Yo Ho, Yo Ho, the Expat Life for Me!

In an earlier post, I promised that I’d write an entry about some realities of being an geologist expat abroad. Admittedly, my stint is only a few months long, so it’s not especially representative of what it’s like to live for a few years, but it’s something to write about.

It’s easy to take a lot of things from home for granted, and the old saying of “you only miss it once it’s gone” is quite true, such as hearing this everyday (a rough calculation for how many times I’ve heard it gives an estimate of around >5,000 times in my life so far)! Luckily while I was in Santiago recently, I popped into Whittard’s, and bought 50 teabags of Assamese tea, so that ought to tide me over for the next fortnight! There’s no milk at the mine, but beggars can’t be choosers! I’ve already mentioned the tea aspect, but what else would I bring with me, were I packing once more?

First of all, I’d definitely have packed my short wave radio. The internet at work blocks lots of stuff, including online radio (I foolishly assumed that this would not have been the case, hence why I didn’t pack said radio), and so a short wave radio would be super handy, as it would enable me to listen to the World Service (I’d die for the Shipping Forecast right now – theme tune, and one such forecast).

Secondly, (applicable only to geologists I’m afraid), I’d have brought my DHZ with me. To those of you unfamiliar with this acronym, it stands for Deer, Howie, and Zussman (not the initials of my friends to whom I often refer – makes a change eh?), who are the authors of a rather helpful book. Essentially it is a guide to minerals (the clue is in the title “An Introduction to the Rock Forming Minerals“), and in geology, it’s difficult to live without it. Those Collins Gem “Rocks and Minerals” books (or those of a similar nature) are nice to read, but geologically, they’re pretty worthless. Yes, emerald and topaz look nice, but let’s be honest, how many rocks have you actually seen with emeralds in? Exactly. They have a tendency to omit the more common minerals, such as plagioclase, k-spar, or biotite for example (all of which are likely to be knocking about your granite kitchen work top), and useful information (such as how the extinction angle relates to the % Albite : % Anorthite in your plag crystal – ok, admittedly I’m not looking at any thin sections here, but DHZ does have lots of stuff about hand specimen appearance, as well as details on paragenesis). DHZ has all the useful information on the important minerals, and so to say it’s handy is rather a large understatement.

To the geologists reading this, imagine trying a GSB/C2/O9 practical that lasts for 3 months, when the nearest copy of DHZ is 8,000 miles away. Not a nice thought right? Does it make your skin crawl? Yes, I thought it might! Clever me for not bringing it is all I can say (although I’ve managed to get a copy of the pdf of the C2 handout – not easy when university sites for some reason are blocked on the company internet – don’t ask why, as nobody knows), so that’ll do the job….ish! To those of you who are not geologists, an appropriate analogy is to imagine yourself as a vicar, and attempting to write a sermon without a copy of the Bible. Fortunately, there’s a book that is a bit like DHZ that they use in Chile, which isn’t bad, although it’s written in Spanish (obviously), so reading it takes quite a while!

Another couple of books I’d love to have brought with me (which only those of you with whom I was at school are likely to know) are Caminos 1, 2, and 3. These were the textbooks with which I was taught Spanish from First Form, to GCSE (in Fifth Form), and so, now that I’m in a Spanish speaking country, having these to hand to do some swotting would be rather good.

The other aspect you need to contend with when living abroad is sorting out everyday chores. The SIM card problem has been resolved, but what about more boring things, such as laundry? There is no laundry at the mine, as very few people actually live here. Neither is there laundry at the hotel. Luckily if you Google “Lavanderías en Santiago” you get a list of places you can go to. Not the most fun way to spend an afternoon, but if you run out of clothes (as I shall in a couple of weeks), there’s not a lot of choice!

Back to London

It’s the final day in June, and for once, it’s bright and sunny.  What better way to spend the day than ambling around London, enjoying all the sights before I disappear off?  I met up with MW at Victoria, and after a quick afternoon lunch in Chinatown (of delicious 小籠包), we went for a walk around the city.  Trafalgar Square, Parliament, Whitehall, the Embankment and St. Paul’s were all visited (as well as a quick detour to Covent Garden and Foyles).  All in all, a relaxing and fun day!

Just Another Day

Well this does make an interesting change.  Today’s the first day when nothing has happened.  Ok, so not completely nothing, but a sufficient amount of nothing.  Compared to all the excitement of May Week, and the Imperial Summer Ball (as well as the “excitement” of the Tripos), it’s been very quite.  I had a haircut this morning (done by J – I don’t know her surname, in spite of the fact that she’s done my hair for the past 17 years – which is always fun, as she always has great stories to tell), washed the garage windows, and did a little bit of gardening.

In the afternoon I went over to my maternal grandparents’ house to help them with changing a ceiling light, and had some tea.  Now I’m back home doing some reading, and have spent some time looking at Ordnance Survey maps of Surrey (as I’d like to go on a long distance walk generically south one day if the weather is any good).

This Is The Life

Another peaceful and fun day today, I could get used to this.  After a morning in bed with some easy to watch TV (i.e. Friends), I got up for lunch with my friends which was enjoyable as always.  I then popped to the UL for a couple of hours in the early afternoon to do some digging around of Easter Island material, and I was not disappointed.  I spent a while perusing a detailed map of the island, to get a sense of the scale and the layout of the place before I visit in September, and then read a book about it.  After that, I played Uno in the gardens with JT and HB which was a lot of fun.

Tonight is composed of a formal at Homerton, with TI (who I shall be meeting in an hour at the bus stop to get the Uni 4 there), along with native Homertonians SP (big shout out to you SP as I know you follow this blog) and JA, thereby making the group sometimes known as Team Dalradian (after the banter filled summer of mapping we shared). It looks like it’ll be enormous fun, and I’m looking forward to it greatly!

Here Be Dragons

Day two of ten can safely be considered completed.  Whether it can be classed as successfully completed however is anyone’s guess, although it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.  It’s good to get the core paper out of the way, and, with it being in the morning, I’ve still got this afternoon to get to grips with the option courses, which are the subject of the exams tomorrow and Friday.  Today’s exam represents 17% of this year’s grade, and 12% of the total time spent in examinations. 59% of the marks and 76% of the time spent in exams remain.

My book about the library arrived today, it looks pretty interesting, but I’ll have to wait until after the exams before I read it.

Before all that UL business, I think a hearty lunch is in order.

A Descent into the Maelström

The first is over, merely another eight remain.  Doesn’t sound great, but it’s a good start.  So, what question did I answer for the synoptic paper?  What could possibly be written about for three and three-quarter hours solid?  Well, I went for Exoplanets.  Turns out my astronomy keenness of several years is actually helpful!  I managed to get some random comments into the essay, including referring to “Davey Jones’ Locker”, whether aliens could speak fluent English or not, and porridge and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Overall it went surprisingly well.

We got sent emails today reminding us to hand in all our practical work next week.  I wasn’t aware of the fact that we needed to do this, and so there are large gaps in the practicals I’ve been able to locate. Cortisol levels are sky high at the moment, I’m not going to lie, especially with the core essays tomorrow!

For those of you who are interested, today’s exam represents 4% of this year’s grade, and 12% of the total time spent in examinations. Including the 20% of my grade that will be determined from my mapping project, 76% of the marks and 88% of the time spent in exams remain.

In other news, there was a third anonymous donation to my pigeon hole yesterday afternoon of a couple of packets of sweets.  Not sure who it was this time, but as before, whoever you are, you have my deep gratitude!

Fun things that have happened include the ordering of the Sedgwick Club stash (always nice to get some of that), and my book about the UL is now in the post (see my previous post entitled “Groundhog Day).  I also found a fiver that I didn’t know I had in a drawer which was nice.

Anyway, now that the first paper is over, it’s back to the UL for me alas.  The core paper is tomorrow morning, and with 4 essays to be written, it’ll be a morning filled with glorious fun!  Let the cramming commence!

NB: If you want to read the story after which this post is entitled, you may find it here.  It’s a good one!

Groundhog Day

It’s official, my life has turned into Groundhog Day, except unlike in the film, where there’s a lot of choice of stuff to do, I’m stuck doing the same thing (yes, the library – quelle surprise!).  I think I’ve developed a sort of Stockholm Syndrome-esque relationship with the UL, as I’ve ordered a book about it this afternoon from Waterstones (in essence, a book about books – bookception?)… yeah…

However, it’s not all doom and gloom!  It’s another day closer to the end of Part II (which in a way is a shame), and also one step closer to May Week!

I’m currently sorting out what I’ll be getting up to, which is definitely a fun way to spend the breaks from revision, and today I’ve luckily finished sorting out tickets for Downing May Ball (which I’ll be going to with RS).  Rumour has it that Tim Minchin is performing there, which would be awesome if it’s true.  I still need to fix a ticket to Corpus, but hopefully the marketplace will have one going.

Anyway, all that’s left for me today now is a nice cup of tea, and an episode of Alan Partridge (the kettle’s boiling as I write).  It makes all the revision seem not so bad after all!