Wwoofing Adventures #2

30 September 2008

12 June 2008

Our hostel in Deptford Bridge was just beyond Lewisham College’s gated car park as a tower of darkly-shadowed brick and peeling sills. It had four stories, the first of which was a pub painted in traditional white and British green. A red-striped awning housed a few weathered tables and benches and a chalkboard sign advertised last night’s menu. Frankly it looked like it could have been or still could be the target of vandals and I thought vaguely of graffiti and broken glass as we approached.

Clinton was the host on duty, a Canadian bass player who was spending his gap year in the UK. He was settling down to his chocolate cereal and offered us some breakfast, too, which we accepted as the midnight yoghurt was fast failing us. We chatted about our plans for the upcoming weeks as we learned of his time there in Deptford--since September--and the ins and outs of the Bird's Nest. Despite the rather rundown exterior, the inside held a casual charm with its heavy wood tables and creaky benches, the warm rusts and hunter greens of the cushions, the brass handled taps at the bar, and the signs pointing out the WC, drawn by a quirky hand on bright pink cardstock cut out with pinking shears. Clinton periodically scanned the digital jukebox mounted on the wall, asking for song suggestions, and I wished I had paid more attention to the Bob Dylan and Eagles' songs Kristen had been forced to learn on guitar; after furiously upending every file in every crevice of my memory I only came up with "Wild World." He said it was a good song.

Our only other breakfast companion was Ed, a tubby sixty year old man who hailed from the great state of Arkansas with tee-shirt, accent, and easy affability to prove it. It seemed he had come to the UK for the sole purpose of wandering, for when we prodded him for his day's plans he vaguely mentioned downtown Greenwich and some Hard Rock Cafe he hadn't seen yet, and I got the impression that his London expedition was as much a mystery to his friends back home as it was to us sitting now at the Bird's Nest, just a head-shakin' clumsy unspoken mystery. Relieved, therefore, of the mental acrobatics required to picture Ed shuffling among a tour group at Westminster rather than popping his can of beer in front of the t.v., I chuckled to myself at the mix of people a cheap hostel attracts.

The room was very cheap at only 10 pounds ($20) a night, but the drawback was in its being a six-bunk co-ed room. That did not appeal to my conservative nature but really, how bad could it be? Then horror flicked across my mind--What if he were staying in our room? Ha, no; that would be too funny. Besides, the only other bunk occupied in our room had a small pink beach towel draped over the head and a sleeping mask, definitely not the accoutrement of an Ed.

Our snickering was cut short when we spied soft bare shoulders peeking out from the blue striped sheets the next morning, gently rising and falling to the beat of his unabashed snores. And he did wear that sleeping mask.


29 September 2008

I've found the artist of the alphabet prints I like so much--I first saw them somewhere in England (or was it Scotland?), a perfect union of strong lines, tender colors, and vintage subjects.

William Nicholson's work has inspired me to work on my own set of letters (especially since these prints were so expensive), so I'm having fun thinking of all the A for ______, B for ________, C for __________, that sort of thing. I'll probably carve each print out of linoleum.

Homestead Garage Sale

18 September 2008

A successful bit of shopping Saturday morning:
  • about 1 yard of coral and gold upholstery fabric: $0.50

  • glass pitcher and stirring rod with six glasses: $2.00

  • small ceramic mixing bowl: $0.50

Don't you love yard sales?

Wwoofing Adventures #1

10 September 2008

This is the first of many posts detailing the adventures my two roommates and I had in the UK under an organization called WWOOF--Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Having never really farmed nor concerned ourselves particularly with environmental issues, the three of us nevertheless hopped on a plane June 11th and set out for two months of farm labor and learning, accented with weekend tours of historical UK sites. Posted sporadically will be my account of our experience.

June 12, 2008

There’s nothing like waking—or was I even sleeping?—and ladling strawberry yoghurt between my teeth at 2 am trying to convince myself that the last three hours of tossing and turning served as the necessary punctuation between night and day. How much time has passed between now and the flight’s beginning? What time is it in the U.S.?

But we’re not supposed to remind ourselves of the old time; we’re in Britain now. I will obediently set my watch to our new time zone.

We arrived slightly before our due time of 6:55 and disembarked to a bustling Heathrow International Airport. The yellow signs marked INTERNATIONAL ARRIVALS and CUSTOMS became our guides and we went from one to the other as a preschooler swings from rung to rung on the monkey bars. As we proceeded to baggage claim, my imagination kept foisting upon me the scene of the three of us staring at the emptying carousel, watching as bags were reunited with their owners one after the other while our humble rucksacks never appeared. Those bags contained our entire trip, all the work and touring clothes we would need, all the sunscreen and Advil, all the shampoo and wellies and cameras and socks and host gifts and rain ponchos we had so carefully packed—and what would be the compensation? My whole bag was probably worth around $50 and I certainly would not be able to replace everything in it for nearly that amount here.

Our bags appeared promptly on the carousel, however, and we were soon free to buy our Oyster cards and take the Picadilly line into central London where we changed to the Jubilee and then the DLR, finally arriving at the outskirts of Greenwich in a little corner of town called Deptford Bridge.

Deptford. A mottled stretch of brick shops outlined the streets with its little grocery stores, laundromats, a two-story Noodle King, and dim-windowed salons displaying posters of sultry-haired models. One shop had a handwritten advertisement for a nail technician. I had noticed en route the gradual evolution of passengers as we came closer into Deptford as the designer shoed,
suit-clad men of the world’s financial capital were swapped for the sweatshirt hooded, baggy-dropped jeans of…well I could envision them on street corners or in alleyways conducting business of a whole other sort. These were those streets. And here was our hostel.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church

08 September 2008

By the way, I attended St. Thomas Episcopal Church yesterday morning with Mom and Kathryn in tow. Ahhhh, liturgy and solid hymns at last!
Old Testament lesson
GosPel leSson
pSalm rEcitatiOn
new TestameNt LessOn
NicEne creed
book of comMon Prayer

The congregation was very friendly and supplied us with a small tree's worth of information about them and their ministries and beliefs. I certainly shall attend again.

typical post-college musings of an English major

I continue to lean towards a career in academic libraries--begrudgingly, mind you, because that modest career comes with a rather big price tag called graduate school. I'm just not willing to spend roughly $50,000 for two years of education when that seems to be the average annual salary for an academic librarian, and to accrue that kind of debt when the librarian is on her way to the endangered species list with the rise of the computer and internet makes me shudder. When budgets are cut, librarians are as well.

But when academic librarians describe their jobs as "teaching without the classroom," well, such a career sounds about perfect for me. And it fits in with my Myers Brigg personality type--career guides based off of that indicator have said so. INFJs are cut out for the job with their capacity for organization, ability to work alone or one on one, and tendency to work for the ideal--in this case, the ideal of keeping information accessible. And can I say that I just love books? Any environment studded with shelves and shelves of them cannot be a bad place to work.

My friend gave me advice on paying for grad school: move close to your chosen school and work there. Often the benefits for full-time employment include a few credit hours free, and that can go a long way toward the cost. Of course scholarships help as well, but I loathe applying for anything too competitive. So shall I just pack up and move to North Carolina or Kentucky?

But next year and grad school aside, I'm still looking for a job around here, and I'm thinking temp services. Mom has been recommending that for quite some time as a good way to gain experience and knowledge of companies, all the while providing that all important foot-in-the-door factor that's so important in getting employed. Who knows? Perhaps temp work will lead me to a career that I enjoy or at least don't hate without grad school. That makes my wallet happier.

All in all, however, I'm in no rush to attend grad school. I much prefer taking my time earning what I can while considering my options. No use in rushing into debt for something I don't enjoy all that much anyway.