First day

Sep. 17th, 2017 07:45 pm
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Grumpy that I've got no better recourse for finding the room my "Welcome Talk" will be in tomorrow morning than turning up early and hoping there's someone to ask.

Andrew offered to come with me to help me find it but that's not going to be easy for someone who woke up at three this afternoon; it's basically an accessibility issue for him too. And it costs money in bus fare. And it's just not fair because that shouldn't be his responsibility and I hate feeling dependent on him.

I booked my Disability Services meeting a month ago for as soon as I could get it, but that turns out to be Tuesday. I know this will be a busy and nightmarish time for them, but argh. Hopefully I will be a bit less confused for the rest of the week. There are a bunch of other rooms I have to find after these first ones tomorrow!


Sep. 16th, 2017 08:23 pm
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Google says the thing making my feet horrible is probably... eczema! "Often caused by stress." Well, that explains why it first arrived when my parents visited! (Yes I know that was a long time ago. It's been flaring up and then almost-going-away ever since and every time it goes away I think it'll stay away and at least I'm doing something about it now.)

Can't even really make a GP appointment until I have a better idea of what my schedule will be like. Nnnrgh.

Plus I already have a follow-up appointment about my new meds, a smear test, and my first meeting with the Disabled Students Office this week, which is quite enough Health Work to be getting on with right now.

By the end of the week I will definitely know my class schedule (since it starts the week after that!) and will be able to make an appointment about my horrible feet. So at least I have a plan.
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I wrote about Cassini when it got to Saturn, musing on what a long time it had been traveling. So much had happened to me; I'd gone from a high school freshman to living in a country I hadn't thought much about before.

And then I happened to notice Cassini's seventh anniversary at Saturn, and thought how quickly and how slowly the years were going by.

Time piles up so quickly in space, where seven years is nothing compared to the uncountable vastness of the universe. But one of the great things about spaceships is that they connect the universe to the humans: its twenty years now Cassini has been in space. And I don't even know how many years in development to get it that far. A good chunk of a person's working life could have been spent on this one little thing, anyway, that flew through space and burnt up today.
I've seen dramatic words about Cassini "plunging to its death" and some twee cartoons about how it's going home because Saturn is its home, but all I'm interested in is how much we love this little spaceship. We've made it a person, we've given it a lot of time and attention. We've followed it on twitter. My phone's background pictures aren't of my partners or even my dog; they're ones taken by Cassini. (This one and this one, in case you're interested.) Of course we'll miss it now it's gone.
Here's a video with lots of pictures and nice music.
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I said I'd try to get around to writing up some details of the museum thing before I forget them all, and I've got a little bit of time and energy before my day starts getting hectic, so!

This is very long. )


Sep. 14th, 2017 10:19 am
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My friends' new tiny kitten

My friend Katie rang me yesterday morning, unexpectedly. She said "I'm off work sick, and we have a kitten! Dn you want to come and see her? She's been sleeping on my lap all morning, and she's tiny, and she's called Luna. And she's adorable. And she's tiny." Katie was using that soft voice people do around new babies.

I was free so I went over and she was right. I'd never seen a cat as small as Luna away from its mother. Katie and her partner were told she was eight weeks old but she looked smaller. (For all her tininess, she eats well and she's even litter-trained already.)

Still, they were told her mother hadn't shown much interest in looking after her, which might explain how tiny she is.

And how bold! Knowing my friends had only gotten this kitten the night before, I wasn't expecting to see much of her at all, but almost as soon as I sat down Katie went to make us tea, and when she was out of the room Luna came over so I could take this picture. She jumped up onto my lap after that! All still in the time it took Katie to make tea.

Of course she's just been separated from her mother and her littermates, so she may not always be this snuggly, but it was very cute that she curled up in my oversized hoodie in between bouts of exploring the living room. I am of course more a dog person than a cat person, but I do like cats too and this one is Irresistible.

Katie is absolutely smitten with her and also lives near a posh shop full of cat things, and it sounds like she wasn't in a good place before whereas she will definitely be doted on here, so I'm happy for Luna.
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...where I go to bed because I'm cold rather than because I'm sleepy.

And pull the covers over my head and wait for my breath to warm me up.
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I mailed off my passport application first thing this morning, which was stressful because again being me I can't do anything in quite the standard way so I was a nuisance at the post office this morning. And I had to run through a torrential downpour to get there; some of the things inside my bag were soaked (though my application/passport/naturalization certificate seemed okay thankfully).

Then I went to the first proper meeting of my new volunteering gig, which is basically being a consultant on some new tech for accessibility to visually impaired people. I met the fellow blind girl they have doing this, too, who's 22 and honestly reminds me a lot of myself at 22. Which is awesome but makes me feel old. We had a great time but when I checked the time not long before we left I couldn't believe I'd been there almost three hours.

But it caught up with me, trying out a whole new-to-me haptic interface, giving feedback on it to sighted people, and then running a turned-out-to-be-futile errand across the street (the benefits of volunteering with a museum that's part of your new university! well, it'd feel more like a benefit if it hadn't ended up being futile, but never mind) meant I was so tired by the time I got home that Andrew worried something was wrong with me.

I'll try to write more about the details later, because it's super-interesting, but have I done enough to justify a nap first?
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I stood up from the table with my empty bowl*, and before I'd even reached the kitchen, before I had made any discernable noise, I heard the soft thundering that indicated the dog was running down the stairs.

He scampers over if he's in the room and sees me standing up after a meal, having been taught to expect scraps then (though these are more common from Andrew than me, since he eats meat and somehow more things that can be scraped off the plate onto a little dog's food), but I'd never known him to run downstairs for them. This might partly be explained by the fact that he's not usually upstairs when we're both home, to be fair, though it was about the time he's been heading for bed lately.

But even so, how could he possibly know I was heading for the kitchen with an empty bowl?! I'd only taken a couple of quiet steps.

Then we're also talking, here, about a dog who has been known to hear the noise of me setting a block of cheese on the kitchen counter and come running down the stairs from where he'd been asleep. Cheese is his favorite, and somehow he can tell from another floor of the house, while asleep, that it's that thing and no other I've just gotten out of the fridge.

* Previously full of noodles and carrots and "chicken" and a miso ginger sauce I made from a recipe and found rather disappointing: even with lots more ginger than it called for it wasn't enough ginger, and too much miso for my tastes, but it was edible and I'll try it again with some tweaks.
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Dealing with immigration bureaucracy is still exhausting. Maybe first thing in the morning wasn't the best idea. But the passport and naturalization certificate I'd sent to the student loans people arrived soon after I woke up (the certificate in one of those "do not bend" envelopes, so in better shape than they got it!) and since I had to go to the post office anyway I figured I'd ask if they had passport applications and they did. So when I got home I thought I might as well start in in it.

And it's fine, but it's occasioned a big discussion on Facebook where I said
Applying for a British passport as a foreign-born person with foreign parents is like a test in How Much Do You Love Your Family.

Not only do I need to remember what town my parents were born in (which I only know because I needed that for citizenship), I need to find out my GRANDPARENTS' place of birth, date of birth, and date of marriage?! Good thing my parents were going to Skype me today anyway because I could only guess at most of those! Three of my grandparents aren't even around to ask!

And I can't remember how to spell my mom's middle name. Worst daughter. Well, I think I do but there's nothing like a form to make you second-guess yourself!
The comments are sympathetic and thoughtful because I know good people, but also reminded me of new ways this could be fraught.

Then I had to get new passport photos taken, because none of the money I've spent on passport-size passport-style photographs in the last year or so will do for the current set of restrictions. I hate that they now require glasses wearers not to wear their glasses, because the only way to get me to be facing the right away without them ends up being to have a man, a stranger, put his hands on my face.

It wasn't too bad today, but it reminded me of the time I had to get biometric data collected for my citizenship application, when the photos were done by some horrible automated computer process in a claustrophobic booth. And I kept getting told off for the photo coming up wrong. I was there with my white cane and everything but the staff were busy and I guess just didn't notice or didn't know what to do with me. It took ages and still ended up with a man touching my face and I felt really shitty afterward.

I went to Levy market afterward, because it's near the photo shop and because I had the vague sense that I had been Good and deserved a treat. I ran into a couple of people I know which was nice but the market just seemed overpriced rubbish which is probably at least as much a reflection on me as on it! I usually enjoy it.

I went to the Asian supermarket on the way home because I wanted some halloumi but they didn't have any! I asked Andrew to see if there was a film or concert or anything we fancied going to tonight, but there really isn't.

And now I'm sitting here thinking I should make some food but needing to do dishes first and that's all I get for a treat today, it looks like!
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You know it's been a low-spoon week fortnight in this household when it gets to be about eight o'clock in the evening and the dog runs upstairs thinking it must be time to cuddle up to at least one of his humans in bed (usually me, but yesterday it was Andrew napping at six).

I started getting ready for bed about nine-thirty, partly because I felt sorry for his confusion and restlessness. He's curled up on my feet now, seeming very content.

I accidentally elbowed him (not too hard!) in the head as I was settling into bed. But since as I did he recognized I was getting into position for him to settle on, he bounded over to his usual spot and in his cheerfulness about this didn't seem to hold my mistake against me. He's such a good example for how great and important it is to go to bed.


Sep. 6th, 2017 02:32 pm
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Andrew's doing some computer work for his dad. There's nothing for me to do but sit on a sofa in a quiet room reading the book I brought with me (well, I brought my eReader but right now I'm reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat).

Can't do dishes. Can't worry about anything else I should be doing. Had a nice cup of coffee and now I have to sit and read. So awful. In a couple hours his parents will take us out for a meal to celebrate me getting into university. I miss the dog but otherwise, this is definitely not a day anyone should worry about me or apologize to me!
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Spent yesterday afternoon with my friend Amy, who was in Manchester for a work thing. After she finished work we had lots of food and lots of beer and it was great.

Couple weeks ago I got to see my friend Mary when she was here because she was flying out of Manchester airport.

I approve of this "faraway friends suddenly telling me they'll be here in a few days" trend; this should happen more.
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I know I talked at the time about helping [personal profile] miss_s_b with her podfic by being one of the voices for it, but I can't find the entry now.

Anyway, that's a thing I did and it was super-fun and now you can listen to it here!

The fandoms involved are Doctor Who, Miss Marple and Murder She Wrote, which I'd think would be irresistible as a combination... But even if that doesn't sound like your cup of tea you might like this because it's very accessible, doesn't depend on knowing more than the broadest brushes of the characters, and it remains very sweet while drawing attention to the aspects of a "cozy mystery" that shouldn't be cozy at all.

I know I'm biased because Jennie's great and it was really fun to record a voice for this (it has an American character, so she asked me as local American), but I really think it came out wonderfully. I listened to it on a bus on my way to a meeting I didn't want to go to and was much more cheerful by the time I got there.

The written version of the story is also at the link for people who don't want an audio version.
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The joys of poly: When your boyfriend double books himself for your visit, you can hang out with his other girlfriend instead.

This is what happened to me anyway, on Saturday. Jennie and I had a great time: poured some wine, put on the telly to a cooking program that was showing some Yorkshire puddings just about to go into the oven, so of course we had to watch it to find out what they did wrong ("Lots" was the verdict). And they made white chocolate cheesecake with amaretto-infused raspberries, which made us want amaretto-infused raspberries... And then somebody made dauphinoise potatoes, so we wanted dauphinoise potatoes...

And so our dinner menu was set: some kind of protein (we ended up with Quorn kievs), dauphinoise potatoes, and...cranachan for dessert because we bought cream for the potatoes anyway and whisky was cheaper than amaretto.

We went shopping for ingredients, came back and drunkenly cooked it all and it was great.

I found out I have a kitchen skill that neither Jennie nor Mat had! I'm so used to them knowing things and having a kitchen full of cool gadgets...but neither of them ever peels vegetables so I peeled the potatoes. Probably the very first goddam thing I learned how to do! But with a peeler usually, not with a knife, and they didn't have a veg peeler because they never peel anything. Jennie was impressed at how quickly I managed to peel the potatoes and frankly so was I, considering the combination of being a person using a very sharp knife who's used to lots of tactile feedback while I'm doing this with a peeler, and the fact that I'd already had one glass of wine and when I say "glass" I mean "size of a fingerbowl"...

We watched most of a Miss Marple with Jennie doing her usual commenting on the costumes which I love because it tells me all kinds of things that I won't see or if I do won't know why they work or don't (like the way the servant was wearing a badly-fitting dress to show she was lower-class, while the posh lesbian she was standing next to (we were on a lookout for the lesbians too, as you always get those in Agatha Christie) was wearing perfectly tailored clothes.

Apparently the friend that James was out with told him that Interstellar was a better movie than 2001 because it was more intellectual, or something. So I was convinced we'd had the better evening.

Oh but then there was this commercial. I was busy counting up change to see if I had enough money for more wine at the time, so I was paying even less attention than usual, but I heard someone say "I lost my sight when I was fourteen..." so I looked up in what you might call professional interest and I must say I wasn't expecting a soap commercial but that's what I got (I think it was this one? but I went from not paying attention to it to yelling at it pretty quickly, so I'm not sure...oh yeah, and I'd already had some wine by this point).

Because I have a little cadre of blind friends on Twitter these days -- it's great; all women, too -- when I mentioned this there some of them said they'd talked about the same thing. The consensus was that none of us liked it: it "played the 'super sense' card," this misconception that blind people's other senses somehow improve to compensate for the lost one (they don't...we might learn to pay attention to them more, but we don't do anything that others couldn't, and it's not magic; it is huge in spoon costs). One said "It's not inclusive if they're fetishising us," and that's what this felt like: the person with special super senses was being consulted to give the ultimate verdict on what the best body wash is and she has spoken!

Jennie and Alisdair even questioned whether the woman was blind, which she is but I don't blame them because it seemed so false, not at all like what I'd expect blind people to talk about. Maybe it's just the people I know but when the blind people that I know get together (either IRL or on twitter), we talk about uncommunicative sighted people, inaccessible transport...and normal stuff, like our kids or hobbies or other people we know. I'm not saying this means no blind person thinks
My hands give me all the feedback that a sighted person would rely on their eyes for, so I navigate the world by touch. When I’m walking around a store I pick up every garment – I’m feeling the fabrics, the textures and the shapes. And colours aren’t about what they look like anymore. Blue became more about how my fingers feel running through water, and the colour green is more about the smell of freshly cut grass, and the feeling of it under bare feet.
But that just a sighted person's idea of what being blind is like? (That's not from the ad, but it's from "Molly's Story" on the Dove website, which I found when googling for the commercial.) It doesn't mean anything and it doesn't sound right; it sounds like marketing-speak. And even an authentically blind person can be given a daft script to read out. I mean, the pull quote is "I might have lost my sight, but I have not lost my ability to experience beauty in the world," ffs.

I think the last word on it from my new Twitter chum [ profile] bigpurpleduck was "I mean, fair play to her making some money out of it. But I don't like this at all. Dove are using us, and peddling misconceptions."


Sep. 2nd, 2017 12:49 am
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Whenever I get one of the random pains or illnesses that man is heir to (often, that menstruators are heir to), I'm left with so much more admiration for all the people I know who live with chronic pain and conditions that cause it.

I slept funny and hurt my neck. It's just a twinge, it's happened before, it'll go away. But in the meantime, the ibuprofen gel wasn't as helpful as I confidently believed it'd be, and it's not just that I can't move my head but that even sitting or lying still hurts. Moving my fingers moves my shoulders enough that it hurts.

It was hard to concentrate on what Andrew was saying. I felt dizzy. And yet this is a tiny thing compared to what many friends of mine and lots of other people deal with all the time and still manage to he clever, funny and kind. It really is amazing how people live with such high baselines for pain levels.


Sep. 1st, 2017 05:00 pm
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I want to write about the cricket and I want to write about how much I hate the Home Office, but I'm so tired. I think I've needed a nap every day this week (not counting Monday, because I was at the cricket!) and today is not looking any different.

Gotten all the student finance stuff done, though, and all the disability shit. All the forms! All the paperwork! Keeping on top of chores and housework as well as I ever do. Went out Tuesday and Wednesday night. I'm happiest when I'm busy, and I've been so busy these past two or three weeks; it's really great.
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Stressful day. I'm still an edge case, this time when it comes to Student Finance England, who don't know what to do with someone who's a UK citizen but doesn't have a UK passport or birth certificate. After three lots of contradictory advice that couldn't be verified on a website that was down, after I shouted and stomped and lost my temper with poor Andrew who wasn't the cause of any of my anger or stress, we established that I had to send my passport and my naturalization certificate. Originals, no copies would do.

My most vital documents. I felt like I was going to throw up, handing them over at the post office. I literally have nightmares about losing them.

And as soon as I get them back, I'll have to post them away again, to get a UK passport.

Having moaned on Facebook I wanted a drink, [personal profile] diffrentcolours offered to meet me inna pub this evening. It's been ages since I've been in a pub when it wasn't part of a WI committee meeting or a Biphoria thing. It's been ages since I've seen [personal profile] diffrentcolours for something other than Lib Demmery (and even today there was a bit of that because he handed over stuff for me to mail to this week's Pride). We were just friends having some time together and it was great.

Then I got home, already sleepy, and ended up talking to Andrew for a long time about a song a friend of ours asked me to write. He's doing this big musical/opera kind of thing, full of great ideas. He wanted me to write a song about the Shipping Forecast, and I've been not doing it for years, but tonight we started working on it and I'm so excited about it now. Based on a sea shanty, with instrumentation like oboe, moog and Neptune (recorded by NASA), it's turning out fiendishly clever.


Aug. 27th, 2017 05:07 pm
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Was talking to [personal profile] matgb and [personal profile] innerbrat and [personal profile] magister yesterday and Mat told me how interesting Korean seems as a language: "Nobody really knows where it came from," he said. It's not related to other languages. Apparently there's a debate about whether Korean is related to Tamil, thanks to traders along the Silk Road, but that seems pretty mysterious in itself: why would that one group of people or words make an impact where apparently nothing else did?

I knew a little about the Korean writing system, which is also unique and intends to have similar sounds also look similar, and there's some connection between the characters and how the sounds they represent are made when they're spoken. This system, hangul, was apparently designed by the great Sejong, a 15th-century king (though he may have had help!), who was concerned at how few people could read and write so made this to help more people do so. He said, "A wise man can acquaint himself with them before the morning is over; a stupid man can learn them in the space of ten days." So maybe there's hope even for me! Amid early opposition from a literary elite that apparently liked being an elite, hangul was apparently used mainly for things like women's diaries and books for children. Which just makes it sound all the more awesome to me, frankly.

Then Debi started talking about all the Korean dramas she could tell me about that she liked. I can't remember the names, sadly, but she was able to inform me that they all involve a lot of women cross-dressing. She isn't sure if that's a facet of Korean culture or just that which has filtered through to and appealed to her. Girls dressing up as their brothers to get educations not available to women and that sort of thing seemed to be common.

Then James was telling me about a zombie movie (which I think is called The Train to Busan?) that he says is really good. "You should learn Korean so you can watch that without having to worry about the subtitles," he said.

Imagine, me turning up to Korean class on the first day and being asked why I'm there. "I've heard the dramas and zombie movies are good."
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I wrote my last post and read some comments and went to bed and woke up early so I thought I'd try my new and hopefully less frustrating podcast app to catch up on some podcasts and the first one was Lingthusiasm.

Some background: When I told Andrew I was jealous I'd never get to be a linguist because of all the linguists whose blogs/twitter/podcasts I follow, I was thinking primarily of these two. (And Lynne Murphy, whose comparisons of UK and U.S. English I love.)

I had this podcast recommended to me by lots of people and rightly so, but this kind of "two people having a conversation about a thing" podcast isn't usually my type (I'm more "actual Radio 4 shows" or else "one person reading a script about a thing, usually history"). So I don't think I was prepared for how much I would get drawn in by the style; I really feel like I"m listening to friends have a chat and I could see myself forgetting these are people I don't actually know.

But it did seem like they'd done this conversation about learning languages just for me and its relevance to my life as of yesterday. So I listened with great interest, envious of Gretchen's early exposure to French (she's Canadian), taking Spanish and German at the same time in high school against the usual recommendations, taking a new language every year she was in college... Though as she told me on Twitter when I mentioned this, she feels like she "started pretty late with languages! Mostly in late HS/undergrad rather than childhood!"

Another thing I really liked that she addressed on the show (after she sent me that tweet and I replied with a precis of my brainweasels about how late i"m coming to this, which might well be an issue for many mature students), this idea that if you don't start learning a language in the womb it's hard and there's no point. I remember hearing this as a teenager when it was finally possible to start learning Spanish, which I did when I was fourteen. Like I was already made to feel inadequate then. But anyway, Gretchen addresses exactly this thing (starting around 32:30 in the podcaast): there are actually domains where adults have an advantage. She points out how long it takes kids to learn: it's a whole year of hearing a language all the time they're awake before they even say a single word. Adults learn vocabulary and syntax a lot easier than kids, can focus their practice on it in ways that kids don't: we can already read and write in one language which makes it easier to learn in another language.

I also really like how much time they spent talking about the huge cultural/political/emotional connections we have with languages: colonialism and heritage languages and the prestige of certain languages. I know if I choose Arabic because I live in a neighborhood it might be useful, when I go home at Christmas and get quizzed by my family about what I'm doing now, I'm gonna be wary because if they have any associations with the Arabic language at all it's going to be "what terrorists speak."

I really appreciate the thoughtful comments everybody has left on my last post. [personal profile] brithistorian's highlighted something I was talking about anyway: "Find a book you want to read, a movie you want to watch, etc." Setting yourself a goal in the language you are learning is a good idea as a motivation, but also it's worth thinking about what kind of cultural osmosis you're opening yourself up to as well as the grammar or script or whatever draws you to the language itself. So while, as I said last night, if the university told me "there's only one foreign language you can take and it's this", I'd be pretty happy whatever the "this" was, I'm finding myself less inclined to learn, say, Russian just because the history and culture of it does not interest me as much as other places (sorry, Russians!).

Poking around some of the links from that episode of Lingthusiasm, I found Will learning a second language help me learn linguistics, a question to which my answer is "probably but even if it didn't I'd jump at any chance to learn a language" but I still found the contents of the post useful. It confirms what friends of mine said in comments, namely "you’ll get more of your assumptions [about how language works] challenged by learning a language that’s as unrelated to your first language as possible... So for English speakers, go for a non-Indo-European language if you can (common options include Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, ASL)." (I think those last two are probably more common in the U.S.! Though obviously other sign languages could be elsewhere.*)

So yeah, I honestly feel better (though no closer to a language decision!) after listening to the podcast. Of course I'm overwhelmed; I had a bunch of things to think about and potential decisions to face, and language is one that's tied up with everything else about us. Even moving to another country where the majority speaks the same language I have a huge amount of thoughts and feelings about identity and stuff I'm really sensitive about and class and history and regionalism, all based on the language. So of course this is a big deal and of course it's weird and difficult.

Yesterday when the person from the linguistics department was talking about how the course worked and what kinds of directions we could take our studies and so on, I had at one point the dizzying kind of realization that pretty soon the choices I make will start to close down some options and open other ones but right now I do not now what is going to happen and it could be anything. I remember feeling like this a lot when I was eighteen and starting college too. Being in such close proximity to so much potential makes me feel a bit light-headed, honestly.

* I still love the idea of doing BSL, especially after Debi pointed out that almost everybody who uses it will be (relatively) nearby and not in Japan or Turkey or whatever.
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Went to an open day at the university today, so I know a bit more about the course now.

Most of the classes I'll take in my first year are required, so that's fine. The only thing I still need to figure out is one semester worth of something (and sadly it had to be the first semester of this year and not the second which would give me more time to think about it).

My choices for that something are ridiculously wide-ranging. Like I could basically pick anything in the Faculty of Humanities. But I'm pretty sure I want to do a language.

But now: which language?! Do I want to do German because I already know I love it? Do I want to do something completely new like Japanese or Arabic because European languages are kinda boring? Do I want to do British Sign Language? I kinda do! But learning sign language might be weird/hard for a blind person?

I don't know! What language do I want to learn?


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