Saturday, May 31, 2003

i have a feeling this entry is going to be long. i just sat down at an internet cafe a few blocks from the yoga studio where i just finished a class. i'm exhausted from a night of clubbing that got me to sleep near 4 am. it was interesting, i suppose. well, not really. it was just like any other night of clubbing, just in a different city. i don't know if it's because americans and brits are so alike or if it's because club culture is relatively uniform throughout the globe, but there was nothing distinctly british about clubbing in london, save the accents. same drab places, same crowded dance floors, same meat market vibe. i'm not sure if it was worth the trouble of trying to coordinate six opinionated girls with different ideas of what constitutes a good night out. we hit up two different places (oxygen and club rumba) and managed to reduce the covers of both, because six girls wearing makeup and tight tops can take you far in clubland. i did have a very good time cutting a rug at the second club, which played decent house music to an appreciative crowd. there, i shook my ass as only a true house music aficionado -- who's neither interested in scoring ecstacy nor getting laid -- can. yet it still doesn't make me want to party too much in london because, i'm sad to report, it's not all that fun. the bars close early (11 or midnight) and the people aren't so warm. maybe it's cus i'm a tourist who doesn't know where to go and yadda yadda, but i'll save my midnight oil for spain, where going out always promises a good time.

in other news, i ended my production rotation at work on friday and begin the reporting part on monday. i'm starting work on my first story and have conducted two pre-interviews for it already. with the help of my very kind boss, al, the story has found a new focus and is ready to move forward. i only hope do some original reporting with it instead of rehashing news that's already out there. i'll only say that it's about tony blair, whom i'm sure i'll have no problem getting on the phone for a comment. my first pre-interview was a disaster. i called some cocksure professor at the london school of economics (LSE) who was all too happy to remind me how lucky i was to have his superior expertise contribute to my lowly story. our conversation went something like this:

me: so, professor, tell me what you think tony blair's...(insert details of general story idea here)

the asshole: look, if someone like you is going to be talking to someone like me, you better have more focused questions. otherwise, you're just wasting my time.

me: ok. well, as i mentioned before, this is a PRE-interview, so i'm just--

the asshole: yeah. yeah, i know what a pre-interview is. i taught journalism classes before. give me a better question.

me: well, i was hoping you could just take the question i gave you and respond with whatever enters your mind first. i know the question is general, but i'm looking for your first response, because that response will be the most important aspect of this story.

asshole: i don't have time for this. i could go on for hours with what you're asking me. go get some more focused questions, because i need to call back time magazine and the economist.

that was the gist, no lie. luckily, i have it all on audiotape, which i am saving for posterity. i shared it with al, who agreed that the guy was unnecessarily rude and gave me some good pointers for dealing with assholes interviewees in the future. i didn't take it personally or get too upset by it. it was obviously not about me or the story. it was about this one guy and his ego. the fact that assholes exist doesn't bother me so much. living long enough will expose you to plenty of assholes. it's not worth becoming upset over each one. what bothers me is that these assholes are everywhere. even in places you wouldn't expect to find them. teachers and doctors can be assholes too, and those are real people professions. maybe dealing with people who are assholes turns them into even bigger assholes, but that's a chicken-or-egg question i'll save for some other time.

anyhow, following the hellish interview, i called a different professor, one from cambridge, and he was all too happy to help. he kindly answered my general questions without asking for clarification or focus, confirming my suspicion that i wasn't the one off the mark. he agreed to a proper interview once i had my questions narrowed, so i won't need asshole LSE professor after all.

so my internet cafe time is running low. just want to add that the weather has been abnormally hot and bit humid, but it's a nice change from the overcast skies and shower london is famous for. i also sent out postcards the other day so if you sent me your address, expect something in the mail soon. see you next time. same bat time, same bat channel.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

on work, things are moving along swimmingly here at the VOA london bureau. i've been working on the production side of things for the past week and have enjoyed it immensely. i now know how to take in a story from VOA correspondents all over the world, be it through phone line, ISDN, FTP or email. i'm also quite proficient in the editing software VOA uses. once i've made the necessary edits, i can pass stories to the Washington bureau, which is ultimately responsible for broadcasting all the stories VOA puts out.

it's actually not a complex process, just a series of baby steps to get things to air. once mastered, it moves fairly quickly and now, a week later, i've been able to turnaround stories in about 10 minutes. it's cool to hear things i packaged broadcast worldwide just minutes after i've sent them to washington. i feel pretty comfortable with this stuff now. certainly, i'll sometimes still miss a step or cut things up wrong, but there have been no major upsets with my work so far. the technicians i'm working with have actually said that i picked up the software quickly. i'm always open to learning new programs, though the people here have said VOA's systems for getting out its news are "antiquated," so they won't be much use to me after i leave this place.

otherwise, my days in radio production come to an end tomorrow (friday). all of next week will consist of reporting, and i hope to get at least one story done. my big, major, juicy story that i can't talk about here. i'm conducting my first interview for it tomorrow. following that i have two more stories lined up for the duration of my internship here. i think my boss likes me, or at least doesn't hate me. he's kind of a serious, poker face type of guy with a great broadcast voice, salt-and-pepper beard and tons of experience. he's also an amazing editor with oodles of patience. he's the top guy in a sometimes busy newsroom and i've never seen him lose his cool or change his tone. very solid guy, i'd like having him as a boss as he doesn't meddle or micromanage. since i've been in production, i've only interacted with him a handful of times per day, which is good for me since i need a lot of room and independence no matter where i work. i'm sure we'll get to know each other better when i start my editing rotation in two weeks. but for now, all is well on the workfront.

the weather has been unseasonably beautiful the past few days, even too warm for a jacket. tonight holds a thai dinner and two-hour class with my professor. hasta manana.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

last night was truly mahvelous, dahlings. i ducked out of work at five exact, went home for a quick change and bite, and hit up a yoga class just two tube stops away from my pad. i was a pro at the tube, like a bonafide superhero, my cape fluttering out behind me each time a passing subway car left me in its windy wake. i wish i had a camera to record the finesse with which i successfully navigated the rush-hour crowds, making my connection effortlessly and only having to stop for directions once when back above ground, arriving at the yoga studio, elated, with minutes to spare.

if you don't already know, i'm a great big fan of yoga. i'm been doing it on and off for the past few years and pretty religiously for the past six months. everyone should at the very least try it -- women, men, children, pets, everyone. it's the only thing that kept me sane during my very hectic first year of school. good for the spirit, soul, body, digestion, nervous system, everything. and despite the general disdain i have for all things exercise, yoga is one of three things i don't mind breaking a sweat for (the other two being sex and dancing, of course).

the class went well, will definitely repeat it. afterward, i slowly made my way back to the flat, which was unusually empty and quiet. i downed a huge bottle of water, and then sank into a hot bath, where i stayed until my fingertips turned into raisins. a slow shower and much needed mud mask followed, with the evening's finish line being the couch, where i sat calmly reading -- relaxed, refreshed, blissful.

meanwhile, all of the others in my program could be found in some london theatre suffering through a performance of "my fair lady," which judith kindly let me opt out of. my flatmates returned past 11 pm complaining that the play was indeed as boring as i had suspected it would be, making me even more pleased with my decision to do my own thing. that's something i've decided i need to do a bit more of while here. for all that these six weeks are a work experience, an education, an adventure, a vacation, they're also an opportunity to enter the alone zone. i used to have a golden rule that about 50% of my free time would be spent socially, the other 50 on my own. i haven't made those numbers in years. this summer will allow me to forget the mundane responsibilities of a dog that needs to be fed, the papers that need to be written, the deadlines that have to be met, the bills that require payment by day's end lest the water will be shut off. for a few brief weeks, all that can be pushed to the wayside in favor of lazy, long afternoons spent sitting pensive in a cafe, a simple pleasure i once enjoyed with frequency. sigh.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

i'm having difficulty figuring out how to archive correctly. damn blogger, i think i may switch to a different web-based blogging site, one that allows a guestbook or something. but that's a project for when i return -- if i return, that is. i'm digging my time here.

the only thing really throwing me a curve ball is the sun setting so late. i forget how far north london is. my cousin said that if you get a globe and put your finger on alaska and spin the globe about halfway, you would land on the UK. thankfully, it's not as cold, but daylight ends at around 9:30 pm and resumes at about 4 am. this can be a problem if sunlight peeking through curtains in the mornings wakes one up prematurely (as it does me) or if the sun setting acts as a signifier that it's time to mozy on home on weeknights. last night, i left the pub with the sunset, shocked to find that it was nearly 10 pm by the time i came home. i guess that could make yet another good argument for getting a wristwatch, something i've avoided for years despite my chosen career path of becoming a deadline-driven journalist. i just figure that someone around me will have the time, and you know what, someone usually does.

otherwise, i've been urged to include more dirt on this site. i figured that the picture of my drunk boyfriend's head between two bottles of wine below would do the trick, but the public demands more salacious goodies. so on that note, two of my flatmates found themselves with a raucous group of brazilians at a gay nightclub last night, where they had an unpleasant experience with stinky poppers (perfectly legal here), there's one person on my program who's rumored to be quite the slut and another whom everyone hates, and we're only a week into this journey. see, it's no fun to mention when you can't really go into these things. but rest assured, it's not as boring as my blog makes it out to be.

and in news more appropriate for my professor (hi judith!), i've noticed that the british read a ton more than americans. and what's weird about the morning news shows is that their hosts just go over the headlines of each major paper and of the tabloids as well. this happens on virtually every show, just so people can get a feel for which papers they should buy that day. there are plenty of big stories today, here's one that i found especially interesting.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

what's up, party people? i've heard back from about three of my friends who are reading this. them and my professor make four. i've also turned my mom onto my website, which i was hesistant to do before because of that whole lesbian personal essay on here, but she handled it like a champ. thanks, mom, you're the best! and yes, i'll try to keep my use of the f-word to a minimum, sorry. so with her that makes five. and i think some of my classmates here in london have looked me up, so maybe i can get up to 10 people reading this thing regularly. whoo-hoo! that's enough of a fan club for me.

shout out to my good friend and fellow blogger, jeremy, who showed me how to hyperlink. please check out his blog, which, if i did it right, should link directly from his name. thanks, germ. please let me know if you want me to pick you up any euro comics. i'm trying to find a gift for you.

otherwise, this weekend hasn't been too shabby. friday night saw a friend of a friend very kindly coming out to meet me. i thought it was lovely, though i needed to cut the night short for some shut-eye. i still can't shake this jet lag. i'm always pooped by mid-afternoon. so i slept in until noon on saturday and went to the very famous portabello road when i woke up. i did a bit of shopping over there and headed to covent garden afterward where i finally found my very favorite beer on tap in a pub: caffreys. yum. it's a great irish ale i used to have in this one bar in SF. i was so thrilled to find it that i drank two pints. i'm surprised it took me so long. i thought i'd surely find it in nearly every pub, but no cigar (or irish ale). and i haven't been able to find it since. rats!

saturday night was supposed to be a big clubbing night, but i passed out by eleven after watching the incredibly cheesy eurovision -- a yearly show where each country sends its best pop music act to compete against the others, resulting in one bad song after another for three hours. winner gets bragging rights, i suppose. it's very american idol-esque, where the winner is determined by european voters, who are forbidden from voting for their own country through phone blocks or something. turkey took the prize, with belgium and russia right behind, respectively. what's tragic is that the UK entry scored zero points, though the british band was far from the worst act on display. every other country got some points. must be the post-iraq backlash, or so said the very funny BBC announcer. in any case, it put me to sleep damn quick and i never made it out to the clubs with my flatmates, who stumbled in at 4 am.

this was probably a good thing because sunday was spent at the ultra-cool area known as camden town, a street similar to the haight district in SF, packed full of head shops, funky clothes, cheap stores and good ethnic foods. so that's where all the london punks a la sex pistols hang out. i bought a bunch more stuff there and found things i had seen at portabello road the day before for about half the price. i went with a classmate (melissa) who is fast becoming a good friend. she got her nose pierced there and we split a crepe. as ice cube would say, today was a good day.

tomorrow holds work, though it shouldn't as it's a bank holiday in england, which means that most people have the day off and all the stores will be closed. we should also have the day off, but bossman wanted us to come in and work work work. i'm enjoying my work so far, but it'd be better if it were only four days a week. there's too much in the city i'd rather be doing. even after the first week, it already feels like any other office job, with coffee, computers, ringing phones, etc. nothing about it feels distinctly british. half of the staff is even american.

one of my fans (juanito de la plancha) says this blog is too sanitized and he wants to hear about the mega drama going on between my flatmates and the overabundance of girls here on the program. but again, my mom and professor are reading this, so it wouldn't be right for me to bring up the strange finnish boy who found his way to my flat's couch on friday night or the little spat between myself and some of the girls on saturday, so we'll leave those stories to one's imagination (or to the personal e-mails). but really, surprisingly, things have been calm in my household. with five girls, you'd think it'd be dramarama, but it's been nothing but fun in the sun. really. let's hope it stays that way. any major blowouts will be recorded here, but so far it's only been stuff like, "can you hurry up in the bathroom?" "please turn off that light," and "that guy was sooo NOT cute." i'll do a rundown of each of my flatmates and how they contribute to the great dynamic in a future entry, but for the time being, we all love each other. really.

signing off for now. but before i go i'd like to send a big hello to my boyfriend, who i'm really starting to miss. hi sugarbear!! the downside of living with so many girls is that much of the time is occupied with talking about boys and the more i talk about my latin stallion at home, the more my heart starts to hurt and the more i miss him. so hello pablo. i hope you remember to read this and hurry up and visit already, damnit! hugs and kisses to everyone else.

Friday, May 23, 2003

a few more observations before i take off of work:

  • there's a starbucks on every corner. some are spaced only four doors apart. i initially promised myself that i wouldn't enter one and stick to eurotrash coffee, but i'll confess that i've begun to frequent the one by my office. it's almost the same exact menu as the one in the states, frapaccinos and all.

  • to be filed under "it's the little things that count," no toilet seat covers exist here. i'm always worried when i enter a public restroom that i'm going to catch crabs, so i have to do that little balancing dance or lay TP over the seat.

  • anything low fat is called "skinny," so i've begun to say things like, "i'll have a skinny medium latte for take away (to go)."

i edited my first VOA piece today that actually got on the air. all about the earthquake in Algeria. if i can figure out how to make hyperlinks within the blog i'll link to it directly. germy, if you're reading this and know how, drop me a line.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

some observations on the way things are over here (as compared to over there and as required by my professor if i'm to use this thing to fulfill my journal requirement):

  • the way parliament meetings work in britain is so bizarre. tony blair's labour party is on one side of the room while the opposing parties (tories, lib. dems) are on the opposite side. a big debate ensues with members questioning the PM through a speaker who sits in the center in a black robe and one of those silly little wigs. no one is allowed to address each other directly, though they look at one another head on. there's all this hissing and shouting and egging on going on, which is so out of character for the generally reserved brits. blair gets up and answers questions posed by members of all the parties, some of them framed so sarcastically. big laughs come out of the house and it's clear to see that everyone is trying to outsmart each other through their deadly wit and clever turns of phrase. i gotta admit that blair is damn quick on his feet. i'd like to see bush defend himself in the same manner.

  • and then when the members vote on an issue, they just exit parliament chambers and form two lines : yay or nay. the heads get counted for the vote, so it's almost impossible to record who voted which way, which sucks if you're trying to find out someone's voting record.

  • another weird thing about the supposedly reserved brits: if there's too long a line to try clothes on in a store, they just change in the store. i haven't seen anything too racy, just people putting on the merchandise on top of the clothes they're already wearing, but it struck me as odd.

  • cars have the right of way. i've always known this to be a fixture of europe in general, but it sucks. tourists have been struck so many times that they have signs at most intersections now: "look left" and "look right" -- no doubt for the americans who are unaccustomed to cars driving on the left side of the road. i've been getting into the practice of fully stopping at each intersection and looking both ways before crossing.

  • the food still friggin sucks, though i've heard it's gotten much better in the past few years, which makes one wonder how horribly terrible it was before. i was here about eight years ago and yeah, it sucked then too. (disclaimer: i've yet to sample the indian food here, so i may be changing my tune after the big indian dinner i'm scheduled to have tonight with my roommies.)

  • speaking of food, there doesn't seem to be any place to sit down and eat up along fleet street -- everything is kinda grab and go. the new thing here is a chain called "pret a manger," which means "ready to eat" in french. it's all prepackaged lunchtime food that people just take back to the office. there aren't even any tables there that one can sit at. spanish and italian people would have a heart attack if they saw that: to actually not sit down and enjoy a slow, lazy lunch in much of europe is unheard of. as far as i understand, this is yet another way that britain is turning into a clone of the US, the inventor of the power lunch. london is now reported to be the most stressed out place in western europe. everything about it resembles new york more than it does paris.

ok, time to go. is anyone reading this? please email me if you are:

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

i've just had my first full day of work at the illustrious Voice of America, which is located on the even more illustrious Fleet Street in central london. from the 6th-floor office are decent views of big ben, the houses of parliament and part of westminster abbey. directly to the left of the building is gorgeous st. paul's cathedral. today was truly the first day i felt like i was in london. it felt surreal before, but coming to work and actually working somehow validated my arrival. it felt like a pinch on the ass.

i'm excited to be here and ready to absorb this great city that i'm falling in love with. i'm already sure i can live here. and i think i'm really going to like my internship, the whole working for the US government thing withstanding. my new boss has over 25 years' experience working as a journalist, and he seems as if he's going to be a very good guide who's not a micromanager. i already have my first story assignment, one that both frightens and intruiges me. it's big stuff, not like the boring city council meetings and low-level court crap i was covering last year in j-school. this is a big, complex international story. i'm not sure that i can report it on this blog since my professor said there are confidentiality issues with VOA that my blog might violate. i need to clear it with her first, but i will definitely link to it when it airs.

and tomorrow is the big voice-audition day. i chose a VOA story that i'm going to practice tonight before taping it tomorrow morning. then it heads over to washington, d.c., for review by a committee that will decide whether my voice has what it takes to go on the air. bossman said to expect a rejection -- all tryouts get one their first time out. but i'm going to practice all the same. but the real best part about this job is that i can actually walk to and from work, and it's just 20 minutes away! two of my roommies have to take a ton of trains to get to their jobs, their commute time totaling an hour each way. my work hours are a lax 9-5pm. the setup for the next six weeks is also lovely: two weeks of production, one week of editing and three weeks of reporting. i start the production part of my training tomorrow while the other two interns, als and melissa, begin on the reporting part. what's even better is the three of us get along famously. it all seems too good to be true. i guess the only bad part is that i'm not getting paid for any of this and am actually paying them for allowing me to work here.

in other news, there is no other news.

Monday, May 19, 2003

so the jetlag isn't as bad as i thought it would be. i woke up this morning at 5 am, but have been able to sustain my energy all day. being in europe always reminds me how lazy i am. walking everywhere is difficult, i feel as if my feet are about to fall off. and it's only day one, it better get better. the weather is all kinds of unpredictable, with bursts of rain and cold wind followed by blue skies and warm sun. and it's crazy expensive over here, especially with the dollar being so weak. the ladies and i went shopping and stocked up on canned goods. i'm determined to eat every meal in, which is probably better for my taste buds, as the food here is crummy.

but i don't mean to complain. i'm just adapting to these new environs and am glad for it. i'm having a blast with my roommies and sucking in the city. tomorrow is a walking tour and some more orientation. i bought a London A-Z Guide and plan on getting a Time Out London tomorrow so i can see what shows are going on in the coming week. it's very mundane already.

let's see, what else is interesting?? oh yeah, my roommies and i were walking home last night and saw a guy crack his head open on the sidewalk. i've never seen such a sight. he was stumbling past us, drunk (as his friend who stumbled past himself about 20 minutes later explained) when he slammed into the ground, head first onto the cement. he started gushing blood and then having what appeared at the time to be seizures, those he was likely vomiting up his alcohol. and the blood just kept coming, his face clotted up with it. after we got over the initial shock, we ran over to a parked car, in which sat two guys from jamaica consulting a map. we asked to use their cell phones and called the bleeding man an ambulance. none of us knew where we were exactly, so the operator was getting as frustrated with us as we were with her. two brits kindly took the phone and the ambulance arrived 15 minutes later. meanwhile, the man kept trying to get up and falling down. we were annoyed that the paramedic took so long to arrive and told her so. she told us to stay out of the way and let her do her job, so we eventually left the man in her able hands and felt like obnoxious americans who expect everything their way. in retrospect, it was probably no big deal to them -- another drunkard splitting his head on the sidewalk. but to us it was much more traumatic. we talked about it at length for a long time afterward and told everyone we saw about what happened (though they seemed less interested in it than we were). it was just such a terrible sight. it seemed like he was going to bleed to death right in front of us while we stood helpless -- not having a clue where we were and without a phone of our own. i also felt bad that i was too chicken shit to go up to him and tell him to hang on and that help was on the way. no one did. we just yelled at him to sit still from a distance, all of us too scared to come close to the blood. from where i stood some 20 feet away, the sight of his bloodied face made enough of an imprint to flash before me a few times when i closed my eyes last night. i'd like to think that if given another chance, i would come nearer to him and offer some comfort, but i'm not sure. his name was eugene.

other than that, i've just been adjusting to my new life here. i get lost nonstop, even with a map in my hand. i'm going to make my world-famous burritos for my roommies tonight, for everyone except als, who refuses to eat meat in the UK for fear of foot-and-mouth and mad cow. she's a vegetarian this summer. what's comical about this is that she absent-mindedly ordered eggs the other day at a cafe and has been battling food poisoning ever since.

that's about it for me. i need to keep a regular journal while i'm here to fulfill a class requirement. even though i'm working, i am earning credit toward my degree and have to attend a class once a week. i think this will serve as the journal, provided my prof OKs it. so expect to see my observations of london and the retelling of events here. i'll try to not make it too boring. cheers for now.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

ok, so i'm in london. just arrived this morning at 11 am after not having slept a wink on the plane. i took about a two-hour nap and headed out for a meeting with my classmates and professors at a local pub. the accomodations are quite nice. it'll be a little cramped with 5 girls in a two bedroom, 2 bathroom flat, but so far so good. the energy in the house has been very positive. it's certainly a girlie show with all of us comparing beauty products and exchanging hygiene secrets. we've been laughing plenty and i hope it will remain that way. maybe i can post some photos of the house and the chicks on this site. i'll see if that's a possibility when i make it to work this wednesday.

otherwise, i'm fucking beat. slept just two hours when i arrived, after having slept four hours the previous night. i cried my eyes out when i left, mostly for my dog, who'll likely think i abandoned her. i'm trying to push all those thoughts out of my head and so far it's been quite easy. there's plenty to keep me distracted and engaged in other things. london is beautiful, despite the weather being a bit overcast and cold. i'm exhausted, can hardly focus on this screen, but will keep trucking on through the night to adjust to the eight-hour difference. the girls want to go to a pub tonight. i think i might join them. (yawn) more later...

Friday, May 16, 2003

ok, now that i have a forum, i can't think of one damn thing to say. i can't imagine that strangers would be reading this, but just in case they are, perhaps i should begin with an introduction. hi there, my name is milla. i live in los angeles, am a 26-year-old student/writer/editor. tomorrow is a big day for me as i'm heading to london for six weeks to embark on an internship with voice of america, an organization owned by a government i can't stand right now. i'm going to try not to let that ruin the experience, however. it's supposed to be an impartial news agency and i imagine i'll be responsible for some of the news that comes out of that place, so wish me luck.

this blog will serve as a way for me to record my adventures in europe this summer. i would have created it from my personal web site,, but (which is proving to be quite a nifty little helper) allows for web-based updating, no dreamweaver necessary, so this is far more convenient, though i'll likely move all this crap to my site in the end. can i say "fuck" here? i guess so, i just did. i'm trying not to worry that my mom will be reading this (hi mom!), as i don't want to censor myself.

friends, please bookmark this page and check back often for updates on what i'm hoping will be the best summer vacation of my life. strangers and enemies, feel free to do the same. send kind regards to and stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

blah, blah, blah.
testing, testing, testing.