fascinating reads and it was all very eerie, knowing that we were walking on floors that house the remains of over 3000 people.
Look! A photo!

As interesting as the memorials were,  I was much more drawn to the exhibit that was going on in the Abbey.  One woman, Sue Symons, has created the most amazing set of diptychs portraying Genesis 1-2.  On the left side of each diptych is the actual text from the Bible, done in the most amazing calligraphy, and decorated impeccably.  On the right is a visual interpretation of the passage embroidered on fabric, occasionally using other materials.  I wish I could explain how intricate and extraordinarily beautiful and moving this exhibition was for me.  The photos don't do it justice, but here's one anyway:

If you want to know/see more about the Abbey, go to:  For all of you who will be coming to visit, this will be our first stop!

So. Following the Abbey tour, we all went out for a delightful Thai lunch, and I took my leave of the group to go with Tara, the birthday girl.  We went to her boyfriend, Bas', house on the outskirts of Bath with beautiful views over the surrounding fields.  We drank tea and ate enormous amounts of cake and had a fantastic time while Chad wandered around a bunch of cemeteries (more later from the man himself!). 
On Sunday, my aunt and uncle, Barb and David, came up to the city, and we went out to our first "official" Sunday roast lunch with Barb's sister, Melissa, her husband, Joe, and their son, Jeff, who lives in London.  It was surreal being surrounded by so many American accents, but so nice to be among people I've known forever and made plans to get together on Tuesday to check out their sweet country cottage and go on a bit of an adventure!
More on that later - our Glastonbury trip deserves a post of it's own! 
All our best to all of you...until next time!

Friday, October 9, 2009

An eventful day


Yesterday was Chad's first day of school, and though I spent an exorbitant amount of time trying to upload a pic of him leaving the yard to Facebook yesterday, it refused to load, so you'll have to take my word for it.  My computer has decided that it's ethernet port doesn't feel like working, so all the photos I have uploaded onto it will have to wait until we get a wireless router (hopefully tomorrow! Stay tuned!).
In my free time on my first day sans Chad, I was on line looking for fun, inspiring jobs and getting a bit frustrated, so I decided to go for a run.  It was a spectacularly gorgeous day and I wanted to take advantage of all that sunshine, so rather than head to the gym and hopping on the treadmill, I made my way down to a really beautiful trail that runs an enormous distance along the River Avon.  It was more of an exploratory run - let's see how far I can get -  so I was just loping along, feeling pretty great (which might have had something to do with the fact that it was downhill most of the way ;).  Just then, fate stuck out it's invisible foot (it couldn't possibly have had anything to do with my exceptional coordination), and I fell.  I groaned a bit and felt sorry for myself having to walk home instead of continuing my run.  Poor me.  It's so hard to be Sarah.  Wah wah wah.  It was just about then that I decided to pull up my pant leg so I could see the bruise that was already starting and wallow a bit more in self pity.  Much to my surprise, there was no angry bruise developing.  There was a HOLE.  In my knee.  I had apparently falled right on a pointy rock when I fell, and though it didn't rip my pants, it put a HOLE in my knee.  I almost posted a pic of it (because obviously I took one), but decided that y'all didn't need to see that.  So lucky me, it wasn't bleeding or anything, but it was clearly something I had to take care of and had no idea where to go or who to call.  So I walk the mile or so back home, try to find a walk-in centre in Keynsham, come up empty handed, start freaking out, and call Chad.  Poor Chad.  It was his first day of school.  He was in between classes, having lunch with some of his fellow students, and his hysterical wife calls.  Long story short, after making darn sure Chad was staying put at school, I managed to find a general information line for the National Health Service (NHS) and figure out that I would have to go to the emergency room.  I got a book, hopped the train, and headed over to the hospital.  Long and super boring story short (I'm glad I brought the book), I was walking out with five stitches in my knee about two and a half hours after walking in, having paid nothing for my services and being treated extremely well by everyone I came in contact with. 
When Chad came home around 6:30, I was sitting on the couch with my leg up, a cider in my hand, and dinner sort of figured out.  He gave me a run down of the day (which I'll let him relate here), and we called it an early night.

So on to the weekend - we've got a walk and talk around Bath tomorrow with one of Chad's professors (which includes lunch at a Thai restaurant - yay!), and a visit with my aunt and uncle on Sunday...I think (are you guys out there?  Are we definitely doing this?  Give a ring when you have a chance!).  Monday will find Chad and I signing up with a GP in Keynsham (because, clearly, I need medical care closer by).  We've already signed Nug up with a vet, but not ourselves with a GP.  Where are our priorities?

So after my little self-pity schpiel last time, I'm feeling a change in my attitude thanks to yesterday.  I think this may be the universe telling me to slow down for a while, so I'm going to try to do just that and trust that things will work out.  We are here for a reason and I don't think my lack of a job after two weeks of being here is going to make or break our ability to stay.  So I'll certainly keep looking and sending out enquiries (what the heck else am I going to do without being able to run for two weeks?), but I'm not going to freak out about it anymore and let things know...till I get bored again.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The honeymoon period...

seems to be coming to an end. Although we're both still loving it here and enjoying our exploration of our new environment, we're both quite ready to be settled. For Chad, he's anticipating the beginning of his coursework tomorrow and all the excitement and anxiety that churns up for anyone. He's starting a programme that we all hope will change his life. We've been waiting so long for this, and it's finally here. In a very real way, there's a whole lot riding on this, and for my part, I know that he's going to get out there and really shine. It's hard for him to expect the best sometimes, but he's so well-prepared for this. He's read 4 out of the 6 books on the "recommended" reading list for one of his classes without even having seen the list until last week. He read and thinks about this topic constantly in his spare time. He's already read at least 75% of the material due for this week. I don't think a student has ever been as ready as this guy is.

As for's a little bit harder. I'm trying to find things to get involved, and have found a knitting group that meets weekly, the Bath Organic Group, where I can volunteer in community gardents, and a book club at a super sweet little independent shop in town. We're signing up as members at the Keynsham Leisure Centre this afternoon, and I signed up for the Bath Half Marathon (eek!), for which I'll be raising money for the Bath Cats and Dogs Home. I'm planning to find a yoga class around soon, as well as a meditation space and hopefully some kirtan.

All of this sounds great, and I'm really excited about it, but the fact that I don't have a job or really a social life is starting to weigh pretty heavily on me. As we've said several times, as long as I'm able to find work, we'll be able to stay here, which means Chad can complete his PhD, and we'll all live happily ever after (or something like that). I've applied for a few "professional" jobs, many of which I don't really expect to hear back from for a few weeks. I've sent out my CV to a variety of local food shops because I'm a huge foodie and think it would be a great way to meet like-minded people. Yesterday, I sent in my CV for a deli assistant in Bristol, and got a stock response today informing me that I didn't get it. That was a huge blow to my Master's degree, eternal optimist ego. A deli assistant. They hadn't even interviewed me. So, lesson one: Though there may be jobs out there that I think sound like fun and think I'm qualified for, they are not necessarily mine for the taking. Ouch.

I guess the thing for me is that I want to do something that inspires me. It doesn't have to be the best paid job in the world, but I want to learn, and I want to meet people. I don't feel like it's asking so much, but it's pretty important to my identity as I try to make this place my own.

We've compared this process to a roller coaster so many times that it's beginning to be trite, but we're really both feeling the pressure as we inch closer and closer to the precipice. It all starts tomorrow...and away we go!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Reading, Writing ..........and Passing Courses at 40% ?

As I prepare for my week ahead, I find myself experiencing a bit of the old "performance anxiety". I think to myself: "Nice people, interesting subject matter, a fair amount of there a catch?". I further wonder if this sense of uncertainty is directly linked to what I've read or been told about the "English Way" of grading. It works like this:

I am enrolled in a course taught Masters programme- full-time for the duration of one academic year. This is to say that I am committed to be on board with the University as a grad. student from Oct. 5, 2009 until Oct. 4, 2010. The school year is divided into three sections that I will generally refer to as fall semester, spring semester and summer session. Each semester of my programme consists of several courses (or "units") that once successfully completed, permit me the qualification to advance to the next phase (or semester of units) required for earning my degree. This fall semester is composed of the following units: 1. The Social Context of Death and Dying, 2. Ritual and Belief and 3. Research Issues. Each course is multidisciplinary (as is the whole programme) and will be convened by a number of lecturers whose backgrounds/specialties relate directly to the subject matter being discussed within the unit during any particular week. Sounds pretty normal....right?
Well, there are some things to consider. First, the assessment of my work for each unit will be based primarily on one thing: a 5,000 word essay that will allow me to choose my own topic, pursue different lines of argument, evaluate existing literature and analyze and synthesize all sorts of themes, theories, and discourses relevant to my essay topic. This means that there are no exams or even shorter papers to work into the equation. Thus, my grade is based on one (about 20 page) paper. "Ahhh..." you may think, "A 20 page paper isn't any big deal." True. It's not. However, what has been made very clear is that a 20 page length is more a matter of making things easier and time efficient for those responsible for grading. It is the "quality" of the paper that is most important when considering the grade that a student will receive. Hmmmm....
The University of Bath Student Handbook for the MSc in Death and Society Programme outlines the following:
Students submitting their essays will be required to earn a minimum of a 40% passing mark in order to successfully complete the relative unit. Furthermore, a passing mark of at least 70 % is required for a student to pass the unit with "academic distinction". So what's so odd about this? Well, for one, the rumor is that passing with something greater than 80% is generally unheard of and this is where I'm forced to recognize that I have no idea how to correlate the English system grading with the American system.
On that note, I've decided to take a 10 week (once a week) optional course on graduate writing through the University. This will hopefully provide me with a firm sense of how I need to write in order to "do a good job!".
More on Death and Dying Later, but as a side, I made a coffee date with a professor who's an American from Ohio. Very interesting fellow. He apparently has a desire to franchise the Center for Death and Society (CDAS) and integrate it's purpose into the context of American social science. I'm pretty excited about this.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A social life?

Thanks to all who have written in encouragement of our crazy adventure! We very much appreciate the support and are super happy to hear so many of you are enjoying the blog.

The past few days have seen us getting our feet under us a bit more. Chad has made a couple of visits to the university - the first was for his "induction" on Tuesday. We weren't exactly sure what to expect apart from it being a bit of a social hour for international students to schmooze. I stayed home for the morning, planning to meet Chad in town later in the afternoon. While I was happily perusing the want ads in various universities, I received a text from Chad: "Awkward". He's promised to post about his experiences thus far, so I won't say much more except that if any of you has been placed in a situation surrounded by people you have never met and with whom you have nothing in common, you'll have an idea of how Chad felt at this event. His orientation with CDAS (The Centre for Death and Society) later in the day was much more fruitful, and he was full of excitement when we met up at a tapas bar later that afternoon.

As you probably know, Chad was here in the UK back in March for a week (see the blogs from March for that adventure). While he was here, he met a few members of the department, specifically two women who have been super awesome since we've been here. The first is Sheila, who tirelessly exchanged e-mails with us as we searched for a living arrangement. She was the one who came and checked out the house that we're not living in, and we are mucho indebted to her for putting our minds at ease about housing. Her cousin, Cecily, was here last Sunday, and we met up with them in Bath before heading over to a flat that had recently been abandoned by one of the former professors at CDAS. She had left a variety of furniture and "stuff" in the flat, which was getting cleaned out later this week, so we got to peruse her remaining belongings and scored a bunch of kitchen stuff. YAY for free stuff! Later, the four of us went to one of Sheila's favourite pubs and then out for sushi - conveyor belt sushi. Yes! A fun time was had by all, and it was the first time since we've been here that I felt kind of normal, going out for food and drinks with friends.
The other woman Chad met in March was Tara, and when he came to meet me at the tapas bar on Tuesday post-induction, she came with him. She was super sweet, really wanting to get to know me and we exchanged info. I think we're going to dinner sometime early next week. I really appreciate the effort that she and Sheila have both put into introducing themselves to me
and really going out of their way to make sure I don't feel left out, particularly when Chad hits the ground running at school next week. I encourage any of you out there to try to make new folks feel more comfortable and at's a scary position to be in sometimes!
I realize I haven't said a whole lot about James and Sophie, our housemates. They're awesome. There's a really comfortable vibe at home, and even though we've only been here for a week, it seems to be a really easy living situation thus far. As a couple, we've never lived with anyone else, so I think we expected it to be a bit more difficult, but James has been great, taking us on a drive around to get acquainted with the area, and Sophie and I have found that we have lots in common, and have even started talking about training for the Bath half-marathon in March together. We're all heading out to some cocktail bars in Bath with them and a few of their friends tomorrow night and are very much looking forward to it.
Finally, one of Chad's professors, Tony, gave a ring this morning and invited us both to dinner at his house on Saturday night. How sweet is that? He's also leading a "field trip" around Bath next Saturday, to which family members of CDAS students are invited, which includes lunch at a Thai restaurand and a tour of Bath Abbey. Rock. The following day, my aunt and uncle, Dave and Barb, meet up with us in Bath. It will be SO AWESOME to be with people who I've known for more than five minutes :) I cannot wait.
In other news, the train schedule has still got me turned around a bit. I do have the homepage for the National Rail on my (SWEET) mobile phone, but we often still finding ourselves sitting at the platform for ridiculously long amounts of time. I long to be one of those people who dashes up the stairs to the train and jumps on it just before it leaves. Sitting around wasting time at the train station - or anywhere, really - is not one of my favourite things to do.

Sorry for the scattered update. I filled out a few job apps this morning and am getting a bit done with sitting in front of the computer...especially on a beautiful day in Keynsham (side note: It's been sunny at least part of every day that we've been here, and straight up gorgeous on a few occasions. I don't want to talk about it too loudly, though, and am knocking on wood as I type because I've how finicky English weather can be). Look for Chad's first post sometime in the next couple of days.