June 26, 2008

Greetings from Kyla's Roommates!

Hello Indiana! This is Cassie, Sally, Ayumi, and Kayla, four of Kyla's roommates here in London. Kyla made the mistake of leaving her computer on downstairs, and we are taking advantage of that tonight.
As far as updates in Kyla's life, we are all getting ready to go to a Karaoke bar for the evening. She is wearing the new gold gladiator sandals she bought today, they are so hot right now. Tomorrow, she is going to Wimbeldon to watch tennis hotties like Andy Roddick sweat, in real life! Saturday, we are heading to Portobello Road Market so we can indulge in Kyla's fav, a chicken burger. In other news, her favorite pair of Halloween underwear was stolen from the floor of her bedroom this evening. The culprit: a drunk man in a brown hoodie seen jumping from our balcony, bottle and underwear in hand, before being seen by a good samaritan on the road who alerted us to the situation.

Kyla just walked into the room, and didn't notice me creating a blog entry on her computer, but did take the time to show me what we think may be a bunyun on her little toe. It's time for karaoke now, talk to y'all again soon!!!

June 20, 2008

Only in London...

Just got an email at work with the subject line "Anyone fancy Istanbul for lunch?"

At home we're limited to Italian, Mexican or Asian Fusion. Also, fancy's a funny word.

June 19, 2008

Kyla has a prayer answered

Sometimes, in your life, there are things you just can't tell other people. I don't usually admit to liking the taste of my upper lip after I work out (it's the salt, I swear). I don't often tell people that I have a secret fear of getting bleach on my teeth and having them rot down to the nerve.

So when I found out about the Naked Bike Ride set for last Saturday, as much as I wanted to go, I couldn't bring myself to ask a roommate to accompany me. No one wants to be anointed the creepy roommate, and this would definitely put me into that category. I'm straddling the fence though, after looking up from my book on the tube the other night and randomly commenting on my roommate's great cheekbones. Whatever, she has fantastic bone structure.

My point is, it doesn't fly when you say, "Who wants to go watch a bike race with naked people with me?" when you're sitting around the dinner table. I didn't want to go watch the ride for any creepy reasons. I don't think I wanted to see anyone naked, I just wanted to see how many and what kind of people would take part in such an event. And I think, deep down, you'd feel the same as I did if given the chance to behold such a spectacle. Giddy.

Well, I was lucky. While sitting at a pub Saturday afternoon (after the assault incident, there is some redemption) I heard a rambunctious noise outside. I ran out to see what was going on and was pleasantly surprised. There, right in front of me, was the phenomenon that is the Naked Bike Ride. Twenty minutes of naked riding going by, to be exact. It was full of people of every shape and size. There were women who looked like they'd teach your Sunday School class. There were men who'd wear a suit and sit next to you on the tube. People of all age, race and economic demographics joined together to ride the streets in the buff, working to spread their messages of protest against oil dependency and car culture. It was everything I'd hoped it would be, and possibly much more.

Imagine if people used this method to protest everything.

"No need for a union strike, let's just ride through the city streets naked!"

"Fantastic idea! That will really raise awareness for our desire for wage raises and better working conditions!"

I have some great pictures, but my parents might look at this and I don't want them to make me come home.

Kyla gets assaulted

Tonight I'm staying in. My roommates and I desperate for food, but short on groceries. We're searching for recipes that require the three ingredients we have: butter, sugar and flour. But we're pretty flexible-- it can be brown OR white sugar, because we have both. Looks like we're having shortbread. We found an easy bake oven recipe, so we're going to try that in a real oven. We'll just halve the temperature. Sally's in the kitchen right now, mixing ingredients. She'll make a great wife someday. I'm sitting on the couch, dictating the recipe to her and looking up measurement conversions. I knew fractions would come back to haunt me someday.

You're probably starting to get jealous of my crazy life, but just know it's not all fun and games. In fact, just last weekend, while on the tube, I was viciously, verbally attacked by the threatening words of a crazy man.

It all started out innocently enough. A friend from home, we'll call him N. Brock...no wait, that's too obvious... Nolan B., and I were heading to a market in Notting Hill. I needed a German chicken burger, and he needed a carton of blueberries. Portobello Road is the only place in the world with both. My roommate was with us, as well. The three of us found our seats in an otherwise empty carriage. A man of African (what is the proper term here? can't really use African American...) decent got on, too He had his phone up to his ear, and it was blaring reggae, much like a boom box. This guy was straight thuggin'. As he passed, I looked up at the him-- a natural reaction when someone walks by you dancing to their phone/boombox. No big deal, right? Wrong.

I have always heard you're not supposed to make eye contact with strangers on the tube. I now know that's not a myth. A few stops later, as the carriage filled up with other passengers, the man got up and walked over towards me. I was sitting by the door and assumed he was just waiting to get off. Wrong again. He had come to yell at me. It went something like this:

"You're UGLY! You've got an UGLY FACE! I'm going to SMACK it and BREAK it. And your boyfriend's (Nolan) ugly, too. Your face is UGLY. "

This goes on for a few minutes and I was, maybe for the first time in my life, speechless. He screams in my face, others look, and then he stops. I turn to Nolan and say,"Anyway..." and try to think of a story to tell him to reduce the awkwardness.

The guy starts again. Same sorta thing, only he ends it this time by saying, "I'm joking," and looks out the window. Then he turns back towards me and says, "But I don't like the look you gave me. I might be ugly, but you are too! You look at me like you're so much better than me. You're no better than me. You're UGLY and I'm going to hit you and your boyfriend's faces."

At this point I look at a man across the aisle, who does the international symbol for crazy (pazzo, loco, etc.)-- the finger spin at the side of the head.

And maybe I should mention that earlier, before screamfest began, I watched the guy pick up his Red Bull can and attempt to chuck it out the door. Unfortunately, he missed and it bounced off the window, back into his lap. He picked it up again and heaved it out the door, this time, successfully. I watched the whole thing because it was, for lack of a better word, awesome. This guy didn't give a darn. He didn't respect authority. He had better things to worry about-- like his public jam session.

So I might have made eye contact there, too. But if he would looked a little closer he would have seen revenrence in my eyes-- I've always aspired to be a rebel, but I think anyone who knows me knows how far from that I am. In 4th grade, I told on myself because I went into the boys' bathroom on a dare. I lost sleep over it the night before I confessed. I got myself so psyched up for the imminent punishment that I was actually a little disappointed my teacher didn't cserve some up. She didn't even care-- she didn't try to scold me or tell me I had misbehaved -- she actually thanked me and COMMENDED me for being honest.

Anyway, this guy was cool in my book. But he didn't know I felt like that. He finally finished ranting at me, and everyone on the tube reassured me that I needn't be embarrassed, he was obviously crazy. Later Nolan and I were talking.

"All I could think was, 'I hope Nolan can take him,'" I said, "because I was pretty sure he was going to hit us."

"Oh I could. I'm trained to kill," Nolan responded. "But I was going to make sure he knew I wasn't your boyfriend, so it would never have gotten that far." Thanks, buddy.

And then, on the way home, Nolan was trying to get me to do a pull up on a hand bar in the tube.

"No. I don't want to make a scene on here," I responded.

"YOU don't want to make scene on the tube? Hmmm..."

Cookies are ready.

June 13, 2008

Kyla goes green

Now, don't start judging and assume I've turned into a hippy. That's simply not so. I'm not going to attach solar panels to my computer. I'm not going to reduce the amount of toilet paper I use. However, my job has required a lot of environmental research and I have been bombarded with enough green facts over the past three weeks that I'm starting to feel like Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio's love child. This has made me think about my own actions and I've come to the conclusion that I'm pretty irresponsible.

There are some that completely disregard the planet and the consequences of their actions. You know the type-- they rev their SUV's engines just for the heck of it, they pull up in front of their apartment and, instead of taking their trash into the house, throw it under the car...I could go on and on.

But then there are extremists on the other side of the spectrum. They spend an inordinate amount of time protesting in trees, they make their clothes out of recycled newspapers...kooky stuff like that.

I like to think I've found myself tucked somewhere in the middle. My actions haven't completely caught up with my good, green intentions, but I really am going to try to make a more conscious effort to be a better global citizen. I don't know how true the facts about global warming are. I don't know how much longer the oil reserves will last. I don't even know if some species of birds are really worth all of the effort to save. But I do know that it doesn't hurt to make some small changes that can only help make the air cleaner, my body healthier, and my (limited) bank account stay a little fatter.

Therefore, I pledge to do the following*:

1. Turn my fan off during the day. I sleep with a fan on. I'm not going to change that, it's one of my favorite things. Ever. Probably even more than fruit gushers. But there's no reason I can't go over and shut it off when I wake up in the morning. Same goes with lights. In fact, unplugging isn't a bad idea at all. I've read somewhere that energy is used whenever something is plugged in, regardless of whether or not it's on.

2. Walk to campus/Kirkwood when possible. There are just some times when I'll have to drive, and I'm fine with that. I'll have to drive when it's raining, when conditions are arctic-like, when I'll be coming home too late to catch a bus, and when I can't sweat. But there are a lot of times when I just need to run on and I don't need to turn the car on to do so. I walk home here every night, and it takes over an hour. Getting to and from campus takes less time than that.

3. I will throw my trash in the trash can. This doesn't really do much to save the Earth or reduce waste, but it keeps it from ending up in my front yard, a bird's throat or the paws of a raccoon who might want to ''give it a whirl.''

4. I will reuse grocery bags. I think it's a proven scientific fact that the average American has, at any given time, approximately 400 plastic grocery bags hidden under their sink, in the laundry room or shoved in a drawer somewhere. It's a little tacky to do so, I suppose, but there's no reason not to take your bags back and reuse them at the grocery store. I think they have a name for this sort of behavior over here-- it's called a 'no-brainer.'

5. I will hang dry my clothes whenever possible. At home, Mom and Dad love to hang towels to dry on the line. I hate the resulting scratchy feeling, but it makes a lot of sense. They aren't paying to run the dryer, and it probably makes the towels last a little longer. I can do the same with a lot of my clothes. *NOTE: This action may improve mental health, as well, as it eliminates clothes shrinking, a major contributor to an overwhelming number of depression cases.*

There are about 2.65 million other things I could do, but I'm taking baby steps. I think you should think about your actions, as well. If not for the environment, for yourself. Walking more than you drive can only help you (unless you live somewhere like Compton...in which case, please drive...and lock your doors), making both your heart and your checkbook healthier. I challenge you to make a small list of five changes you can make, as well, and really try to adhere to them.

*Conditions subject to change once I return to the States and my fuel-, efficiency-driven life.

June 2, 2008

Kyla learns about ostrich riding

Went to lunch with the boys today. We started sharing stories about squirrels: Jon, the lover of all things wild, pulled out his phone and showed us a picture of a squirrel he'd taken earlier this morning, Simon ranted about a particularly messy instance involving a squirrel and an extractor (above the stove) fan, and Leang and I just listened. Apparently American squirrels are better behaved, as between the two of us, we couldn't think of a single story to tell.

The conversation then shifted to childhood experiences. I shared the usual stories: bottle feeding a newborn calf back to life (or so I like to think), sending the dogs and cats down the slide in the back of a Tonka Truck, playing with our twin piglets (Leslie and Kendra, I think I named them, after my best friends from church camp that year), and, with my brothers' help, sneaking the trampoline over to the side of the pool to catapult each other in while Mom wasn't looking.

Jon, our resident South African, had a few interesting stories, most involving wildlife, of course; however, the one that really takes the cake is his account of ostrich riding. He claims that it's quite popular in South Africa, and after a short web search I found this to be true.

Not a common form of transport, however the Ostrich's poweful legs and bulky body make it more than capable of supporting a human being. Their ability to run at up to 35 mph while carrying a person has led to ostrich racing, which is popular in Africa and some Arab countries. A dangerous sport, like horse racing, it demands a considerable amount of skill to stay on. (http://www.diseno-art.com/encyclopedia/things_to_do/ostrich_riding.html)

And so this, my friends, is how the elusive sport of ostrich riding works, according to Jon:

A rider climbs up a bit, on a fence or something, so it's easier to get onto the ostrich's back. Riding the bird is quite tricky, so you have to be sure to stabilize yourself as best as as you can. This involves putting your legs under the bird's wings. If you've picked a respectable place they'll lift the wings for you. Otherwise, you're on your own. After you've scooted your limbs under the wings they are put back down, securing your legs into a seat belt of sorts.

"Wait a minute. Isn't this a little awkward?" I asked Jon, pausing him mid-way through his explanation.

"Of course," he replied. "These wings are massive, and it's hot and moist under them. I mean, you can imagine an armpit, well, it's like putting your legs into the big, smelly, hot, damp armpit of a bird. Only with feathers."

Giant, disease-carrying, feather-covered, smelly, moist, hot pockets. Just what I'd want to stick my two favorite apendages into. At this point, our food comes.

Anyway, once you get your legs situated, you grab the neck, give it a smack, and off you go.
"But they're quite stupid, aren't they?" asked Simon, who, like myself, has never been fortunate enough to ride one of the oversive birds.

"Oh yeah, they're incredibly stupid," said Jon.

"Well then, how do you stop?" asked Leang.

Jon then went on to explain something about how they run down these lanes and just stop at the end, where you 'dismount.' And, I assume, immediately burn your pants and wash your legs.

"The thing I've always been a little nervous about is if they drop you and turn back and begin pecking at you," said Jon. "They have these huge beaks. They're this big" (He then shows us an area about the width of his hand.)

Sign me up.