In the Lockdown Interim

I was supposed to write about a month ago and I am normally the one who makes sure someone posts each week, and I felt like I couldn’t do that when I was behind. So, sorry readers.

I was originally supposed to write about the week of Nov 28-Dec 5 and that week was a whirlwind. So I guess I’m the one to tell it.

We came out of lockdown on Dec 3, and the feeling among the housemates and scholars I socialize with seemed to be that not that much would change — we were in the groove of research, and had less time to socialize than we had had previously. But lockdown did end, as did the term and things did change. The first day out of lockdown included a kayak polo practice, an outdoor lunch with my lab, and a holiday dinner with my household.

Over lockdown, I had starting playing kayak polo (or canoe polo as it’s called in the UK and in Europe). Well, not playing. I had started going out with one other person and had invested in some neoprene booties because the Cam is FREEZING in the winter, and you get much wetter in a kayak than rowing. We went for two kayak outings over lockdown with just the two of us due to lockdown rules. As soon as lockdown ended though, it was time for a six person canoe polo practice!

Now, what is canoe/kayak polo you might ask? It’s a game played in sit-in kayaks with goals in the air with a water polo ball and rules similar to water polo or soccer (European football). I stumbled upon it in Austin where they play under the bridge around when Blues on the Green, an outdoor summer live music series, happens. I joined in on a couple of practices there one summer and then continued in New York with a team that plays on the Hudson during my internship.

Felouch Kotek, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a fun sport, and a friendly bunch who play it everywhere I’ve been. If you’re interested in trying it out, in the US they tend to be on meetup and called kayak polo (in looking up that link I discovered that London, Austin and New York have the three biggest Kayak Polo groups on meetup apparently).

Anyhow, back to the practice — it was very fun, but my fingers were completely numb by the end of it, to the point where I couldn’t straighten my hand enough to get my jacket on and had to instead hold my fingers in a fist.

That afternoon, my lab had a very fun lab lunch outdoors protected from a downpour by the gazebos at Churchill. We ordered pizza and my PI brought some hot beverages and dessert. As a side note, I feel very lucky–I was put in contact with my PI by someone I knew from a previous neuroscience internship, and she had loved working with him. My PI (Guillaume Hennequin) is very supportive, makes time for his students, and is really good at explaining things. My lab-mates have also been great at welcoming me and making me feel like part of the lab even during this pandemic where we don’t get to interact organically all that much. One (Xizi) is working from China, so we included her at our table via zoom, and she took the picture below.

Screenshot Credits to Xizi Li

Later that night our house got to have a Christmas dinner in the hall, and I got to see and experience UK traditions like crackers (a candy shaped package that you pull apart with crowns and little toys and jokes inside) and Scotch eggs (a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage, then breaded and deep-fried) which my carnivorous housemates told me were very yummy.

That was Thursday, the first day out of lockdown. On Saturday, the Churchill scholars got a private tour of the Churchill War Rooms. This had originally been called off when it seemed lockdown would be extended, and was called back on again the week of. We considered trying to stay overnight in London because we had heard some previous years did this, but covid rules made this too complicated and expensive, so we took the first train in in the morning. This is normally when we’d first meet Mike Morse (The Executive Director of the Churchill Foundation) in person, but unfortunately covid prevented that from happening. The tour was really cool though, and most of us stuck around and explored London for a bit afterwards. We got to see the chair that Churchill had worn at with his nervous habits and signet ring, and the map room including areas like the Strait of Gibraltar that had to be papered over because they had so many pins going in and out of them that they wore out. There were also some really funny quotes of his that we had fun going through. There was a small section about Churchill and India, and some of the more controversial parts of his legacy as well that I was glad to see and wish I could have spent more time with.

Photoshop credits to Tom (can you spot which one of us is photoshopped in?), Phone balancing credits to Macy and Alice.

I stayed in London until the last train back so I could meet up with a second cousin that I hadn’t seen since I was four, and spent some time with Isaac Cui, my friend from high school who has a much more cerebral blog than mine (I’m featured in two posts).

All in all, the first days out of lockdown were significantly busier than I had anticipated, and also very fun, if slightly exhausting. With the new strain, Cambridge is now in Tier 4, which is essentially lockdown rules. I’m looking forward to spending more time with my housemates and have enjoyed a bit of time off during this vacation — I’ve read The Testaments (Margaret Atwood, sequel to Handmaid’s Tale), The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zaphón), and The Girl with the Louding Voice (Abi Daré), all of which I would recommend.

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