Friday, July 30, 2010

Talking the talk with the Londoners

Chrissy and I just returned from our journey to Covent Garden in search of delicous and inexpensive greek food. The mission was moderately successful but exhausting as I am already running on little sleep from last night. I decided that now would be a good time for a power nap.

Unfortuantely it seems I'm not on the same page as the rest of the Gubbay Hall residents. Some anonymous british guys seem to have decided now would be a good time for laughter and lively conversation outside my window, making it impossible for me to execute my original plan. An honest mistake on their part, yes, but I'm afraid that these kind of mishaps will reoccur if certain individuals continues making decisions without my consent. Frustrating to say the least.

However having no other choice but to listen to their banter (entertaining though sometimes indistinguishable) made me think about the pathetic state of the authentic British accent I planned to develope during my stay here. I have yet to really nail it and I'm running out of time! I can genuinely say I've improved––no longer mimicking the proper Queen's english that Americans imagine but instead acknowledging the regional differences that exist from borough to borough, but still, I am definitely no expert.

My friend Steve, an East Londoner, spelled out some of the local dialect for me and made it a lot easier for me to identify the patterns. For instance, East Londoners don't pronounce their T's, replace their TH's with F or V and add R's in places I still don't understand. And of course they use dozens of unique expressions that I must admit are sort of catchy.

SO! Lets try it, shall we? Now if I was talking about my little brother Anthony and say, assessing his atheltic abilities I might say "My little brother is wicked fast. Hes talented but a sort of jerk."

But in London I would say "My li'l brovah is quite farst. 'Ees got loads of talent but 'ees a bi' of a prick."

But I probably wouldn't say that either, cause I think Anthony is probably sort of slow and definitely not a jerk. Sorry Brotha Man! I miss you very much.

If Steve or any other local were to hear me or at least read this, they would probably make fun of me for a long time. But they might call it "having a bubble" which is cockney rhyming slang for having a laugh. Look it up.

Ok, so theres room for improvement. I'll work on it––after I get a nap in. 15 minutes! Thats all I ask!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The jokes on me, I think.

I've really enjoyed venturing around all the boroughs of London and checking places off my list. Exploring has generally been a low stress activity with few incidents that I'm aware of.

Though I have had one reoccuring problem. Despite my initiative to research places, locate their nearest tube and carefully examine the proper route from the tube to the final destination, I've got into a routine of taking an immediate turn in the wrong direction and ending up lost for quite sometime.

I'd like to say it's only happened a few times but looking back, I'm pretty sure its been everytime. Starting with me and Chrissy's trip to the Natural History Museum and Buckingham Palace, followed by my solo adventures to church in South Kensington, Regent Park, Notting Hill, St. James Park, Covent Garden and again, Buckingham Palace coming from a different direction.

Some people in my unique postion might consider asking for directions after leaving the tube station but I can't seem to accept that––partially cause I don't mind walking and partially because I suspect that this is an elaborate conspiracy that the entire city of London is in on.

Does that seem far fetched? Maybe. But I swear, its the only explanation. I have taken plenty if time looking at maps, reading signs and being patient yet everytime without fail I end up a mile in the wrong direction. So it must be a joke, right? Perhaps my life has become like "The Truman Show" and people everywhere are watching and enjoying my confusion, changing the direction of the signs just before I arrive and disguising locations to really throw me off. All the while, they're secretly routing for me to figure it all out on my own––to storm Big Ben with all my frustration and finally discover that its just cardboard and not the real thing at all.

Yes, I think that must be it. A conspiracy. A big joke at my innocent American expense. Definitely not just my own ignorance or poor sense of direction.

Good one London! You got me this time. But I'm not giving up just yet.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cheapest Umbrella at Harrod's? 22 pounds...

London was two dozen shades of grey this afternoon and the rain put a literal damper on what was supposed to be a few hours in St. James Park. And worst of all, I forgot to bring an umbrella!

Heh, just kidding. I didn't forget my umbrella, I just don't own one.

I know, I know, London rain, blah blah blah, but in all fairness it hasn't been a big problem. Still, an umbrella should have been the first thing on my list of things to pack but unfortunately I didn't have one of those either, though I suspect my mother made one for me and used it as a reference when she harassed me all the way out the door back in June. "Do you have your passport? Hair dryer? Socks? How many pairs? Underwear? How many pairs? ..." and so on and so on.

Anyway, umbrella or none, I wasn't about to let a little rain send me back on the tube to Trent Park so I decided to pursue an indoor activity. As I was in the area, I supposed it would be a good time to pay a visit to the legendary department store Harrod's.

And that was fun for, I don't know, the first nine seconds.

I walked past a few counters selling perfume and make up, checked one price tag and after that it was all pretty annoying and a little depressing. Prior to my visit all I knew about Harrod's was that it was humongous, infamous and the place where a friend of mine spent 18pounds on a pizza for lunch. Incase you American folks were wondering, 18pounds is equal to $28.08. For... PIZZA!

Now 99% of the time if you put me with in 20 feet of attractive clothing or jewelry, I will at least carefully consider the merchandise and more than likely buy something if I have the means. A sick voice in my head says "Alison, you NEED that dress. No! Better yet, you DESERVE it!" and just like that, I'm sold. Or, well, the dress is.

But Harrod's did not inspire me in the slightest. The crowds were overwhelming and the entire atmosphere just seemed so pretentious to me. I don't understand why people want to go there so badly. If you're a celebrity or a big CEO or a lottery winner, then yes, a trip to Harrod's is probably pretty exciting but if you're say, a 21 year old college student whose primary income comes from the St Ann's front desk then no, not as much. It's not that I felt jealous or sad that I couldn't afford anything, I just couldn't understand why so many people in the same position as me were so delighted to be there.

It all just seems backwards to me, really. I think I'd be more excited to be in a Walmart than Harrods. I guess expensive things and name brands just don't mean much to me and they certainly don't impress me. I'm impressed by people who work hard and spend their money in intelligent ways. But people who are spending over 1,000 pounds on a single handbag just annoy me. Yes, we get it, you shop at Harrod's––you're rich. Congratulations. Who cares about all the starving people in the world when you can buy diamonds, right?


I had a much better time last Saturday when I went out to Notting Hill. I walked around for hours and I didn't mind the crowds because the atmosphere was much less depressing. Everything was bright and everyone was happy and I had really, really great pizza. And it only cost me 3 quid.

I did feel like the ultimate lame girly tourist though, feeling all giddy and romantic on Portobello Road. I was pretending that I was just a local enjoying the market on a Saturday, not some American who saw a Hugh Grant movie and felt compelled to make it part her own reality. But I was alone, so I was only lying to myself and eventually that seemed silly. So yeah, I took a picture of the famous Travel Bookshop.

I know, I know. I'm SUCH a girl.

Ah, now I'm exhausted and I must wake up early to prepare for my FINAL Shakespeare class. And all I can say about that is THANK. GOD. I really like Shakespeare but these 3 hour blocks have been brutal. I swear, if I can get through tomorrow without attempting to jump off the Tower Bridge in the middle, I will be happy. And alive, so thats good.

Shout out to Shawn Hennessy, my apparent avid reader. Oh haaay girl!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lesson Learned at Chase Farm Hospital

I rarely take myself too seriously but should I ever start––I think the memory of explaining the painful burn on my butt to various employees at Chase Farm Hospital will humble me.

My sense of humor has always been one of my best qualities. Despite my tendency to worry as well as my exhaustingly cyncical nature, I'm proud to say that I rarely lose sight of whats funny, even when its at my expense. I've laughed myself and others through a lot of painful situations––including my Junior High basketball teams 0-21 record and some of Camp Haiastan's most unsuccessful canoe trips.

Despite the physical wound on my bottom and the ruthless bruises to my ego, yesterday's trip to the emergency room was no different in terms of my attitude.

I was escorted by Amy, one of the summer school wardens. She was great company and really nice about everything but I felt sorry that she was forced to come along when I knew she just wanted to spend the afternoon doing her laundry. But aside from feeling guilty and annoyed about a wasted afternoon, I was in good enough spirits when I approached the check in counter of the emergency room.

The receptionist, a woman of about 45, was straight faced and impatient. She never introduced herself but if I had to guess her name, I would probably pick something like Susan or Carol.

Really, in my opinion, she looked just like a "Carol the ER receptionist."

A poster with a picture of a paramedic and police officer hung behind her head. It read "I'ts your choice: Stop the harassment of ER employees" and it made me think there must be an explanation for her defensiveness. She asked me what the problem was.

"I have a minor burn," I explained, "its about 6 days old and it doesn't seem to be healing. I just want to make sure its not infected so if someone could take a quick look––"

Carol cut me off. "––Its not going to be 'quick.'" she assured me in a matter of fact way that showed me how unnecessary she found my optimism. I didn't appreciate it. I knew I would most likely be waiting for a long time, as I wasn't exactly an urgent case, but I was trying to have a good attitude.

I suppose Carol thought I was going to be a troublemaker. You know, I bet she thought I'd be one of those patients who keeps coming back to the desk demanding to be seen sooner and vocalizing suspicous observations about the people around who get treated before them. Carol probably deals with a lot of that nonsense so I was silently understanding. People can be really nasty sometimes.

I was thankful to have Amy with me as Carol had some issues I didn't quite know how to address. She wanted to know why I didn't have a "GP," whatever that means, and Amy kindly took the lead in explaining my situation as an international student on a short stay. I gathered that a GP was just a primary care physician and I didn't see any reason I should have one for only 6 weeks when England has free health care for everyone, but Carol disagreed.

After filling out the necessary forms, I watched as Carol entered my information into the computer. She had more comments than she did questions. "Purgatory Road," she stated predictably when noticing my home address, "well THATS a strange street to live on!"

"You think so?" I responded, "No one ever points that out to me." My sarcasm can be a little harsh sometimes. I'd like to tell you that I've been making an effort to be more polite but I won't because, well, thats just not true.

Finally, she got to the important part.

"So where is this burn?" she asked without looking up for her computer. I glanced at Amy who was smiling in a I-feel-sorry-for-you way.

I hesitated. I felt I should choose my words carefully. "On my.. bum."

Yes, I called it a "bum." In the moment, "bum" sounded like the most mild description as well as the most British word choice.

I watched Carols expression change. She looked at me with curious eyes and a small but distinct smirk. I suppose I had her attention now. "We-ell," she urged me, "what did you burn yourself with?"

I was tired of telling the story already. But of course, I had no choice. "A hair straightener, you know––a flat iron" I said.

"But how did you... why was your..." Carol couldn't seem to peice it together.

I carried on with the details as necessary. "I sat on it." My tone showed patience despite my exhaustion. "I unplugged it, threw it on a my bed and forgot a moment later when I sat down. I was wearing a dress. Thats how it happened."

There was a short pause before she responded. "Well," she said with an impossibly serious expression, "thats not a very sensible thing to do, now is it?"


She asked me if my actions were sensible. The word offended me and pleased me at the same time. I wanted to laugh and I wanted to yell but I tried to remain expressionless.

No, Carol. No.

To answer your rude and hopefully rhetorical question, I do not think sitting on a hot iron is a sensible thing to do. In fact, I myself might argue that my actions could be desribed as the opposite of sensible. More accurate terms come to mind such as foolish, unintelligent, ill-considered, and stupid. I assure you, Carol, with a fair vocabularly like mine, I could come up with some really true and authentic words to explain my mistake without ever sneaking "sensible" into the mix.

But I thank you for your attention and feedback, Carol. As not only a hospital employee but a human being, I value your opinion and your words will not be easily forgotten.

The remainder of my trip was equally if not more so humilating. I was asked to show my wound to what seemed like an unnecessary number of doctors before I was actually treated. It made me suspicous that the hospital was getting a laugh at my expense. But I'm not greedy so I let them all in on it. Afterall, I bet ER Doctors need a good laugh every now an again and I'm happy if I could help. I unbuckled my belt and removed my pants 3 times with both the obligatory level of shame and a contradicting smile.

I left Chase Farm Hospital with a few good things: reassurance that there will be no infection and my "bum" is safe, a big sticky bandage that can be seen through some of my shorts and a reminder of exactly who I am.

I am smart but absent-minded, cynical but entertaining, hard on myself but a good sport in the end. And definitely not sensible.

Lesson learned.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I still don't understand...

...why the British think their too good for American cheese. AN ENTIRE NATION IS MISSING OUT ON SOMETHING DELICIOUS!

It's just not right.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The birds and the bees in Regent Park

Ipod in ear and book in hand, I walked around Regent park for quite sometime before I could decide where to settle. As I was on my own and tend to be indecisive, I debated with myself for about an hour, going back and fourth between the open fields, gardens and benches with a fountain view.

The idea of sitting by the pond was eliminated fairly early on account of too many ducks.

I like ducks, and most animals, but I think London ducks are a little too forward for me. American ducks are more stand offish and reserved where as London ducks are social. They have no problem surrounding you and making noise when you're trying to relax. And there were hundreds of them. Regents Park seemed to be their headquarters, as well as the headquarters for geese, pigeons, swans, and more birds I couldn't identify. The pond was clearly the least appealing option. Foriegn birds make me suspicous.

Anyway, I eventually settled in what was called "Queen Mary's Garden." The area was made up of beds of roses––more color roses than I knew exhisted. And each rose bed had a name, like "Invincible" or "Happiness" and I thought that was nice except it made it harder for me to choose a place to stop. I eventually took a bench between "Nostalgia" and "Singing in the Rain" and I sat their quietly by myself for 2 hours––ample time to read, think and people watch.

Whenever I spend time at a park I like to take note of the gold plated dedications posted on donated benches. You know, the ones that say things like "In Memory of Sally Benchsitter, who spent many beautiful days here."

I wondered if I would have have a gold plate like that at a place that I loved, and I started to wish I could start going to that place immediately.

After reflecting on the last few years I determined that the only places in my life that warrent bench dedications are the St Anns front desk, the Art floor in the Admin building and the Student Publication office. I think thats pretty depressing. All three locations are at Emmanuel, directly related to my work and stress, and a bench would just look silly there or at least be in the way.

Its hard to admit but my time in London is running short. I don't suppose its possible that I make myself any kind of home here with only 18 days left at my leisure. But I hope I can take my aspiration back to Boston––I won't waste a minute of my senior year. I'm going to get through my work and its not going to be easy but I'm going to do more of what I want to do, where and when I want to do it. And someday, maybe, there will be a bench with my name on in the Boston Commons.

Or at least at the Muddy River. Who can say?

I really enjoy days like yesterday. It may be hard to believe if you know me but I truly value time to myself where I can just be quiet. I know no one forces me to talk on a regular basis but sometimes I get caught up. I'm always trying to joke and keep things lively but its good to sometimes be silent and selfish––not responsible for anyone elses entertainment.

The only thing that bothered me was all the bees buzzing around my ears, forcing me to sit a little more still than I would have liked. But I suppose thats just how it works. If you want to sit among the roses you have to risk getting stung by the bees, right? Thats how its always going to be. I'd encourage anyone to try it––I think its worth the risk.

Well, unless of course you're allergic to bee stings, in which case you could always give the ducks a chance. They are cheerful and you may just find their enthusiasm rather charming.

Ah, I feel the need to apologize now. You readers, if you're still with me, must be terribly bored. I should be writing about more exciting things while I'm here in Europe. Perhaps I should be out right now––bungee jumping, or getting a tattoo, or at least participating in an old fashioned Pub crawl.

I may not be getting too crazy but I am, for the most part, doing what I want to do. I'm exploring and taking time to think and learn about new things, just like I planned. The only dream that remains unfufilled is that of my time as a London dog walker.

Early this morning while reading The Revenger's Tragedy before class in Trent Park, a woman walked by with seven dogs––all her own. They followed her obediently, except the one she called William, who stopped by to say hello to me.

Oh, cruel pup! Why must you mock me so?

Philly, if you're reading this, please come out and visit! We will have fun! I PROMISE! And you can bring Kathryn too but you'll probably have to lend her some cash for the plane ticket. It's alright, you know shes good for it!


For those of you who don't like reading, and I know there are a few, here are a few on my favorite pictures from Paris. I was able to visit the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Musee d'Orsay, Notre Dame, and Jardins du Luxemburg. Overall I thought Paris was beautiful! But, I admit, I have little use for the rudeness of most of the french.

Navigating. We're like pros at this kind of stuff.

Me, Chrissy and Adela at the Louvre

Jardin des Tuileries

Notre Dame de Paris

I try to humor Adela sometimes... I guess she just likes fun.

Shout out to my NOTRE DAME SISTAHS! St Julie is MY GIIIIRL!

Jardin de Luxemburg... so beautiful.

The river

Jardin de Luxemburg. Chrissy, you're perfect.

I literally begged Adela to stop taking pictures in the Musee d'Orsay..
she responded "Stop complaining, you're gunna have some really SWEET pictures if you just relax."

Eiffel Tower with Jason, Meredith, Nicole, Adam, myself and Chrissy. Friends made in Barcelona meeting up in Paris? Pretty awesome.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I'm what the French call les incompetents

I'm heading to Paris for the weekend! Its pretty exciting because of course, I've never been, but I've always admired the French for their fries, toast and manicure style.

Yeah, uh, just kidding. I have a sneaking suspicion I'm not going to be eating any French toast when I'm there but I can't complain. I'm sure Paris has plenty to offer a girl like me! But I don't really know what to expect at the moment.

This will be round 2 of Alison v. Foriegn Language but I don't expect to do as well as I did in Barcelona. Apparently despite my laziness and test anxiety, I picked up a lot more spanish than I thought in school. But unfortunately, the only French I've ever been exposed to has been through pop culture. I've been comprising a list of what I know:

1. Bonjour = Hello
2. Au revoir = Farewell
3. Au contraire = On the contrary (I use this line fairly frequently for no particular reason. Hopefully I'll be crafty enough to utilize it when speaking to a local. ... Everyone will hate me, won't they? Hm.)
4. Hors d'oeuvres = appetizers (Thanks Mom! You made me so cultured.)
5. Bon Apetit = Enjoy your meal (I don't think I'll be able to use this much. I don't suppose I'll be serving many meals this weekend. ... Rats!)
6. Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir? = This is a line from that old girly song Lady Marmalade. I just looked up what it means and its inapropriate. I definitely won't be using that line. Mom, dad, where were you when I was singing this song in the 5th grade? My radio use should have been monitored.

And then of course theres my favorite, the line from Home Alone: "Kevin, you're what the french call les incompetent." I don't suppose this will be useful either.

Maybe this weekend will have less talking on my end. More listening. More observing. I think that will be best for me!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cheating on Homework? Othello says, ‘T’is neither here nor there."

I'm not feeling too well right now so instead of going to the library to read Othello before my class in 3hours, I'm lying in bed watching the 1995 film adaptation. Hahahaha, I am such a jerk.

Mom, Dad, if you're reading this––sorry. I promise I usually do my homework properly. I am not really this irresponsible! But whatever, its not like I'm watching a movie as inspiration for my book report and getting caught by the teacher like Kathryn did in her freshman year at Notre Dame! Hahahaha, I'll never forget when Ms. Krauss called the house during dinner. Classic.

... see how I turned that around there? Heh, I really am sort of a jerk.

But don't worry family, I am getting plenty of culture. Chrissy and I are going to see Les Miserables at the Queen's Theatre tonight. I'm actually not very excited because it means I'm missing Karaoke night in the Student Union and Chrissy only wants to see this play cause some American teeny bopper is starring in it but you know, we'll just see how it goes.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have homework to watch. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My first rainy day in London

Today started with scrambled eggs & wheat toast––courteosy of Chef Alison and continued with 4 and a half hours at the library. I was supposed to read Othello for tomorrows class but I was busy reading lots of other things that have no relevance to my course work. Ah, theres always tomorrow morning. Two more eggs, one speed read.

When I returned to my room I made one concerning observation. It is an absolute mess, even by my standards. With no pictures on the walls, clothes and books scattered everywhere and and trash that has been ignored for days––I appear to be living in the room of some kind of depressed artist. Or just a genuinely lazy college student. I'm not interested in being either of those things.

Though, I fear I may be both.

So what can I do to solve this identity crisis? I suppose I have to clean. I'll start with the bed, move on to the desk, and then the sink. Its raining outside anyway, so its the perfect time to do it.

I think I can probably fix this. No need to worry just yet.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stonhenge didn't rock my world (Ra-roomp-CH!)

Yesterday I took a two hour bus ride to visit Stonehenge, a nearly 5,000 year old structure and one of the most famous sites in the world.

Our tour guide could only be described as an enthusiastic and educated old chap (yes, I try to use the would chap as much as possible but only when accurate.) He admitted that no matter how many times he visits Stonehenge (and as a tour guide, he does so often) he still gets a lump in his throat as he approaches. I found his explanations and commentary on the site to be interesting and heartfelt. But as he explained the mystery of these stones, how they got there and why, I started feel a little unlike my usual self.

Now when I say I felt unlike myself, I simply mean that I felt very little of anything. As some of you may know, I am without a doubt one of the most emotional participants in modern society––or at least I understand myself to be. I just genuinely tend to feel everything very deeply––be it happiness or sadness, excitement or anxiety. Most of the time, I just feel too much. It is a blessing and hell of a curse too, but it is who I'll always be.

The only thing I rarely feel to an extreme is apathy, but for some reason, I couldn't seem to care too much about Stonehenge. I thought when we arrived I might understand. I stood on a crowded path among hundreds of toursists with flashing cameras and I gazed at the structure, for once in my life, TRYING to feel something but ultimately... I was underwhelmed.

I'm sorry ancient contributers of Stonehenge. I'm sorry but I have to be honest: those rocks don't move me much farther than I could move them.

Perhaps it was the insane number of tourists who made it hard for me to feel it.

I was actually far more interested in the open fields around, the animals and English country side.

In perfect contrast to Stonehenge, I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of Bath, the second part of our day trip. From the people performing in the streets to the gorgeous old buildings to the flowers absolutely everywhere, I felt truly happy and almost hopeful.

Ahh, yes, I was right back to feeling everything as I almost always do. No worries friends. I am still me.

We were only able to spend a few short hours in Bath and I'm dying to get back there. For a day, for a weekend, for my future destination wedding? Ah, I kid on the last part, but honestly––I wish you could have been there. You'd understand what I mean.

In other news, I sort of went to church today. I located the nearest Armenian church, St Yeghiche in South Kensington, woke up early and dressed in my Sunday best. I had to venture alone on the tube for about 50mins down the Picadilly line and because I got a little lost, it took 20mins give or take to walk to the church from the tube stop.

Alright, I'm lying, by a little lost I mean very inexcusabley lost and by 20mins I mean an hour and 10minutes. I arrived at the church in time for a Hayr Mer and to kiss the Bible.

Not exactly what I was going for but looking on the brightside, I know where the church is now, and walking alone was fabulous. I was completely on my own from 11am until 4:30pm and I didn't say more than 20 words out loud the whole time. It was nice. It was a religious experience in itself and I couldn't have needed it more.

On a final note, because my word this is long!, I'd like to say YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS to SPAIN winning the world cup. Never ever in my life did I think I would care in the slightest about soccer but I officially understand the game AND felt emotionally invested in a team. Perhaps my emotions were a bit misguided––based on happy memories of the last few days in Barcelona and the need to justify the 20 euro I spent on a fake jersey, but no matter there.

So let me end by saying GOOD FOR YOU SPAIN! I wish I was still there to celebrate. And you know what, in this moment, I'm not even mad that one of your cerveza selling street theives stole my purse. You guys can have it! Go nuts!

Ok, yes, I admitted it. My purse was stolen in Spain. Its not funny and I don't want to talk about it. My God, you people are so nosey.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bienvenidos a Barcelona!

Whether or not I techniqually "survived" Barcelona is debatable.

I had some really bad luck toward the end of my trip if you want to know the truth, I just don't want to talk about it today. So don't be nosey. I'm trying to focus on the fact that I also had some really good luck and the trip was amazing.

A few things that are NOT debatable:
1. I witnessed and participated in the crazy street riots that took place after Spain defeated Germany.
2. I stooped to buying myself a Spain jersey in order to fit in better.
3. The beach was absolutely beautiful. There were a few 100 more topless women than I'm used to but after the 20th one I saw, the shock value really went down from and 8a nd plateaued around a 4. I guess they're all just free spirits in Barca.
4. I swam way far out away from the coast to an Island of rocks with Chrissy, just for fun. Yes, thats right, ME! The one who barely passed the Camp Haiastan swim test 8 years in a row! Don't hate on the doggy paddle my friends.
5. I went to the most authentic Spanish resturant that our hostel could reccomend. They literally spoke no english so we all ordered random things off the menu with our fingers crossed... I somehow ended up with fried chicken wings? SCORE!
6. Our hostel was so awesome. In fact, I gather that hostels in general are awesome. It was like sleeping over a friends house with 50 strangers and their mom even makes breakfast for everyone in the morning!
7. I am still a very, very stupid American with a lot to learn.

Or, as they say in Barcelona––"un estúpido americano"

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Being a Stupid American

Queen Liz, where you at girl?

Last night was "Quiz Night" in the Student Union. About 30 of us summer program students sat in teams, answering questions about London, Europe, sports and pop culture in competition for bags of candy and free drink vouchers. I think I was a fair contributer to my team but when we lost by a half a point... I blamed myself.

I just couldn't pull it together and remember David Cameron's first name and worse––I claimed Bart Simpson as the owner of the catch phrase "Cowabunga" when it is apparently more closely associated with The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Though, I could argue that its a trick question.)

I played it off with what has become a catch phrase of my own: "But I'm just a stupid American!"

In years past, I used try to get myself out of similar situations by claiming "I'm just a kid!" but I forced myself to give up on that one after my 20th birthday. It was no longer cute, just kind of pathetic.

The truth of the matter is, in a lot of ways, I find I am a bit of a stupid American. I'm in Europe for the first time and I'm truly learning lots of the things I never knew I never knew. (Hey! I just realized, thats what Pocohantas told John Smith when he left England and showed up in the states! Well, at least according to Disney and we can't be sure how historically accurate any of that is. Anyway.. I digress..)

Walking around the streets of London has been a real trip. My head is always turning in every different direction as if I'm having rapid neck spasms. "AHHH! I'm over stimulated!" I've claimed enough times that Chrissy now finishes my sentence.
I do stop for the occasional Spice Girls photo opportunity.

Its just, in Boston, I feel like I know everything. I may call the Citgo Sign "the north star" but in reality, I don't need it anymore because I'm comfortable and aware.

But here, I am new. I'm the girl who can't remember that in this country dollars are pounds, fries are chips, the train is the tube, and no––you do not tip the bartender. I am the girl standing behind Chrissy as she asks the Police officer to kindly point us in the direction of Buckingham Palace when, come to find out, it's no where near where we're standing. I'm the girl who miss places her Oyster Card (equivalent to a Charlie Card) and causes a ruccus when I can't figure out how to purchase a day pass.

"Soo," said the concerned train station employee, "You're uhh.. going into the city on your own then? Brilliant." He smiled weakly and handed me a new ticket.

What he meant was "Good luck, Stupid American."

And good luck is exactly what I'll need. Though this may sound like I'm complaining or at least a bit concerned, I am quite the opposite. I'm happy to be in a new place and learning new things because I'm sure I'll be better for it by the end.

Besides, its really not as bad as I make it sound. After all, they speak english here, unlike in Barcelona where Chrissy and I will be staying in a hostel for two nights. I've always looked fondly on my high school memories of actively refusing to learn Spanish, replying to all of Ms. Gustavson's questions, comments, and pleas for my attention with "Yes, yes, MUYYYY INTERASANTE!" Some how, I imagine, I'm going to have to do a bit better than that when I'm in Spain.

As Bart Simpson would say.... "AY CARUMBA!"
"Buckingham Palace?? You kiddin' me!?"

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Middlesex University, Trent Park Campus

I went for a run* today and took some pictures around campus. (*= debatable.)

"The Mansion" aka the home of some historical dude and where I'll attend class.

Another building for classes.

Behind "The Mansion" ... random open fields for miles. Typical.

The Trent Park trail that I've been running* down this week.

Just some open fields on campus ...

Small Cafe on campus.. haven't been there yet but isn't it adorable?

Duck pond.

It looks just like Emmanuel, right?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bright lights, big city

My first impressions of London came in the form of Disney movie at an age I can't accurately specify. When I was enjoying films such as 101 Dalmations and Peter Pan throughout my youth, I was delighted by the images of Big Ben, city streets and of course, British accents.

Though I loved those movies and for both plot and setting, I don't think I could have been excited just then. I couldn't have been excited because, well, I didn't know there was anything to be excited about! But after finally having my first two days touring London, after those images from childhood and onward became real (and in perfect weather no less), I suddenly feel like I've been waiting to be here my whole life.

HAHAHA! Thats the lamest thing I've said in a long time. But hey, its true. I can admit it when I'm being a total sap or wimp. Anyway...

I've always been a fan of cities––I adore Boston brownstones and seeing the Citgo sign lit up at night. I've been knocked off my feet by Chicago, New York, DC, and even Milwaukee (thank you, AYF.) But London.

London is really unlike any city I've ever known and loved in the past. It's huge, full of culture and truly beautiful. And the best part? I just got here. I have about 5 weeks left to enjoy it.

I feel it necessary to admit, for some reason in the months leading up to my trip I often pictured myself here strolling around city parks, walking dogs. I did realize at the time that the vision was weird, my inexplicable urge to have animal companionship is likely to remain fantasy. But now that I made the 101 Dalmations connection, at least I understand where the idea came from.

And at least I didn't picture myself flying over Big Ben with a guy named Peter. Thats even less realistic.

(Top photo, Big Ben; Bottom, The London Eye- rode to the top in one of those bad boys.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wheres the American Cheese? Supermarket woes.

I was joking with a local student about how I plan to conserve my money while I'm here. I proposed that I eat nothing by Chewy Bars for the next six weeks and he said there were no granola bars in the UK.

I thought he was messing with me; it seemed unlikely that an entire nation ignore something as delicous and useful as chewy bars. But when I went to the supermarket today, I found that he wasn't completely making it up.

There really were no standard granola bars, but instead, an interesting selection of cereal bars that I considered comprable. I bought them, and they're not bad, but I was a little disturbed by the discription on the box:

"Milk Choc Chip Scrummy Cereal Bars"

Scrummy? Not the most appetizing word choice. I think we Americans could teach these guys a few things. Like about American cheese ... seriously, where is it?