Friday, May 3, 2013

There and Back Again

I am certain that many of you have been sitting on the edge of your seat, eagerly anticipating my next blog post, only to sigh in desperation and disappointment when you realize that I haven't written anything new in the past fifteen days. Aside from my post about Ireland, I have not posted anything substantive in the past month. I apologize, dear readers. To make up for it, I have (below) (in no particular order) pictures and explanations of what we were all up to for this past month. Enjoy!

[In addition: a reflective, and oftentimes quite cliche, post wrapping it all up for real here.]

This is sweet Elizabeth on a carousal. One of the beautiful things about life in London is that it's nearly impossible to stay bored for long. On this particular evening, a couple of us walked around the city. We started by going down Fleet Street, then walking back along the river Thames till we crossed the bridge and stumbled upon this fun little carousal. After that we wandered over to Buckingham Palace (there's a super fun playground in the area and the park itself is gorgeous) before stopping by Piccadilly Circus and catching the tube at Leicester Square to get back home. Most of London really can be walked if you have the time and stamina. And the public transit is wonderful. 
Anyone want to take a gander as to what that (above) is a picture of?
Scroll down and it becomes more obvious.
We enjoyed a trip on the London Eye one night!! The ferris wheel was huge, and we could see miles of city all around us. London is lovely at night as it is, with all of the old buildings lit up. It would be quite eerie if not for the high quantities of people and cars out and about at all hours. We rode the eye in these large pods (on the left side of the above picture) which contained about ten or fifteen people (max capacity was probably thirty, they were huge!). Photos can't possibly capture how beautiful the sights were as we rose up over the city and settled back down just above the Thames. 
As we exited the London Eye, we (of course) saw and took advantage of this lovely photo op spot. The trees were all lit up as if it were Christmastime (it was April, but-as you can see by the coats-it still felt like arctic winter). That night we ended up walking around a bit, playing on a playground (playgrounds are way more fun when you're "too old" for them), and watching a very impressive street dancer perform.
They took us to the London Zoo for class!!! (There was real school involved this semester, I promise.) Our Christian Ethics class went in order to study some on environmental and animal related ethics, but also to have a blast! Although it was very cold (see above: pea coat and chunky scarf in April), we all acted like the children we pretend we're not anymore and had a blast!
We enjoyed scampering around the wide array of exhibits, checking out all the exotic animals! We were especially delighted with the monkey portion, where we could walk around as these little monkeys (above) scampered about, at times even parkour and free running off of and around the visitors!!  
A few of us enjoy the British television show Sherlock, and were delighted to discover that only a few blocks away from where we lived was one of the sites where they film! One of my friends, who enjoys stalking celebrities regularly, notified us of a day when they would be filming, and following class we promptly booked it over to the site above. If you're familiar with the show you'll probably recognize that cafe and if you know who Martin Freeman is you'll be thrilled to note that he is located at the center of that picture in the over-sized greenish coat. So that was super exciting.
Caitlyn and I were lucky enough to get to go (for FREE!! Thanks to a friend) afternoon tea, which we'd talked about doing all semester but never actually had done. Although we arrived cold and wet (because weather in London is even more unpredictable than Texas, believe it or not), we basked in the warmpth of our tea and excitedly nibbled on the yummy sandwiches, scones, and breads provided.
We couldn't stop taking pictures of everything! It was all just so adorable!
The last week, in the midst of the stress and sleeplessness associated with both finals and our last week abroad, our professors took us to see Wicked!! Taylor kindly lent me her super cute sparkly dress and we all had a ball! Definitely a show worth seeing, everyone did an excellent job.

Saying goodbye was of course not the most pleasant thing ever. Goodbye may be the saddest thing to ever happen to a person. I think so at least.
But here's an incredibly uncomfortable goodbye which made me laugh.

As we began our descent to the DFW Airport, Caitlyn and I were greeted by the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, the Texas Rangers Stadium, and a lovely sunset. It was the perfect way to end the ten hour flight home (which, with the help of several movies and the fact that the flight attendents kept bringing us food, wasn't too bad!).

And just like that we were back home again.

I Caught the Bug

The travel bug.

I know that what I just said (and by "said", I actually mean "put that title with that opening sentence") may be one of the cheesier things I've said on this blog. And trust me, I say a lot of cheesy things. But bear with me.

The semester I spent in London taught me a lot. I learned to be thankful for good toilets, nice buildings (as in-some places we stayed in England may have been older than America), reasonable prices on food, and a large community of people who support my faith in Christ. Oh, and Mexican food. I hadn't had good salsa in so long. However, although living in London meant living in a culture that seems very similar to ours here (ie: very well developed country, English speaking, fast pace of life) it was different enough that I experienced mild reverse culture shock coming back home (reverse culture shock is a real thing-shout out to Dr. Sellers for teaching me about it last fall in my Missions and Anthropology course). I appreciate that the British drivers, although crazy, are not as stupid as those driving here. In the churches at least, they focus more on the community and less on the individual. Their young adults have better social skills, and don't sit around a table at a restaurant looking at their phones and not each other. They stay more up to date with the current events around the world than we do here. Oh, and they don't offer Route 44 Sonic drinks-which might be half the reason America has such a large problem with obesity (pun unintended).

Reflecting on the past couple years of my life, I realized that in the past 24 months I've lived in three different states and two different countries, living in a different location or moving somewhere almost every three months. The longest I've lived at home since before graduating high school (I'd already moved to Tulsa the week prior to my graduation) is the month off of school for Christmas break, and my siblings have to make some sacrifices for me to fit back in the house for those fleeting moments when I visit or stay at home. I'm living at home for the next three months, but who knows where I'll be the next summer or in a year and a half when I graduate?

I love this semi-nomadic lifestyle! I find it liberating to move back and forth, to go off and have some amazing stories to tell and live in a variety of places, from the middle of nowhere in the mountains to the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world!!

[Caution: cliche's ahead. #sorrynotsorry]

It is wonderful being home; not living out of a suitcase is such a blessing. It's nice to get settled into a home. One valuable gift I am lucky enough to have is contentment and embracing home as wherever I'm at (not always, because let's be real here, I'm human). I post on twitter here and there about how I'm already restless, ready for a new adventure, and excited to go back overseas to a place I've never been and spend time with people I've never met. However, one thing I've realized over the years is to be thankful for where I'm at now. There's adventures here, new exploits and hazards all over the place, new people! Even in Abilene, notorious for being boring, there's new experiences to be had! This summer I have the opportunity to work a new type of job and enjoy time with my family that we haven't had together in a long time! In the fall I'm already looking ahead to some great new encounters as an orientation leader, student activities leader, and a new job as an RA on my campus!! No matter where you're at, life really is what you make of it. Even if things aren't changing around you, enjoy where you're at. Learn to be content where you are and with what you have! That's one of the most valuable things I've learned. Avoid getting down because you may not have the means, time, or energy to see the sights and view the histories and lifestyles of other cultures!

That being said, I'll just bounce on back to the other side of the spectrum (because my thoughts are completely underdeveloped so I may end up contradicting myself-hopefully not). I'm happy where I'm at, excited for the next few months, but also am already anticipating traveling again. At this point in my life, I can be content with all the things I've done and places I've been (it's way more than I would have dreamed of even five years ago!! And much more than so many other people get to do!), but there are so many more sights, smells, tastes, peoples, places, landscapes, etc to be seen!! If I could be paid just to travel, I would. That's the dream!

Speaking of dreams...Growing up, I've not been one to have a big goal, some big dream to fulfill. All I've hoped for is a family someday and besides that my future remains as an entire book of empty pages, no illustrations of the perfect job, house, wedding, vacation, or whatever taking up space and having to be erased later on by reality. I still hold on to that dream of a family, but living in London has made me realize how passionate I am about travel-seeing the world from other perspectives and living in a culture varying from the one I've always known, it's amazing. If reality permits (aka if I can afford it) I aspire to do much, much more traveling in the future. That may mean road trips through the continental United States, it could mean missions, many more trans-Atlantic flights, or even learning other languages (and I really dislike learning other languages, it's hard for my brain). Who knows? I'm not making any sort of commitment here, but I actually know what I want, which is a big deal considering how hard decisions can be for me.

All I know is that with the certainty of a desire to travel more in the future comes much uncertainty about logistics, reality, and life in general. [I found this nice quote once: "Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown."] But there's no need to worry, because tomorrow will worry about itself. I look forward to the adventures this next day, week, summer, year, and decade throw at me, and glance back in thankfulness for all the wonderful things I already have.