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Letters from abroad

I watch a lot of television here.

I can't help it. I have a television in my room. There are only five channels, but still, it's constant access. Furthermore, I'm one of the seven college students in all of the continental United States that does not possess a laptop, and so I have no entertainment in my room after hours except for the television. I watch more American programming here in the UK than I ever did back in the States. My schedule revolves around Supernatural, CSI: Las Vegas, and House M.D. I become upset if I don't make it back from the Laundromat on Sundays in time to watch Monk. I even watch and like-against my will-ER. Clearly I have developed some sort of disease. I have also begun watching some British programming, of course. Friday nights are devoted to Mock the Week (a sort of British version of Saturday Night Live) and The IT Crowd (a British sitcom about the hilariously inefficient IT department of some random corporate company). Alas, the infamous British soaps are mostly lost on me because I am not familiar with the characters or the storylines.

What may come as the biggest surprise to you is this: I have become susceptible to advertisements.

You see, British snacks are in a category of their own. A category labeled Awesome. Besides the odd flavours of crisps (last week I tried Roasted Chicken and Thyme), there are the sweets and biscuits. Some of them you can get in the States: Flake bars, Aero, Cadbury, etc. But in the UK, they come in variety. Mint Aero. Praline Flake bars. Cadbury fingers (chocolate-covered biscuits) come in Caramel, Crunchy, and White. Then there are unbelievable amounts of things that we are mercilessly deprived of in the States: Penguin bars, Jaffa Cakes, HobNobs, Happy Face biscuit sandwiches. I am already feverishly calculating how I can free up space in my luggage for food.

But how do I know what to try? Advertisements, of course. In the States, I am inured to the constant barrage of images commanding me to buy this toy set or that pair of shoes. Here, I await avidly the next order from the god of consumerism. Last week I bought a packet of Revels, which are small, round chocolate-coated candies that are mostly indistinguishable, but taste different: orange, coffee, plain milk chocolate, malt ball and a fifth flavour I can't remember. The idea is that it's a surprise whenever you put one in your mouth, I suppose. Today, I bought a Galaxy chocolate bar. It is a complex chocolate bar with a bottom layer of dark chocolate and a top layer that is equally divided between milk chocolate and some third flavour, of which I could choose from the likes of raspberry, Cocoa Crisp, hazelnut and coffee (I opted for coffee). I look in vain for Nobby's Thick Crisps, which are extra-thick, crunchy potato chips that look very pleasing on the advertisement.

Now I'm hungry. This country has gotten to me. Send help.


Michelle Ma