Thursday, January 31, 2013

Keep Calm and...JK Don't I'm in London

Wednesday night was certainly an adventure. My lovely friends Megan and Caitlyn came with me to Bloomsbury Baptist Church to check out their Wednesday night "XChange" thingamajig. We didn't know what to expect, we just knew there might be dinner and definitely a Bible study involved. It was a blast! Granted, the three of us aren't the type to talk endlessly to people we've just met [shout out to Ashley, who-in a very hyped up state-showed me each and every one of her belongings within the first thirty minutes of meeting her at camp this past summer! She's so fun.], but we eased into talking with everyone and getting to know each other. The people there were all so kind and very generous, as they provided a yummy dinner of pork, veggies, rice, and curry (but not especially spicy, nothing too crazy). The 12 or so of  us enjoyed green tea ice cream, meringue, vanilla ice cream, green tea kit-kats, and whipped cream for dessert. Did it sound strange? Yes. Did the kit-kats look weird? Certainly. Was it delicious? Absolutely. Louise gave us the disclaimer that nothing about the meal was "British-esk", but she did introduce us to a "Queen approved" sweet topping (for ice cream, porridge  oatmeal, whatever) called Golden Syrup. It's totally a thing.

After cleaning up everyone went to a little side room where we had a very speedy reading and discussion on the 13th chapter of Revelation. The one thing most surprising to me proved to be how in depth the study was, and I enjoyed it immensely. It was getting on the later side, but we all went to the pub for a little bit just to hang out, and we had interesting discussion on the politics of the United Kingdom and current hot topics (such as gay marriage in the church, which coincidentally I used as a topic for an assignment earlier this week, the issues with the despicable lack of enough affordable housing in the greater London area, and other drama associated with the city life). We returned and I watched some Downton Abbey on Netflix (because all of season 3 is available here) before crashing.

This morning, Megan and I checked out a small museum at the Holocaust Exhibit and Wiener Library just a block or so away from the Pickwick. It was fascinating, sharing stories of women who helped save lives, reading on the immense sacrifices made by so many, and looking at actual documents from those times. They had cards from children lucky enough to escape and join foster families here in Britain. Additionally, apparently Bloomsbury (the area we live-especially the buildings right around our hostel!) was a sanctuary for many during that time. Here's a few pictures that Megan took:

This afternoon we toured the British Museum for my Art class. We all ended up dragging at the end because all the standing and walking began to wear on us. However, the most delightful thing ever happened: we walked into a room full of Monet's impressionist pieces. He's my favorite, and in case you have interest in what I'm interested in, Renior comes as a close second as my favorite overall painter.

Tonight, some of us went to Shakespeare's Head pub, and we were all especially excited because it was Caitlyn's first time there! It's definitely a favorite of all of us here with great prices, great food, and a great atmosphere.

Oh, and we got tickets to see Les Mis for next Thursday night!!! Super excited!!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yoga Bunny Detox

You know that feeling, when a huge weight is lifted from your shoulders? When you finish that last page of reading for an extraordinarily cumbersome reading? When you finally turn in that paper? And then you just sit, because you're exhausted, or possibly because this seems the opportune time for that laziness to kick in? That's exactly how I will feel later in this semester. [It may or may not involve a twenty page paper and the usual procrastination on my part.] In addition, the above is an over-dramatization of my feelings this afternoon after a good amount of reading which I'd characteristically put off till almost as last minute as possible. Story of my life!

But really, my life is filled to the brim with mishaps and adventures. If I were to overanalyze myself, I may say that I enjoy putting schoolwork off as long as possible because the challenge of finishing everything in the nick of time is just a lot of fun. Then again, I may also analyze myself and realize how lazy I really am. If I were in a job interview, I would describe it as my "laid back" personality, it makes me seem exceedingly more desirable as an employee than if I were to tell tales of my lethargy. (That's an exclusive excerpt from my "How To Do A Good Job Interview 101". You're welcome.)

Anyhow, back to adventure which is my life. The past couple days have probably been the least adventurous thus far on this venture, but I'm in London and that means two things:

  1. I can't complain. I'm so thankful to get to be here and have all these amazing truly once in a lifetime experiences. 
  2. I still have pictures and stories! Get excited, y'all.
First off, let me take you back to Sunday....

 this is where we went to church
All Saints
pretty sweet building, eh?
we were excited
and Megan had curled her hair
i have the cutest friends
they're great

I mentioned it at the end of a previous blog post, along with a wonderful misadventure from Sunday afternoon. Misadventures may just be the best sort of adventures. There's nothing like making a spectacle of yourself in a foreign country, asking at least five (legitimately, no exaggeration) different workers at five different shops how to get somewhere. And, on top of that, ending up waltzing back into the first place we'd tried (the right restaurant, the wrong specific location) and eating there in front of an amused waitress. Such is my life. In the words of one of the culprits for obesity in America: "I'm lovin' it!"

For my British Life and Culture class on Monday, we got to tour the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels (no pictures there, for obvious reasons).

there it is
the Tower of London
on the edge of the
one square mile
City of London
 the "beefeaters" live over there
don't know what those are?
 fun facts
everything's expensive

 we got to see lots of armor too
up in the white tower
way cool
but really, no one says that here
and of course on the way out
we had to get a picture 
in front of the Tower Bridge
and a couple other tourists
we got to see Kiss Me, Kate
 It was such a fun show! 
I really enjoyed the story line
 the songs were fun
and we all had a great time!
this looks like a weird drink
it's delicious
i still don't really know what it is
it seems healthy
or something
 the view out my window
it's actually been pretty sunny 
off and on
so pretty
did I mention I live on the fourth (British third) floor?
no joke, I'm noticing more defined calves
 one of the best things ever
putting energy instead of calories

 Also, my friends got FREE tickets for the two of them to go see LION KING tonight!!! I'm so excited for them, Caitlyn and I literally screamed when Emma told us the news! Happy Wednesday, y'all!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spectating and Speculating

So this weekend was simply bunches of fun.

Saturday morning we went to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard, we actually had a decent spot and it was fun to see it all! [disclaimer: I did steal a couple of pictures...what can I say, my friends have fancy cameras, okay?]

The four of us [me, Taylor, Megan, and Caitlyn] decided to go ahead and get up and have an adventure, since Saturday was our first entirely free day so far! We all happened to be wearing coordinating colors, which we didn't even notice till this picture was taken.

 It was a glorious day! The sun was out, and it was warm enough that we didn't have to wear our heavy coats! I woke up that morning, looked out the window, and then opened up and stuck my head out the window because it was simply stunning and I was so thrilled.

We were so excited and actually had a pretty good spot to watch everything!

There was a lot of marching around and yelling by the apparent leader (or whatever the appropriate term is) of the group. As you can see, there were people everywhere outside of the gates.

It was kind of like a big, super official and uniform, parade. Everyone was strangely silent as all this occurred, with little talking between spectators and it was as if people had a certain reverence for the tradition. Very different from what it probably would be like back home.

They actually came pretty close at one point, seeming to greet the crowd (and by greet I mean they would walk up close-ish to the gate and then turn around and approach the opposite side).

And then the horses came by on the street. How fun!

Afterward we took some pictures. It's crazy how many different languages we were hearing around us!

Jumping pic fail.

It was a lot of fun.
After that we went to Primark-which was partly a great thing but also a terrible idea. It's like a Forever 21, but a billion times better and with significantly better deals (for the most part...we were paying in pounds). Following that we headed home to relax, hang out, and attempt some productivity in our reading.

Today we went to All Saint's for church, which I really enjoyed. Someone from church invited us out to eat at Nando's with a group of them for lunch. So Kristen and I headed off to find it. Apparently neither of us were paying much attention, because it took us quite a while to find Nando's, and when we got there it appeared that we were at the wrong one! So we set off to find the next closest one, which was unsuccessful. Just as we were giving up, we came across an area that looked familiar, and it turns out we went in a massive square, because we ended up at the same Nando's we had dropped by the first time, so we just gave up and ate there. We speculated about where the correct Nando's could possibly be (because apparently no one in London knows anything about directions or information about the city) or if we had somehow missed them, and then moved on with our lives and enjoyed some lunch at long last. Thankfully, both of us had been looking forward to eating there because it's been talked up quite a bit, apparently One Direction eats there or something, and it has fairly affordable prices. It was fun because there were all these different sauces, some of them were pretty spicy, but we went ahead and tried the hottest one there and it was surprisingly bearable! Lots of fun and the adventure was worth feeling a little lost for a couple moments!!

Anyway, it's getting late, both of my roomies are asleep, and I have class in the morning. Cheers!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chilled but Chipper

Here's to having internet that works. It's been a bit spotty here, which resulted in very little communication between my family and I over the past few days. It's getting a bit better and for some reason Skype seems to be the most reliable way to stay in touch (strange, since Skype tends to be more of a problem back home, but hey, I'm not complaining!). It's been a great week, guys. I'll give y'all a summary of my Tuesday-Thursday [Not starting with Monday because I covered that here and here] and then we can get to the exciting part (C. S. Lewis' home and Oxford), of which I have an overzealous excitement for and quantity of pictures.

Tuesday: My Lewis and Tolkien class was just as anticipated: absolutely fantastic. Dr. Hooten-Wilson related exceptionally well to us, laid down how the semester would be, shared some background on both authors, and by the end of class completely blew my mind. Fabulous class. This week we're reading the first book of Lewis' "Space Trilogy" (he referred to it as his "Ransom Trilogy". Wonder why? Read the books for yourself!).

That night, we all went to see The Magistrate. A well done show with musical interludes between the set and scene changes (I don't know what officially constitutes a show as a musical, but I'm moderately confident that this wasn't one). I learned the meaning of British Comedy from this show, which was...interesting. The best way I can think of to describe British comedy (based on The Magistrate, at least) is this: slapstick humor that is worth a smile, sometimes a chuckle, and very rarely an outright laugh. It's like classic cartoon humor in that it's simple and usually dependent on the actions, rather than the words (although there are puns as well. And I love puns.). The engineering of the stage sets were superb, with a slanted pop-out storybook kind of theme. A very well done show that was fun and outright hysterical to the British audience.

Wednesday: My longer day of classes (you see, each class meets for about three hours at a time). I had my Political Theology class in the morning, which I enjoyed significantly more than anticipated, and Christian Ethics in the afternoon. Both classes look to involve a lot of hard work, but I predict that I'll like and learn a lot from both. For lunch Emma, Jase, and I went to Shakespeare's Head, an inexpensive (by British standards) but delicious pub close to where we live. That night we went to another show. I didn't take any pictures, as I was not especially excited after the show. This show, Fair Em, was a Shakespeare wannabe.  There was music incorporated here and there throughout the show, especially to set and transition scenes. This would have been much better if the writer/s had been able to make up their mind as to what type of music they'd like. There were madrigal, jazzy, almost coffeehouse ish, and other music styles which I don't quite recall. Additionally, if a show is to claim to be similar to Shakespeare, I expect wit (as this show was a comedy), of which there was a minute quantity. Despite not particularly being impressed with the show itself, the actors all did a good job. A fun night out, but many of us were tired and ready to chill when we got back home.

Thursday: I didn't have class till 1, so my dear friend Megan and I went out exploring around Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and the area between. Here's some pictures from that adventure:
 Megan and I
 the national gallery
a cool fountain
some statues
 check out Big Ben over yonder
 us with the lion
and what appears to be a Canadian flag
in the background
 ever since The Lion King
lions have been my favorite animal
and also because both Lydia and Lion
begin with "L"
 i was pretty stoaked
 trafalgar square and i
 this could be a postcard
if it wasn't so cloudy
that's St. Martin In the Fields church

That afternoon, we had our Art History/Appreciation class, which was uneventful. It looks to be a great class since we get to go to museums every class meeting from here on. Following that we went out shopping, where I got hit on by a strange Indian guy, had some great conversation and laughs with friends, and did a little shopping (the kind where you go to stores but don't actually end up buying anything).

Friday: The day trip to Oxford!!! The highlights are below, and all of the pictures are featured here at my Oxford in pictures post, for those of you who would like to see everything I experienced (more pictures from Lewis' home and a lot of gorgeous architecture in Oxford). I was colder this day than I have ever been in my life, but it was a lot of fun!

 took a few pictures on the bus ride over
i'd fallen asleep 
sometime between london and here
when i woke up
it was combination
winter wonderland
and narnia
(there were more trees at that point)

 the former home of C. S. Lewis!!!!!!!
 it's called the kilns
no wonder he was such a great writer
look at that cute place
 of course
i had to get a picture with it too
 the library
and the lady showing us about the place did a great job
 fun fact: it's assumed that Lewis had a photographic memory
he would ask students to pick any book
from his shelves
read a sentence from the book
and Lewis had this uncanny ability to not only recall
but recite
the entire passage back to the student
 the Eagle and Child sign from Lewis' day
(that was the pub Lewis and Tolkien frequented
and where they held their Inklings meetings)
[the Inklings were a society of writers and scholars
who would meet periodically
and share pieces of whatever they were currently working on]
 some time period appropriate literature
 it's really a cool desk
 that typewriter was an original
few things in the house were
that picture is of Joy
(who married Lewis)
with a shotgun
she was an American
 such cute tea pots
[some owners of the Kilns in the 70's totally changed the house
since, it has been remodeled to be almost exactly the way it was 
when Lewis lived there
with the exception, however, of the filth associated 
with this bachelor pad]
this was like a play room for Joy's sons
in the attic
it may not look exciting
but if you were to step on that floor
your foot would go through the floor of the attic
and into the ceiling of the kitchen
true story
 this was in Lewis' study
real people live and study in his home currently
thus the laptop
 Lewis' room
and another nice view 
trying to find Narnia
Lewis loved visiting this pond
 it's something the man and I have in common
loving nature
it's pretty
 blurry pic
but that's Emma
she's great
and my roommate
 our tour guide, Jane, was great
and way cute
check out that great scarf/hat combo
 Dr. Taylor, thrilled to be back to the town of his alma mater
the whole town basically looks like a castle
it's fantastic
 made to commemorate 
some martyrs   

 the dancing in Goblet of Fire
[Harry Potter]
was filmed in there   

 inspiration for the great dining hall
in Harry Potter
[they couldn't film here because
it wasn't big enough
and closing it down 
would be awfully inconvenient]
 otherwise known as
"The Bird and the Baby"
and this is where
Tolkien and Lewis met
as part of the Inklings,
a kind of literary discussion society
 Christ's Church Cathedral
cool ceilings
the quad
at Christ's Church

Needless to say, it was a fabulous and beautiful day.