There Were Never Such Devoted Sisters

Monday, April 30, 2012

2011 SAI Graduates

When I was first sending out requests for EEG participants, I posted to just about every Facebook group imaginable. One of my long shots was posting to the Sigma Alpha Iota Nationals page, in hopes that one of my SAI sisters would somehow be close to London and willing to participate in a three hour EEG study about music.

Sigma Alpha Iota is an international music fraternity for women that I joined at Agnes Scott; once an SAI, always an SAI. Through SAI, I was able to get to know amazing women who shared one of my greatest passions, music. It was also a wonderful opportunity to be involved in music-based service projects, and really just have fun.

Roommates + SAI Sisters? Check.

When things like this work out, I’m always amazed at the generosity of people. My Facebook pleading prompted a response from a sister studying abroad in Norwich. After some scheduling issues, we finally got to meet this morning to run her EEG. This is when I witness that the “bonds of sisterhood” we talked about in college really do span time and place. Our common experiences with Sigma Alpha Iota facilitated an immediate connection, and while we didn’t sing any songs about sisterhood (I’m sure we could have), it was that kind of feeling.

On top of that, I’m a recipient of SAI’s International Study Grant for Graduate Students, so not only has SAI provided me with one more participant for my thesis, but it’s one of the reasons I’m getting to do this thesis in the first place.

Being so far away from my family has revealed the importance of reaching out to a community that makes me feel at ‘home’. I think singing with the Ionian Singers has definitely done that, but sometimes I forget that I have an international support group of SAIs who are so willing to help in any way possible. As our motto goes, ‘Life is short, but art is long’.

YMCA SAI (?) with my initiation class in 2008.

P.S. I did have my Agnes Scott ring hallmarked (for a reminder about that see this post), and I couldn’t really capture it in a photograph (or really with my eyes…the hallmarks are super tiny), but I tried nonetheless!

Hallmarked Agnes Scott College class ring

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Looking Right Instead of Left

Friday, April 20, 2012

Through a series of unfortunate events (mainly two participants not showing up for testing), I am almost halfway through data collection. 72 hours of EEG testing complete. That’s 3 days of my life. Now just 3 more to go.

When I feel completely overwhelmed with all the things I have to complete, I try to remind myself of where I started last September. Not only have I learned how to run and (kind of) read EEGs, which seemed impossible when I first started, but I’ve also learned to look right instead of left.

Big metaphor time. When you move to a new place, especially a place where people inexplicably drive on the wrong side of the road, it’s inevitable that old habits and assumptions and even your basic state of being get turned on their heads. While when I first arrived I denied any sort of culture shock, it’s the little things that start to get to you. Like the aluminium foil being in the catfood aisle or having to learn the different names for the endless types of biscuits. But it’s also the little differences that keep you going, like British ale or my new skill for identifying accents.

So, now that the terriblehorrible question has come up once again about where I’m going to be next year, I have to remember that my habits don’t have to stay habits. I will prosper wherever I land. I can learn how to set up an EEG and advertise an experiment and code in Matlab. I can learn to look right instead of left. Because as Uncle Walt advised my father, “Don’t worry, Danny. I’ve done it all my life and it’s never done me any good.”

I’ll work on that.

During the past week of dreary London rain and essay writing, these tulips have kept my room sunshine-y.

Ouais, ouais, ouais.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hearing many people saying ‘ouais’ in Paris, the slang for ‘oui’ basically meaning ‘yeah’, it was only natural that we Americans immediately incorporated it (probably somewhat obnoxiously) into our conversation. Since this was just about the only French three of us could use, give us a break.

After the terriblehorribleoccurance of Mum leaving, Torey and I met three of our friends in Paris for a few days of sightseeing, wine drinking, and just being together. We’ve been friends with two of these folks basically since birth, so we had a wonderful happy time filled with lots of reminiscing and laughter.

It was Torey’s first time in Paris and basically an extension of my first time since I’d only been 2 weeks earlier, so our seasoned-Paris-veteran-friends who had studied abroad in Paris and are now living and teaching English in France had quite a job showing us around. And that’s not even including our inability to speak French, which often resulted in us hiding while they ordered food for us. Helpless Americans.

I always find that being with old friends is completely rejuvenating and this trip was no exception. Everyone told us leaving high school would be the end of our friendships, but we have all definitely made an effort to stay in touch and to visit one other throughout college and even now that we’re faux-adults. Having reunions in a place as beautiful as Paris is simply an added bonus.

The second trip to Paris in two weeks allowed me to really savour the city. The weather was absolutely perfect and we had our seasoned-Paris-veteran-friends to help manoeuvre the city and show us their favourite spots. I have to say my favourite moments, however, were those spend lounging the grass with a glass of wine making each other laugh and feeling so comfortable. Moments like those are so precious.

Oui, c’est bon

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The grocery shopping and laundry is finished, so it’s back to normal life. These past two and a half weeks have been a whirlwind of traveling, family, and friends. A really wonderful whirlwind.

With the Easter holidays, this month provided a perfect opportunity for Mom, Danny & Torey to visit. Mom & Baby Brother Danny arrived two weeks ago and we immediately jetted (and by jetted I mean took the train) to Paris for the weekend. Even though we had a limited amount of time, our Rick Steves’ tour book (referred to all weekend simply as ‘Rick’) made our time absolutely worthwhile. We spent the first night entranced by the Eiffel Tower and the next day visiting the Dali Museum in Montmartre, eating Nutella crepes and doing a self-guided walk of historic Paris including Notre Dame. We topped off our trip Sunday morning with a super fast visit to the Louvre.

Mom & Danny under the sparkling Eiffel Tower

The weekend provided an excellent introduction to Paris, since it was our first time there. While we didn’t really have the opportunity to laze around drinking wine in a cafe, we did get to hit the highlights that were most important to us and I loved being in this beautiful city with two of my favourite people.

When we returned to London I still a few lectures to attend, so Danny was able to get a taste of London. We showed him the Tower of London and my favourite pub, and even had time to play a round of disc golf and run an EEG for my thesis. Best brother ever.

At the end of the week, Danny went back to the U.S. of A. and Mom and I celebrated the end of my Masters lectures with a trip to Dover to see the White Cliffs and Dover Castle. While Dover didn’t appear in the London version of Rick the Tour Book, it was absolutely beautiful and I’d undoubtedly recommend it. The Reveal Family has a special affinity for war history, so it was especially interesting to explore the wartime tunnels in Dover. Since Dover is right in the south-east corner of Britain, it served some very important roles in WWII including being the headquarters of Operation Dynamo, which safely evacuated 400,000 British and French troops from Dunkirk.

White Cliffs of Dover

While we hated to return to London from this beautiful costal town, our return meant the arrival of my best friend Torey. With Torey we took a nerdy bus tour to Stonehenge and Bath. Like the Eiffel Tower, I found Stonehenge to be totally unreal. Seeing all these things in real life after only having seen them in photographs is an absolute gift. We then spent a relaxing evening in Bath going on a very strange, but entertaining walking tour called “Bizarre Bath” and drinking champagne in our guesthouse.

The Hanging Stones

While Mom leaving the day after we returned from drinking Roman bath water was a terriblehorribleoccurrence, Torey and I had much to look forward to the next day. More about that soon! For now, some photos.