Saturday, 13 June 2009
So basically this summer will consist of selling shoes, writing stories, GRE review/reading, and helping out around the house. I’m sure I’ll be able to sneak in a few beach trips, and my 21st IS only a month and a half away. It will be busy and not very lazy and I don’t have as much of it as I usually do, but summer is going to be relatively enjoyable regardless.
I know that in between all the business, though, I’m going to be missing London. I’m going to miss obvious things: the history, the nightlife, the architecture, the sheer vastness of it, the ability to walk out my door and find just about anything I need within 15 minutes, the Tube, the accent, the cider, the pub food, the view from my window, the taxis, the markets, the shopping, and yes, even thelondonpaper. I’m sure that there is so much more that I will miss that I can’t even think of right now because I am too accustomed it. But I’ll realize when I go back, without a doubt. I’m expecting this to feel like a break-up, but one that I must suffer through privately. People at home are going to be offended if I keep talking about how great London was and sharing memories that they can only appreciate for the plot. They’re going to get sick of me talking about my travels, because their lives went on as well. That’s going to be the hardest part I think... the lack of someone to share it all with, the lack of someone who understands that I’ve grown attached to London – it’s home to me. But I guess that’s where you come in, blog dear, and I’ll just relive all my memories and release my homesickness on your virtual pages.
And I’ll be back here. Maybe to study, maybe to live. At least to visit. But it’s only a matter of time.
I’ve only just realized, but I’ve officially called London home. So I guess that’s a good spot to end my journey for now. And it’s a good thing because I only have an hour before I have to check out of my residence hall!
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Anyway, while I’m sitting alone in my room without her comforting two-room-away presence, I figured I had better put my lazy time to good use and update this thing that I’m attempting to pass for a blog. And so here is Chapter 1 of the long-anticipated lengthy detailed Italy trip entry.
I started out my journey at 7am, headed to the tube station with my £12 carry on suitcase (compliments of Primark) and backpack and purse, and made my way (with the help of several people who pointed me in the right direction) to the Victoria Coach Station, where I was able to get on the 8:35 National Express coach to Stansted Airport, where Air Force One would be landing later that day to deliver Barack Obama to the G20 Summit that was occurring in London that week. I checked in, checked my bag, and waited in line for security, who had to search my precisely packed backpack because my makeup set off the liquid sensors. Somewhere along the way I started talking to the grungy Irish guy in line behind me, who turned out to be a history PhD. on his way to a conference, and the smell of alcohol that permeated the air around him was explained when he told me he had haphazardly packed earlier that morning when he was still drunk from the night before. Having nothing better to do, I helped him find more whiskey in the Duty Free shop and he helped me find an Italian phrase book at the airport Waterstone’s, but when he invited me to have some tea with him, or should I say assumed I would have tea with him, before our flights left, I drew the line and insisted that I should really be heading to my gate since Ryanair flights queue early and I liked the window seat.
When I got to the Ryanair section of the terminal there was an employee checking carryon luggage. I stopped and proceeded to take 10 minutes to rearrange the contents of my backpack so that my purse would fit inside, thus abiding by their one-carryon-only rule, but as groups of people started walking by with suitcases, backpacks, purses, and shopping bags with only weak protestation from him I realized that he wasn’t really checking. As soon as I got to the gate I unpacked the contents of my purse and my purse itself from my backpack and waited for the flight to board. Despite being one of the first ones there I was one of the last to get on the plane, but the flight wasn’t full, so I ended up sitting on an aisle with one empty seat between me and a clearly Italian man sitting by the window. We didn’t say much to each other, and beyond the initial “Hi I’m sharing this row with you whether you like it or not” smile and the “Oh jeez there is a four-month-old two rows in front of us” grimace, we didn’t communicate at all for most of the flight. I intermittently studied my new phrase book and mouthed “Vorrei un biglietto di andate per Firenze,” fell asleep, and listened to music, and he was intermittently engrossed in a book titled “Degustations” and the view, but when we began our descent we started to make small talk. He probably between 29 and 32, and was wearing leather shoes, tight dark jeans and a black turtleneck, his hair was spiked Guido-style and his right eyebrow sported a piercing. It turned out he was a sommelier at the Ritz Hotel in London, originally from Italy, on his way to a wine-tasting conference in Verona. Impressed, I shook his hand and introduced myself, and we chatted about London and Italy, the conversation lightly skimming our separate pasts and futures that somehow connected in the present. Afterwe landed, I went to collect my checked bag and we parted – his name was Fabrizio Panchetti, and I was going to find him on Facebook, and maybe we could get together for a drink in London when I got back from my spring break trip.
Overwhelmed by the new country and essentially being asked out at an airport twice in one day I made a frantic call to Johanna before opting to take the Terravision bus instead of the Trenitalia (not to be confused with genitalia) train and I finally completed my journey to Florence.
Johanna was standing there with a sign (of course) when I got off the bus, and we screamed and hugged and then started walking toward Via Pronscola 9, their flat, which was literally right next to the Duomo.
I dropped my stuff off at the house and freshened up a bit before heading to their school, Lorenzo de Medici, where I was accompanying Johanna to her Italian class. I had a tomato-basil-mozzarella panini beforehand, since I was starving from my long travels, and I learned from Johanna that in Italy, if you get food in a cafe, you sit and eat it first, taking your time,and then you pay after. It is also insulting to tip them. I could get used to that. I saw Dana briefly before the class started, because she was going to her Tuesday night wine-tasting class. Beginner Italian was fun and it was especially interesting to learn a little bit with the knowledge I had from French and my Italian phrase book, but also from my linguistics class this semester, Word and Sentence Structure. Being able to pick out patterns in a language really speeds up the process of learning it, and since most of the vowels are pronounced phonetically, rather than silently as in French or unphonetically as in English, I definitely think it is a language that I could grasp. After the class, we went back to their flat and had some dinner – pasta with a sauce made out of vegetables that were essentially stewed together with some garlic, herbs, and olive oil. We had some fresh bread as well as some wine in an attempt to catch up with Dana (who was quite happy as she apparently is every Tuesday night after her class) and overall the meal was delicious and I was stuffed. After sitting around the table and chatting with their flatmates and friends, we went to get some gelato. In fact, every subsequent day I spent in Italy save one I had a piccolo cuppa or a piccolo cone of gelato. At only 2 Euro it was both addicting and delicious and I tried out many flavors before I left, including Tiramisu, Pannacotta, Fragola (strawberry), Cherry, Hazelnut, Nutella, Coconut, Mixed Berry, Dark Chocolate Orange, Lemon, and Stracchiatella (chocolate chip). Mmm calories.
The next day I went to the market with Dana. We walked around the stalls selling leather and scarves and jewelry and souvenirs, and then we made our way to the indoor fresh market, where we picked out fresh bread, salami, mozzarella, and tomato to make sandwiches for lunch. Then there was a two hour block where both Dana and Johanna were in class, so Dana left me in line for the Accademia, the museum where Michaelangelo’s David is housed. The queue was pretty long but I had two hours to kill, so I waited. And waited. And moved a few feet. And waited. I had moved about halfway through the line in the hour and a half that I waited, and after that I gave up. I wandered around the Duomo and found my way back to their flat, and after I let myself in with Dana’s keys I took a little nap, still exhausted from my travelling the day before. When they got back from class, we all had lunch, and then they showed me around Florence a little. We got gelato (of course) and went to the leather market, and then Dana had to go to another class. Johanna brought me to the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge crossing the Arno River that’s lined with little shops hanging off of the sides of it.
It is so picturesque and very pretty. We walked around the river for a while and I was amazed at all of the yellow buildings – in Paris, every building was pretty much made out of the same stone, and they were all white, and in Florence, they are all yellow with red roofs.
We walked back to the Duomo but it was closed for the day so I couldn’t peek inside, and then Johanna had class and Dana got out of hers. I got an iced coffee and Dana and I walked around the market again, where I bought myself a scarf that I proceeded to wear every remaining day I was in Italy. One of the girls from Pronscola 9 had her parents visiting, and they came over to make dinner for us – mini pizzas. Little saucers of fried pizza dough + homemade tomato sauce = yummO. That night Johanna and Dana took me to a nearby bar (which turned out to be London themed!) and we caught up over some sangria.
We then went to another bar that had a dance floor, and were there for less than 10 minutes when we decided it wasn’t really happening. Johanna and Dana had brought their umbrellas because it was raining outside, but when we went to leave the bar the umbrellas were gone! After searching the bar and questioning innocent civilians with similarly colored umbrellas standing outside, we gave up and embraced the raindrops streaming from the sky on our way to the secret bakery. Sadly I don’t have any pictures from it, but the secret bakery is a bakery that illegally stays open for business for 24 hours. After closing time, while the staff inside is busily preparing the next day’s pastries, the hidden back door is unlocked and those in the know can venture inside and get the previous day’s giant scrumptious sweets for 1 Euro each. I had something that Johanna referred to as a “crema” but all I know is that it was a sticky sweet flattened croissant. Mmm. After we finished licking our fingers we snuck back out the door marked “Shhh... Please be Quiet” and headed back home in the rain, passing the bars we had been to on the way. We were lamenting the loss of our umbrellas when I spotted a rose salesman walking toward us who looked slightly ridiculous with his unmistakably feminine teal, brown, and white polka dotted umbrella. I alerted the other two and we marched forward angrily. Johanna went right up to him, seized the umbrella handle and informed him: “Excuse me, THIS is OURS!” He knew he was in trouble because he let Dana’s umbrella go immediately and started hurrying away, with Johanna incredulously reprimanding him from behind: “Why did you take it?!” We never found Johanna’s umbrella, but we were all pleased to share Dana’s on the way home, and we collapsed into hysterics every time we replayed the encounter in our heads.
On Thursday morning Dana and Johanna took me across the river to the Pitti Palace, where the Medicis used to live. I paid an ungodly 10 Euro to gain entrance to the Boboli Gardens surrounding the palace, but they were enormous and breathtaking so I guess I got my money’s worth.
We had nice views of the city of Florence and it was a lovely warm day – I was actually sweating! We also saw the costume museum where they showcased the actual clothing that members of the Medici family were buried in. Weird. When we were done walking around we walked along the street in front of the Pitti Palace and found a cute little nameless cafe to get lunch from. The lady was super nice and I got a pepperoni (which in Italy is “spicy salami”), tomato, and arugula panini drizzled with a little olive oil. We went and ate our sandwiches on the pavement in front of the palace and just enjoyed the sunshine. Dana had class and Johanna and I were going to go to the train station to pick up Flor when her bus arrived, so we got some gelato from the same cafe and ate it on the Ponte Vecchio before it was time to go. We waited for what seemed like forever next to the bus stop at the train station and finally Flor arrived in Florence!
I think I’ll close this chapter of my Italy story for now. I still have to talk about Friday-Sunday in Florence and Sunday-Tuesday in Rome, not to mention the rest of my month of April and now the first two weeks of May... but I am also getting tired and I hope to write more in the morning.
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Anyway, I’ve been feeling really kind of anxious these past few days. My time here is running out, I’m in the middle of exams, I’m making last minute travel plans, and my bank account is shriveling up faster than the Wicked Witch of the West in a water park. (Sorry if that was cheesy.) I feel like I’m losing control. Things are slipping out of my hands as I’m trying to hold on to them – minutes, memories, essays, and pound notes alike. It’s as though I’m trying to slow down, but everything is speeding up and surging ahead around me, and I’m just caught up in the stampede. We’re stampeding toward the end of this semester and being abroad, yes, towards the summer and home and family and sun and warmth and making money instead of spending it. I’m stampeding toward my 21st birthday. My sister is graduating high school and going to college. I’m going to be a senior. I’m going to be a SENIOR. I was just a senior in high school. They warned me it would fly, whoever they is, and I heeded their warnings. I savoured everything, I captured memories, I didn’t take experiences for granted. But I don’t want it to end. I’m ultimately stampeding towards the unknown. There’s a cliff up ahead that I’ll be parachuting off. It’s like a video game. I’ll have to parachute off and try to land on the ledges below that are marked “Employment” or “Grad School.” I’m on my first and last life though. And I don’t even know what to do with it.
I’m probably being overdramatic but that’s the way I’ve been feeling lately. Ever since that guy who started talking to me in the bar laughed and told me that being an English professor wasn’t a real job. Not that the opinion of a stranger should really matter to me – especially a Portuguese man who insults my life’s plan as his pick up line – but still. It makes me remember the hairdresser who, after engaging in the obligatory small talk with me, said “a professor? Why the heck would you wanna do that?” And I had no answer. Just because there’s nothing else. What else is there to do? What else could I be? What do I want? Where do I want to end up? What am I doing with my life?
Well this is overall a really emo and self-pity infested post but maybe I should just post it before I forget and/or get sidetracked. I will update about Italy, hopefully soon, maybe tomorrow, or maybe after my last two tests are done next week. And I will tell you about my goings on since Italy. But I will warn you in an attempt to be completely honest. The next 45 days are going to fly. And in my attempt to keep up with them, I may leave you behind.
Realistically/Idealistically conflictedly yours,
Thursday, 9 April 2009
Let’s see... where to begin... The first week of March I was concerned about preparing for my Paris trip March 6-8 and thus had to find a camera since mine had broken at Fabric the week before. I ended up settling on going to Paris without a working flash and my parents bought one in the States and sent it to me after the trip, since it wasn’t worth it to buy a new one for the prices they were being sold here in the UK. I also went to see Hairspray with the Social Programme, which was really good and really funny! Although I think I like the movie better. I also met up with a guy and went out for some drinks. We really hit it off and ended up wandering the streets of London for a while, and I had a lot of fun.
On Friday March 6, Joy, Hayley and I ventured to Paris! Joy and I were rooming together, and we ended up hanging out with Hayley’s roommate the whole trip too, who was ironically enough also named Hayley, an Australian studying abroad. We took the Eurostar into Garre de Nord and then got on a coach for a sightseeing tour with out Paris tour guide Laurent, or “Larry from Pari” haha. He was an excellent tour guide, and in our first hours in Paris we got to see Place de la Concord,
This is a picture of the crowd of people taking pictures of the Mona Lisa, reminiscent of that scene in The Sixth Sense when all of the parents in the audience of the school play put up their video cameras to film it. For the record, she is smiling. We went to the Latin Quarter for dinner and then headed back to the hotel to collapse into our pillows. (The beds were exceptionally comfortable and I slept like a rock.)
Saturday we woke up and went to breakfast, which was included in the hotel stay. They had a plethora of croissants, fruits, breads and of course, nutella, so we stocked up and wrapped food in napkins to bring with us for lunch. We began our walking tour of Marais, and we got to see a lot of very old buildings in the neighborhood our hotel was a part of.
The tour ended at Notre Dame, and we were able to go in for free.
They are made of the original stained glass, which was carefully numbered and taken down during World War II so that it wouldn’t get damaged. We did some souvenir shopping on the street next to Notre Dame and ate lunch in the gardens behind it, near the flying buttresses.
We could have gone up to the third level, at the very tippy-top of the tower, but the view from where we were was absolutely incredible and I was not very anxious to add more height.
All of Paris was before us and its white buildings stretched as far as the eye could see. It will be even prettier when I go in May because the trees were not in bloom yet, and all of the park spaces were that dull brown-gray that large groups of bare trees always are. It was beautiful, though, and no pictures can really capture the view (although I tried valiantly to do so). Reluctantly, we came down from the Eiffel Tower and started walking towards the Arc de Triomphe (another very long walk) and when we got there we sat for a while watching the free-for-all traffic in the Place de l’Etoile surrounding the Arc, and then we walked down Les Champs-Elysees!
I was humming the song the entire trip. It was actually kind of disappointing – there wasn’t that much good shopping down the street – lots of big names like Louis Vuitton (we went into the 5-story store that was there) but nothing I could really afford, and nothing that was really specifically French.
After that our shopping craving hadn’t really been fulfilled so we took the Metro to Les Galeries Lafayette – the biggest department store I have ever been in. It spanned both sides of the street – one building was the main building, and the other one was Les Galeries Lafayette Homme (men). It was the size of a mall and it was only one store! This is the ceiling.
It was all “tres cher” stuff there but I managed to find the cheap jewelry section and bought myself a chunky ring for 7 or 8 Euro. We were all pretty worn out and cranky after our long day, but we quickly felt rejuvenated after we ate at an Italian place – French Italian, perhaps Fritalian? (Starbucks commercial, anyone?) When we got back to the hotel after that we had every intention of going out, but we realized we were too tired to fathom getting dressed up and instead went on a hunt for cheap French wine (which tasted as expensive as it was) and talked before bed.
Sunday morning it was raining, but we still managed to check out the fresh market that was right outside our hotel, and we got fresh crepes and nutella – yummO!
We got all of our luggage packed up and ready to take on the Eurostar back to London later that day, and then we took the tube to Montmarte and saw Moulin Rouge, which means red windmill, and explored the area.
Which was full of sex shops.
Then Laurent showed up and gave us a tour of the hill of Montmarte, which is a cute artistic area full of little cafes and aspiring artists. He took us winding our way up the hill, and on the way I saw where Van Gogh and Picasso lived, and we had a beautiful view overlooking Paris when we got to the top.
The Sacre-Coeur was magnificent and the whole area was lovely.
We headed back to the hotel, and I got my last pain au chocolat before we headed back to London. It was so nice to be back, even though it had only been 3 days, and I really felt that I could call London home. Getting back to Baker St. felt like coming back home. It’s a nice feeling.
After the Paris trip, my thoughts were preoccupied with the aforementioned budding romance, but after the magic of a second date, a first kiss, and a night out together faded, it became clear that the fairytale was nothing more than a fling. It was fun for a while, but quickly became forced and wasn’t enjoyable for either of us. I don’t regret it at all, because it was a good learning experience, but it is kind of sad that something that seemed to have so much potential has amounted to little more than a wince and small smile at a memory for me. But life goes on, and the whole experience really made me think about my relationships, and to appreciate what I have with Richard. I had been ignoring how much I missed him, a self-protection method surely, but I realized how much he meant to me and how it wasn’t worth losing him because of the distance. I really can’t wait to see him again and I am looking forward to next year at Marist. Speaking of next year at Marist, I chose the classes for my second-to-last semester of undergrad! Since NOT getting into these classes is not an option if I want to graduate on time, I’m just going to assume that I have them all: Honors Edith Wharton, Honors Ethics, English Capping, Abstract Algebra, and Probability/Statistics. Blagh. Another rough fall semester, coming right up! But it will be good because if all goes according to plan (::crosses fingers::) we will be living in Lower Fulton with Jess Link and Lauren, and Valerie is also staying an extra semester as well! So it will be 518 + Jess and Lauren, which will be super fun and I am so excited for it!
Anyway, what else happened in March?? It was my sister Christina’s 15th birthday (ahh I feel so old!) and I sent her a purse I had gotten her in Paris. I wanted to be there but she and Jessica were busy because it was the week of the high school’s musical (sans Zac Efron). I really miss my family (and my cats!!).
We took our final Social Programme trip to York and the North of England, and I was away from the city for the first time since January! It was lovely to explore York (which included climbing a 275-step spiral staircase to the top of York Minster Cathedral) and to be in the countryside. This is York Minster.
Fountains Abbey was gorgeous and we had beautiful weather – we could even walk around without our jackets!
We finished the trip in Haworth, where the Bronte sisters lived, and Joy and I had delicious cream tea before the long coach ride back to London.
St. Patrick’s Day was fun! I proudly put on my bright green shirt and green converse and refrained from painting shamrocks on my cheeks before I went to class, and it’s a good thing because NO ONE else was wearing green!! The only other people I saw wearing green were other Americans in my classes. I guess it’s not that big of a deal here. Thankfully when Hayley, Joy, Verity, and I went out to O’Neill’s that night, everyone was wearing green. We waited a long time in line but we met two Irish guys while we were waiting. They were from Belfast and I could have listened to them talk forever. We ended up seeing them again when we were inside and I danced the night away with them. They were playing an odd mix of hip hop, techno, and fiddle, and every so often a traditional Irish song would come on and everyone would stop grinding and jig. It was pretty amazing and I had so much fun. The highlight of my night was probably when a creepy guy came over and put his hand on the back of my neck and said “You’re from New Jersey, right?” (he must have overheard me in line since he was behind the Irish guys) and I mouthed the word “H-E-L-P” to my friends and Verity said “Excuse me, that’s my girlfriend.” He looked mortified and apologized and left. Whew. Crisis averted.
Valerie came to visit London as well! She stayed with the other Marist kids at their flat and we all met up to go out for some drinks Friday night. Turns out they decided to go to the Hilton at Hyde Park, to the Penthouse Restaurant. We all were mortified at how fancy it was, and we ate lightly, buying the cheapest bottles of wine and having only one course of food each. We exceeded our expectations and disappointed the staff’s with our bill of £308. I had bread, water, one glass of white wine and half of a dessert featuring real edible gold and dark chocolate, and I managed to come in at only £15. I also opted not to spend £12.75 on a cocktail at the Penthouse Bar. It may have been expensive, but it was still fun. Then I hung out with Valerie and Mike on Sunday, and we went to high tea at Harrods, which was also expensive but fun and definitely worth it. They offered free refills of the finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries that came with our tea but we were so stuffed that we didn’t even need any. I discovered that I really like Jasmine Tea! I have never liked tea before in my life, but who knows?! Maybe breathing in the London air has done more than pollute my lungs – maybe the tea-loving atmosphere has finally gotten to me! In any case, the tea was definitely worth the £21, and we walked through Kensington Gardens and hung out at the FIE flat for a while before we headed to Brick Lane to get Indian for dinner. It was great to see Valerie and to hang out with the Marist kids (they leave so soon!!) but I had coursework on the brain since the following week was Week 10. I had two essays due, and despite struggling with the word limit (2300 words for a 1500 max paper) and the printers I managed to turn everything in on time. Hayley, Joy and I celebrated the end of classes with some Pizza Hut, but it was quite sad because Hayley is staying at home now, except for finals and of course visiting us. Hopefully we can go visit her too – an actual British house! And she has a million and a half pets, including a tortoise named Gerty! How cute! Rachel, Beth, Joy and I went out to eat at The Shakespeare pub near Victoria and it was really nice, but it was also kind of sad, since we were all going our separate directions. Rachel’s mom was coming to visit, Beth was going on a 3 week tour of Europe, Joy was going to Germany, and I was going to Italy. It was weird to say goodbye, but at least we still have two months (is that all?? ack!) before we have to say goodbye for real.
Other March happenings? Joy and I booked our Ireland trip – June 4-7, right before we come back to the States! I am super excited though because there is a 3 day tour of the Southern countryside and County Kerry (my homeland!) that we will probably be able to squeeze in. Our flights only cost £5 each way (so naturally the total Ryanair bill came to £59) and we still need to book the buses to and from Stansted and our hostel there. Other than Paris May 16-19, (and Stonehenge/Bath at some point) that will be the only trip I have left to take.
My sister got into UPenn! We were waiting forever for all 10 colleges she applied to to make up their minds, but after being rejected and waitlisted and discouraged, she got in to her dream school! She is still deciding between that and BU but I am so proud of her and happy for her and I’m going to brag about her a lot. =)
All right I think I have pretty much caught you up on March. I will post about my trip to Italy separately, but let’s just say that I had 697 pictures from the trip, so you can guarantee it will be a lengthy post.
Well it only took me until 4am, or maybe 4:30 once I get the pictures in there. I guess now it is technically Day 91, but oh well. My time here is coming to a close, and I am digging my heels in as time drags me toward June 13. It’s not that I don’t want to go back, because I do and I miss everyone from home. But I just can’t imagine NOT being here. I’ve grown very attached to this city, and I do feel like it is my home now.
Saturday, 28 February 2009
Anyway let’s go through the highlights of the past 12 days. I’ll try to keep it limited to the highlights or I will have a novel. I left off two Mondays ago when I was about to go make ziti for Joy and Hayley and they liked it so much that we decided to make dinner together every Monday night, and we would each pick a different dish to make. Joy made breaded chicken this past Monday (and btw breadcrumbs are different here! They’re literally crumbs of bread, not evenly crushed and with no spices on them at all. They are crunchy and chunky so we ended up adding our own spices and trying to crush them further but they still didn’t work as well. We’ll have to crush them up thoroughly before using them in any other recipes.) But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Tuesday my Third World Studies professor decided that the projects would be individual and not group-based in the least, after all that stressing. Thanks. And I wanted to get it over with so I volunteered to go the following week. I don’t think anything else eventful happened that day.
Wednesday (Feb 18th so you can get your bearings) we had the Shakespeare walking tour at 6pm so I missed my night class (yay!) and we met at Blackfriar’s Tube Station (which as of this coming Monday will be closed for 2 years for construction work!) and as Joy and I were walking to meet our tour group, we saw none other than Jess Durante and Mike Takach, who were with their Shakespeare class going on a tour by their Shakespeare professor! I hadn’t seen them since the first day I was here so it was weird but at the same time completely familiar to see them, and it was so funny that we were both doing Shakespeare tours the same night! I told them I’d see them at the Globe with a laugh and left to find our tour guide. The first thing he said to us was “I hope none of you are too disappointed, but we won’t be seeing the Globe tonight. I’ve learned not to include it on my tours because everyone usually goes to see it on their own anyway.” Well let me tell you, buddy, I was disappointed! And so was my aunt who had wanted souvenirs and pictures to show her high school literature class! Ugh. Yet another thing to put on my to-do-before-I-leave list. The tour was decent but nothing very exciting; he did bring us to parts of London that we probably wouldn’t have found on our own, but he mostly pointed to buildings and said “this major Shakespearean landmark used to be here” and then speed-walked to the next site, snapping at us when we were too snap-happy with our cameras. But oh well. I did walk down the road that Shakespeare lived on...
...and I got to see the birthplace of Milton...
...as well as the fragments of the wall that was originally built around London when the Romans ruled in the early ADs (If I remember History of the English Language correctly, sometime before about 700 AD, but I could be wrong).
(statue of Shakespeare above the graves of Heminge and Condell who published/performed most of his works)
Thursday I went to my class, stopped at Mortimer’s on the way back with Christy and Megan and got a delicious pain au chocolat – chocolate croissants are sooo delicious and I could probably eat them any time of the day. Then Joy, Hayley and I did a Primark run since later that night, we would be going to an 80s Roller Disco. Yes. As in an 80s theme club with alcoholic beverages, disco music, and roller skating. In case you don’t know, the last time I went roller skating was when I was 10 years old. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, for my 5th grade skating social. With the help of some friends – Paul Loehr I distinctly remember – I had strapped my roller blades on and had gotten out on the rink after practicing (and falling, and crawling) on the carpet. I had successfully made it to the far side of the rink, football-field-sized in my memory, inching my way along the handrail, when they called for everyone to clear the rink for the hokey-pokey or some equally-dangerous game. I panicked but managed to inch my way all the way around to the exit without getting in trouble. That is an infamously negative day in my head for various reasons – it’s the day we found out we were moving to New Jersey, and it’s the day my mom’s arthritis took a turn for the worse – so I don’t associate skating with anything remotely fun. But Hayley and Joy were excited about it so I decided to step outside my comfort zone and embrace something that I blatantly wasn’t good at. Dressing in 80s gear is always fun though, and we went all out, complete with matching pink legwarmers from Primark and coloured tights. I also sported some killer purple glitter eye liner. We were a sight to be seen.
We got off the tube (yes, we attracted plenty of stares) at Vauxhall where the Roller Disco was nearby, but to our dismay, no one in sight was sharing our enthusiasm for retro fashion faux-pas. A guy came up to us on the escalator and asked us if we were going to the roller disco, and after jokingly replying, as if offended, “What makes you think that?!” we learned that he was going there as well, albeit not in 80s gear, for his friends 21st birthday, but that he didn’t have directions from the tube station to the actual address. He accompanied us as we got lost despite having written the route down, and we eventually found the place, which we’ve since seen in the daylight, and it is a dump wedged underneath a railroad bridge. At night, though, it is transformed into a roller rink time machine. Joy and Hayley insisted that they were awful skaters but let me tell you, they had NOTHING on me. I took about 20 laps with the instructor next to me, who came to my aid the second I stepped (rolled uncontrollably?) onto the rink, and he taught me to bend my knees, point my feet outwards at angles, and to step gently left right left right left right. Doesn’t sound too hard but I guess I am very lacking in the coordination department because I really couldn’t get it. I kept at it though because I didn’t want to give up and could actually get around without holding on or losing my balance by the end. There were people there for whom skates seemed equivalent to sneakers though, because they were out there doing tricks and busting moves to the music like it was nobody’s business. After I semi-got the hang of it, I had a lot of fun, and if I kept practicing I would get better. I did fall once, and even today I can feel my bruised tailbone. A guy offered his hand to help me up and proceeded to have a conversation with me despite my awkward physical position and obvious painful tailbone shock which ended in him asking for my number. I’m not sure what my facial expression was (confused? annoyed? incredulous?) but I replied no thanks. Who knew that 80s Roller Discos were places to pick girls up (literally!)?
Friday I didn’t do much. I lazed around, did some homework and some research for my swiftly approaching presentation for which my topic was now Neoliberalism’s Effects on Latin American Education Systems and Literacy Rates. I applied (of course on the last possible day) for the NCHC Conference, my final one, which will be in D.C. this year! I submitted my thesis from research methods on Lolita, and hopefully Nabokov’s fancy prose style will seem interesting enough to the Student Interdisciplinary Research Panel judges, but just in case I submitted for poetry as well. As far as I know, Amy, Flor, and I are the only ones who submitted. I hate that our honors program is dying. But nevertheless it should be a fun trip – I can even see Joy while I’m there! We attempted to go see a movie on Friday, but it ended up being almost sold out and not discounted for students, so we decided just to grab a bite to eat and head back home instead, because we had an early call in the morning. I was grateful to save the money, and we ended up getting 99p McFlurries at McDonalds even though we didn’t know what the candies were. Smarties = M&Ms. Ironically enough.
Saturday morning we checked out Portobello market in Notting Hill – and it was HUGE. Started out with antique stores and gradually moved into jewellery and accessories, which somehow transitioned into a full fledged farmer’s market. I got some produce – 14 plums for £1! It was definitely worth it to keep pushing through to the back of the market, because the prices got lower the farther you went. Still not entirely as cheap as I would like it, but pretty good. I would like to get another ring I think – something slightly chunky but that I can still wear everyday for a little extra pop. I’d definitely like to go back there in the future. We were worn out after it though – a long day, a long walk, and an INSANE amount of people really tired us out.
Sunday I went with Joy to see the Wallace Collection right off of Marylebone High St. She had to go for her Art & Society class project and I would never miss an opportunity to go to a free museum. We explored the Marylebone farmer’s market on the way there – small compared to Portobello, but much closer and more convenient, and I am a sucker for fresh bread and produce! It is only open on Sundays and closes at 2pm, but it is not half bad for a little local market. We saw the art museum, which was very nice, and I enjoyed the Rococo paintings that Joy’s project is on a lot. On the way back we stopped for some quick grocery shopping at Waitrose, where my £20-a-week grocery budget was wholly and completely destroyed. £32 and 2 grocery bags later, I left horrified at what I had just spent on the necessities and wanted to cry for the rest of the day. I hate spending money when I have no income. I was depressed about it for a good amount of this past week, but I just have to remember that I will earn the little I have back eventually and that it is okay to spend it because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I don’t want to have regrets. ::sigh:: It still sucks though.
Monday I worked on my presentation most of the day and managed to finish it up a little after midnight – pretty good for me – and we had a lovely dinner of breaded chicken cutlets and rice. And seeing as the smoke didn’t take too long to clear out of the kitchen, the fire alarm never went off, so I consider us lucky. Freaking “breadcrumbs.”
Tuesday was Mardi Gras, which, I was stunned to learn, they don’t know about here, as well as National Pancake Day, which Hayley was stunned to learn I had never heard of. I was subsequently stunned to learn that it was apparently National Pancake Day in the U.S. as well, and IHOP was giving away free short stacks, because it was news to me. Maybe they just made it up this year. Regardless, I had pancakes to look forward to when I went to Third World Studies to give my presentation, which I thought went very well. Try to fit a presentation on a huge topic into 8 minutes and 5 slides – especially when I am such a big fan of talking. He approved my topic (and my topic was much less broad than that of the other three students who went) and was exasperatingly vague in his explanation of what we had to do – we had to demonstrate a theory’s pros and cons in a real life application – and yet when we had all gone, he criticized us for being too broad, not focusing our topic enough, and for taking too long in presenting. He actually interrupted my presentation when I was mid-second-to-last-sentence to tell me to watch my time – how rude! If I go over in my time, then deduct from my grade accordingly, but don’t interrupt me to tell me to hurry it up! I asked my classmate and he said mine didn’t seem longer than anyone else’s – I figure I might have done a 10-12 minute presentation tops, and 8 minutes is a ridiculous amount of time for an oral presentation anyway. It took me a minute just to say the title! Still waiting for the grade on that, which is 15% of my final grade. I have a report to do on the same subject that’s only 1500 words, and I already have about 750 from notes, which is due week 10, and other than that and the final I am done with that class. Yay!
For dinner that night we had pancakes. And the word pancakes should really be in quotation marks because they are not American pancakes. They are basically crepes. Very thin, watery batter that you put in the bottom of the pan and roll around until it coats the bottom. We made 3 each with the guidance of Hayley, and no, we did not coat them in butter and maple syrup – we topped them with a large scoop of Bailey’s Irish Cream Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche Chocolate Toffee flavoured syrup.
In the words of Rachel Ray, Yum-O! Hayley told me that I had made my pancakes much thicker than she usually makes them. They were about 3 mm thick. Joy and I told her that we have to do les pancakes americains at some point. But it was fun to see this version of them!
Wednesday I had class and then met Hayley and Joy at Oxford Circus because that night we were going to Fabric for an “Animal Rave!” Yeah I didn’t know what it was either. The flyer online said something about free face masks, face paint, a giant bouncy castle, chocolate covered bananas, glow sticks, snakes and ladders, all drinks for £2.40 with a student wristband, and a VIP room where you could get your picture taken with live boa constrictors wrapped around your body – but we were sold at the bouncy castle. We needed some alcohol so we went to the giant Sainsbury’s we had seen across from the 80s Roller Disco in Vauxhall. You’d be surprised what a difference a decent grocery store makes in your level of happiness. Tesco Express was disappointing, Sainsbury’s Local was manageable, Sainsbury’s Central was satisfactory, Waitrose was uplifting, and this gigantic Sainsbury’s was blissful. They had clothing as well, but it was mostly grocery store, and when I walked in I thought “Now THAT’S what I’m talkin bout!” and repeated that thought when we got to the alcohol section. The other grocery stores have a large wine selection but the hard liquor is usually limited to the basics and located behind the counter. We opted for Peach Schnapps for £5.65 and Lemonade (aka Sprite sans lime) for £1 and with that, we redefined the term “cheap drunk.” They also had a deli counter! Hallelujah! And I got some “thin sliced” roast beef that was sliced twice as thick as my pancakes had been. Oh New York. When we came back I had PB&J and a yogurt, and then read for the rest of the afternoon until it was time to go to my night class. I had a grilled cheese before class, at around 5:30pm, and then waited patiently through my aforementioned insulting linguistics class which was actually chock full of notes rather than awkward silences for once. I half-walked, half-skipped back to Marylebone after my class to get ready. Jess Durante was coming too, but Rachel and her friend weren’t able to make it, so it left our crowd to be me, Jess, Joy, Hayley, and Verity. The peach schnapps/lemonade combo was gorgeous and I couldn’t even taste the alcohol, which led to me drinking a good amount without even blinking, and unfortunately without recalling that I had only had a small amount to eat that day, which led to me becoming very very drunk happy. [I love you Mom! I’m sorry! Maybe you should just skip to Thursday afternoon right now!] After haphazardly grabbing everything I needed (oyster card, student ID card, drivers license, room key, money, phone, camera) and stuffing it in a wristlet we left, taking the tube to Farringdon. Thank god I wore flats.
When we got there (around 11:30), we couldn’t find a lot of the advertised stuff, but we, or at least I, was too drunk to care and we proceeded to get our dance on. We did see the giant bouncy castle, which we waited in the queue for, but while we were waiting they deflated it – apparently it was only open until 1:30. That didn’t phase us though, and I danced the night away, taking (mostly unflattering) pictures every 5 seconds. No guys danced with us, but we were having too much fun to think anything of it, and looking back at the pictures my facial expressions/dance moves might have been the reason behind that, but we had a great time dancing and it was a lot of fun! When we were leaving my heel got caught on the edge of the stair and I fell a little, landing hard on one knee, which also didn’t phase me. I sat there, shocked for a second, and Joy repeatedly asked me if I was okay. Sprawled on the staircase, I told her “Let’s not make a scene” and carried on my merry way. (Hence the title of the facebook album.) When I got back to my room I had some drunken aim conversations and caught up with some people I hadn’t spoken to in a while, and then went to bed around 4:30, setting my alarm for 8:30 since I had Modernism at 10.
When I woke up Thursday morning, I quickly realized that I was in no shape to attend my class. Not only was I chronically nauseous (in vain, I’m afraid), but I hadn’t eaten in 15 hours and had consumed alcohol instead, so I was weak, dizzy, and my limbs were shaking. I drank lots of water, managed to swallow some crackers, and decided to sleep until I wasn’t nauseous anymore. Not fun. And I really like Modernism. Next time we go out I will make sure I eat plenty beforehand, or we will just have to avoid Wednesday nights. I didn’t do much of anything on Thursday, except attempting to feel better and getting some reading done.
Friday I brought my camera (which had suffered almost as many injuries at Fabric as I had) to get repaired by a little shop near the British Museum, and then I walked around a lot for the rest of the afternoon. I walked around the Museum, up and down Tottenham Court Rd and Charing Cross Rd, went into some book shops, invested in a £2 copy of Moby Dick as well as a pocket-guidebook/mini-map of Paris, and headed up Regent St towards our campus. There was a rumour floating around that U2 was going to be showing up there between 6- 6:15, and when I got there a little after 5 there was already a crowd forming. Joy met me there and I had picked out a good spot on the steps of the church on Langham Place – U2 would be performing a surprise concert from the roof of the BBC building across the street! It got very crowded, and eventually they closed down Oxford Circus tube station as well as Regent St, letting the crowds fill the entire road. Finally by about 6:50 they decided to start playing, and it was unreal! There was the legendary Bono, complete with sunglasses, leaning over the railing of the BBC building roof and crooning undecipherable words to us as a helicopter swooped around overhead. And it was completely normal. This is London.
They played 4 songs – 2 that they had never played live before, from their newest album, as well as Vertigo and Beautiful Day, which we (kind of) knew the words to. I was freezing by the end because, after all, I had been outside nonstop since 3pm, and though it was a relatively warm day, my fleece was not appropriate for the after-sundown weather. Joy and I made a quick Tesco run before heading back, and I got some frozen fish and chips to make since it was the first Friday of lent. I gave up cookies btw! I had a lovely evening until there was a knock on my door. It was the girl who lives at the end of the hall, next to Hayley. I would have no problem with her except for the fact that she leaves the kitchen a wreck every time she uses it, doesn’t wash her dishes but just piles them up on the counter, complete with leftover bits of food in them, for 2 weeks at a time, leaves the oven/hob on, treats the kitchen garbage pail and its vicinity as her own personal dumpster, uses other people’s dishes if they are left out, and blasts her music (which I can hear loud and clear in my room, 4 rooms away) every morning at 8:30-9am. If you’d like the sparknotes version, she is rude. And she knocked on my door (with her boyfriend standing aggressively in the background) and asked me if I had used her pot.
Apparently on Wednesday night when I had retreated into typo-ridden AIM conversations, the other girls had returned to the kitchen, found our alcohol had been drunk while we were out, and decided (drunkenly) to make a point. This rude girl’s dirty pot had been sitting on the counter for a few days, and to get their vodka-vengeance, someone put other random bits of food in the pot – cookies, paprika, etc. It sat there all day Thursday and most of the day Friday, but apparently the girl had finally cared enough about her dirty dishes to take a closer look. Since the other girls in our hall were gone for the weekend, and she was convinced that it had happened that day around lunch time (because she is so conscientious about her kitchen utensils), that left either me or Joy as the suspects in the paprika-pot predicament. She was very accusatory, though it took me a while to realize that she was there to insinuate blame on me – my attitude had to change very quickly from removed yet sympathetic to defensive. I told her that I had no idea what had happened but I had not touched her pot, nor did I need to (nor would I want to – how long was it sitting on the counter dirty?!) because I had pots of my own and I am not one to touch anything that isn’t mine. She said “Oh, well then it must have been the other American girl,” and I tried very hard not to laugh aloud because the idea of Joy being malicious is just… well… unfathomable! I told her I was sure it wasn’t Joy and she said all right then, who did it? Someone from a different floor came to our floor and used my pot to make lunch? and I was at a loss for words. I hate confrontation and I am a bad liar and she was making me feel guilty simply because I knew who had done it, and that I was connected to them. I insisted that I didn’t know what to say, but that I didn’t touch her pot, and she gave up eventually, threatening that she wouldn’t hold a grudge but she would just like it cleaned, because she likes to cook too. Next time she leaves a mess in the kitchen (as of when I had dinner, there was a dirty roast pan left in the oven as well as an already-boiled potato floating in water in a cold pot on the stove, in addition to the signature smattering of dried pasta on the floor) I’ll say no hard feelings, I would just like this cleaned up because I would like to cook too. In any case, I quickly informed my friends about it and the responsible parties took care of it, and I actually got a reluctant, warped, self-righteous, tight-lipped apology from the rude girl today, but nevertheless there was an apology in there somewhere. Ah maturity.
Today I actually got out of bed without hesitation, opened the windows, did ab-jam, and was dressed and ready to go when I knocked on Joy’s door at 11:45. We were supposed to be meeting Rachel and Beth and seeking out Platform 9 ¾ at noon, but when Joy answered the door she had clearly just rolled out of bed. We made it to King’s Cross by 12:45, only to find that the actual Platforms 9 and 10 were under construction, and so the honorary Platform 9 ¾ had been relegated to a brick wall opposite some dumpsters off of Platform 8. Yes. Very disappointing. But I got my pictures (on someone else’s camera since mine is being operated on at the moment) and hopefully it might be back to its original spot before June 13. We wandered around the area a little and found the British Library, and the sight of all the books made me want to cry with happiness. The King George Library is four complete stories of bookshelves behind climate-controlled glass that only staff members have access to, but all of the leather-bound books resting there on the endless shelves looked so satisfied. They had a good home. And I loved them. I was content with just ogling them through the glass since I was clearly not worthy enough to hold them, open them, or read them. Maybe when I’m doing PhD work at Oxford hah! Definitely have to go there with Flor when she comes to visit.
As far as vocabulary lessons go, this word is a good one to know, and it comes up a lot. This is too long of an entry already to think of more, and I have laundry to do, so here you go.
rubbish – 1. n. garbage “I can’t believe you’re making me help you carry a week’s worth of rubbish to the bin.” 2. adj. without quality, crappy, substandard “Compared to the Evening Standard, the London Lite is a rubbish paper.”
And now, 7 single-spaced pages later, you are finally caught up dear reader. I apologize for the length but hopefully you enjoyed hearing about my occasionally embarrassing, occasionally humorous, occasionally poignant adventures. We go to see Hairspray with the Social Programme Tuesday night, and then Hayley, Joy, and I are off to Paris at the end of this week!
And I’ll leave you with a poem that I wrote. Finally. One. Hopefully there is more where that came from.
Looking outward from my seventh-storey Baker St. perch, I turn the handle, pull
Open the window, with effort, and welcome in the morning air, which seems as though its
Never been polluted – a lie, but a convincing one. Glaring young sunshine
Deceives me, has me thinking everything can be reborn. But all around me, tragically, dwell
Old buildings crumbling, scarred with time or scaffolding that hides architectural cosmetic surgery,
Not noticing the new eyes, mine and Helios’s, that gaze rapturously upon them.