Late night tales of baking and birthdays

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Gosh, after it looked like the week was going to quietly slink by without much to write home about, bam, bam, bam, lots has happened!

Tuesday was a very quiet day, and the main excitement came from par-taking of lunch at Oceanview Terrace for a change, where I proved I’m becoming more attuned with America by not batting an eyelid at eating a Macaroni and Cheese sandwich. There was also a late afternoon trip to Ralphs to replenish supplies of milk and cereal for my breakfast. Wednesday began like Tuesday, and the main focus of the day was on Aerodynamics in preparation for our second midterm. I revised all morning, and felt almost slightly cheated when I made my way out of the Cog-Sci building at 3pm after the test. My knowledge wasn’t really ‘tested’ by the midterm in the way I would have liked, in fact, at the risk of sounding a little big-headed; it was verging on the basically simple. Considering how difficult the subject and homework is, I think he swung too far the other way with the 2nd midterm. Everyone should do well on it, as it was very simple indeed. I had thought I was going to have to do a ton of integrals, and show I knew all about calculating the induced velocity of cambered airfoils, etc, but no. Still, I’m not complaining, it went ok.

I went for a little walk afterwards, originally to see if that market that Katya bought her French baguettes at last week was around, but finding no sign of a market, it became just a chance to be outside in sunshine before I had to go back to work. I felt rather dopey in the afternoon, and I was struggling to keep awake while I was trying to complete the Heat Transfer homework for this week. By 4:30pm, I called it quits and went to play the piano for 45 minutes, before coming back to check out the latest slot car news and do a little bit of singing to myself. The clock his 6:00 and I was peckish, but it seemed a little early for dinner. I decided to go for another walk down to the Price Centre, past Geisel and round the canyon road back. I was back at Warren at 6:45, and felt much better for getting out and about. Still feeling it was too early I had a leisurely look around the Founders Day exhibits the RA’s had organised at SAC, and got a free hot dog for my efforts.

At 7:15, I decided it was time for food, and headed down to CV for dinner. I made a bee-line to get my traditional bowl of pasta, and since the main meal options were not, for the most part, too desirable, I made myself an overflowing bowl of salad. After paying, I glanced around the canteen to see if anyone I knew was in, and perceiving none I started looking for some seating in the light, should I go on the left or the right? I went left, and obviously plumped for the right way as a dark shadowy figure had raised their hand, and it looked like they were waving. I turned around to check behind, and lo, it must have been for me. I began to squint, hoping to catch a glimpse of the face whom the hand in question belonged to. After doing my best impression of a tree for a few moments (as said during an aside on Malcolm when he forgot his lines in the school play: “this is one of those moments that feels like an eternity, but is only a couple of seconds”, except his dad then whispers to his mum in the audience, “why hasn’t Malcolm said anything for 5 minutes?”) I decided to go to investigate. I quickly recognised one of the faces from Monday, and next to him was sitting Ash (the owner of the hand), and before I knew what was what a voice in the corner shouted ‘hello there!’

I was slightly confused for a moment, as I didn’t recognise the owner of this voice, but he quickly had began an introduction round the table game, and everyone gamely said their name and gave their favourite CV food. As I cast my head around, I recognised more faces from Monday, and they all seemed quite pleased to see me, which I wasn’t going to complain about! My accent may help a great deal still, but that novelty will eventually wear off so I’ve got to cash in while I can. I had a chat with the guy over the table to me, who was called Jordan, and I gathered he was the de-facto leader of their small group. At 7:45, they all got up to go, as there was a large group meeting. I’m not sure what that is, but as they were all leaving Jordan hung about and said that since it was Ash’s birthday tomorrow, they were thinking about making a cake at about 10:30 when they got back, would I be interested? I said I would definitely, as anything with cake is good, but I decided it would also be a lot of fun. They headed off, and I came back to the apartment to have a lie down and rest, seeing as I was now going to be up a bit later that I had previously planned. At 10:15, I decided to head off for a wander while I was waiting for the call to say they were back. After circling the block 3 times, I was back in the flat at 10:45, and began to think that they’d probably forgotten about me. In a rare moment of pro-activeness though, I decided to take matters into my own hands and rung Jordan up to see what the state of play was. He said they’d just got back, so I headed downstairs to his apartment, and there was something of a gathering in place. After I arrived, a few more people turned up, most notably one of the people from their small group called Stephanie who helped keep many feet on the ground in the cake-making process.

I was surprised, as they hadn’t really planned it in advance. The first thing Jordan said was “what do we need to cook a cake in?” Ohh. We quickly found a tin, and then we had to head round the corner to Earls’ Place to get the cake mix. This is America remember, and so people don’t make cakes using margarine, eggs, flour and caster sugar, here you use cake mix. One of the guys, with the help of a YouTube video, decided a Coca-cola cake would be a bit of a laugh, so that was what was attempted to be made. At 11:30, we began mixing, and at 11:55 it was in the oven. Someone else had gone back to Earls’ to get the frosting and jelly beans to decorate it, and at 12:20 we deemed it ready to come out of the oven. It was still hot though, and this was a problem. By this point, myself, Stephanie and another chap had become the only ones really paying attention to the cake, which, to speed up the rate of cooling before putting the frosting on, had a 10 minute trip into the freezer. We took it out before it got some literal frosting, and when no one else stepped up to decorate it with the jelly beans, I began to spell out some nice colour co-ordinated letters. Someone else joined in, and in two shakes of a ducks tail, ‘Happy 18th Ash’ was all present and correct on the vanilla frosting. The clock struck 1am.

Quietly, our large group of 20+ began to head out of Jordan’s apartment for the 300yd walk to Ash’s, but it was not 300yds without many perils to face. I was pleased to see the real reason why the ground is always went in the morning, and why the grass is never dry, as everywhere you looked there were sprinklers, sprinkling for all they were worth, making the path wet. Just as the patrolling security officer walked by, looking curiously at our large group, 2 people slipped on the water and came skidding firmly down to the terra cotta. Then in hilarious twist of fate, the person who had loudly burst out laughing at this embarrassingly fell base over apex on the same point. We were all laughing at this stage, and the security officer was looking even more closely at us, probably wondering what we’d been taking/drinking. She seemed to satisfy herself that we were ok, but that didn’t stop her from regularly appearing in the background for the next 10 minutes. Outside Ash’s there was another lack of a plan about what to do next. Should we go in or drag her out? After a few minutes, it was decided to sing happy birthday quietly outside. She seemed quite surprised and taken aback to see us, but fortunately not the sort of surprised that seems to say “what on earth are doing out here at 1:15am?”

We made our way in after another couple of minutes, and the cake was carved up. Sadly, the addition of Coca-cola did nothing to stop the cake from falling apart as soon as you look at it. The large lumps and crumbs were very nice though, as was the icing and jelly beans! Certainly not a bad effort, and it was happily a success! Many people had left, and after I had been shown me a rather amusing clip on YouTube, our final group began to make our way back towards the promise of a warm comfortable bed and sleep.

I couldn’t help feeling it was strange that if I’d gone to eat 20 minutes earlier, I would have bumped into them, and then I would have gone to bed at 11pm, and not joined in making the cake. I love how life has its odd little curveballs and unexpected little treats every now and then, it makes life interesting and exciting!

Thursday was more business as usual, with classes and then homework. I bought a few bars of Cadbury the other day, as not only did I feel like some, but I thought that that might be nice to give Ash some for her birthday. It’s by appointment to HM The Queen, so it’s frightfully English and much better than America’s Hershey’s. She seemed to appreciate the thought.

About two weeks ago I was beginning to slightly worry that I was struggling to make friends here, but in these last two weeks, through a number of chance encounters, things have come close to turning on their head and I feel that I’m really starting to find my feet now. Life is good, and long may it continue to be!

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