Hello everyone! I’m sorry things have been a bit quiet here this month, but I have a few posts planned for the next week or so. We’ll start with a general update on what’s been happening.
Exploring the Neighborhood
J and I knew we lived near the area named “Little Venice,” but it wasn’t until we went out to look for it that we realized how close it was. One of the canals that leads to Little Venice turned out to end (or begin depending on how you look at it) just a block up our street. So one sunny fall day we followed that canal to the main area. Office buildings, starbucks and modern trendy bridges soon gave way to trees, houseboats and classic stone bridges. Since I have been to the real Venice before (and fell in love with it), I wasn’t entirely impressed. Besides having some houseboats, bridges and canals in common there wasn’t really much at all. This might seem like a lot until you’re seen the houseboats in Paris or canals in Amsterdam– people leaving on water is more common than you may think. Either way it is a nice little walk to a beautiful setting that we have taken a few times since, especially since there are countless mansions to gawk at nearby.
November 5th is Bonfire Night in England, also known as the night that people celebrate a failed terrorist plot to blow up Parliament in 1605. The movie V for Vendetta was the first time I had ever heard of the plot, but no one is about to start supporting a new terrorist walking in Guy Fawkes’ footsteps like in the movie. People gather to lit bonfires, burn effigies of Guy Fawkes and shoot off fireworks. It sounded like a lot of fun. Unfortunately the Mayor of the City of London (the central part of Greater London) postponed his fireworks display until the following week (when we were in Spain) and the night turned out to be pretty overcast, so there were only a few glimpses of fireworks here and there.
We did get to have a fancy dinner at the top of the OXO Tower (pictured above) along the river. One of J’s coworkers made a reservation months in advance but couldn’t make it at the last minute, so J, myself and a different coworker enjoyed delicious food and a fantastic view of London–the Eye, St. Pauls, etc. There are actually flats between the ground floor and the top floor of the tower which must be amazing on the inside and basically impossible to afford. I would love to go there again, but since it wasn’t cheap it will probably not happen anytime soon (I do think it was worth the money though).
November meant starting a new job for me. I’m on a short-term contract (probably until mid-February) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I’m working with the school, the Gates Foundation and the UK government to research and coordinate a meeting to be held in January. The meeting focuses on encouraging public-private partnerships (partnerships between businesses, NGOs, governments, etc.) to improve nutrition in poorer countries and markets around the world. My job is to research what has been done before and possible ways to make these partnerships better in the future (as well as help with event planning). So far I am enjoying it, there’s always those first few weeks of not knowing how to work more effectively with your new co-workers, but I’m getting used to it and enjoying being able to switch to a new topic and commuting area (from what I was doing this summer)– it keeps things interesting.
Since 2002 November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. It began as a way to encourage people to write, to show that anyone can write (not just “writers”), and to teach writers to ignore their inner critic. The goal is to write 50,000 words, the minimum amount for a novel, in the 30 days of November. I first learned about it last year (after it had ended) and finally signed up this year. I planned out my story somewhat in the days leading up to November 1st, but I didn’t fully plot out every scene or character detail. My goal was simply to sign up and not quit halfway through— even if I wrote crap and didn’t make it to 50,000 words I would not give up early.
In the end I achieved that goal and then some– I won NaNoWriMo (which means I got to 50,000 words). It felt amazing to get there and J gave me some pretty weird looks when I started dancing in front of my laptop. There is a whole community with on-line and off-line events that go along with NaNoWriMo and even though I focused mostly on the on-line, meeting people or even just reading about how someone else is doing really made the difference. I had days when I didn’t write at all and days where I wrote 10,000 words (I tended to cycle if you couldn’t tell). The craziest thing of all for me (with few outside of work obligations) is that it wasn’t that hard. I didn’t HAVE to write everyday, I didn’t stay up all night or wake up at 5 am like I know a lot of other people did. In a way I’m grateful for that, but it also proved to me that I can keep writing, that I do have time to work on my goals (like we all do).
So I hope you enjoyed this little update, there are at least 2 more blog posts on deck so be ready. I’m off to continue writing so I’ll eventually finish my story (50,000 words wasn’t enough).