Saturday, January 30, 2010

Feeling Blue

So. I suppose that the happy glow wears off of everything after a while. I think my honeymoon phase is over - I'm not too worried, because I am sure that my initial infatuation with London will develop into a deeper and more committed relationship. The last week has been very rocky, though, and mostly thanks to my living situation. London as a whole, the people who live here, do not bother me. Living in a tiny flat with 20 other people, having no privacy, dirty dishes, and a water heater that breaks every two days bothers me. Add in some academic trials (teachers: don't be vague about the assignments and then slam me for something trivial), and the explosion of stress that occurred in my room the other night and you've got one rough week for all of us.

I am trying hard to stay positive - I am grateful for my sweet roomies, and grateful that I get to have brunch with some (kind of distant) family that I have here in London tomorrow morning.

But I am also still really grumpy and firmly in a funk. A big, dark, irritable, gloomy, depressed, weepy funk. I guess I just need to wait it out.

I want to go to the countryside where things are quiet and there are wide open spaces.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


History simply layers up in this country. People use and reuse the same places over the span of thousands of years. Case in point, Stonehenge. I was privileged enough to take a day trip out to the famous monument. Our lovely tour guide (who happened to look very much like Helen Mirren) gave us a lot of information about how little we actually know about Stonehenge because it really is terribly, terribly old. I wandered about in the chilly air of Salisbury plain looking at that pile stones and feeling the kind of awe one must feel around terribly old things. I realized that I just couldn't comprehend how old it was or the people who so mysteriously built it. I felt very touristy, but ultimately I think I would have regretted not seeing Stonehenge.

After the Henge, we sped over to the city of Bath. History really is literally in layers there - Roman baths underneath, Georgian city above built all in the same local stone, all transformed into a modern, working city. I of course was absolutly giddy to be in the city where Jane Austen set so many novels. I recognized street names from the books (doesn't get much nerdier than that, does it?). Anyway, it was quite remarkable, and quite magical. The city is beautiful and fascinating; I could wander around there all afternoon. I want to go back just to sit in the tearoom in the Jane Austen center one more time, under the slightly tacky portait of Mr. Darcy.

Now I am back in London. Things have been a little difficult at the flat lately, what with all the problems with the hot water. People are going out tonight and part of me wants to stay in and read and sip some tea (or wine)... I never know if I should indulge my reclusive tendencies or not. We shall see. I do plan on getting out and about this week. There is so much to do and see in London that I just get overwhelmed and forget what I even wanted to do in the first place.
Not that I am complaining.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Beans on Toast

Today was a busy day. I was privileged enough to take a tour of Red Bee Media with my class. It was pretty fabulous seeing a working broadcast center. People always ask me what job I want when I graduate. I never know what to tell them because no one has ever given me any practical, hands-on information about any sort of career (college doesn't actually prepare you for "real life" it turns out). Today was a thrilling foray into the world of professional broadcasting.

After lunch, I headed out to the Victoria and Albert Musuem (pictured above). I spent two hours in only a few galleries. It was wonderful, but by the end my feet and my back were feeling very cranky. i retreated back to the flat and had a quiet dinner.

Now, on the subject of food. Today I finally fixed myself up a staple of the English breakfast: beans on toast.

The beans are like canned baked beans, only they are white beans in a tomato sauce. I made toast, added hot beans, and some salt and pepper. It was very tasty, like a ligher version of American baked beans. I wouldn't have thought to have beans for breakfast, so I might make it a regular afternoon lunch/snack. Beans are cheap, and the give some variety.

It was my second foray into uniquely English food after sticky toffee pudding. I have decided to try out as many "traditional" English foods that I can (at least, out of what can be found at Sainsburys since I am on a budget). This was mostly inspired by my spotting a can at the store labelled "Spotted Dick Pudding." I am intruiged. I want to try more foods with funny names. I will try and document my foodie adventures here for you all as they come.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Of Parks and Puppies

Today the weather was quite fine, sunny and much warmer than it has been. I and a few of my flatmates jumped on the opportunity and wandered around Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens all afternoon. It was beautiful.

I am quite in love with the park, and I anticipate many happy hours there, especially once the weather gets warmer. In Hyde Park, all the dogs are allowed to run off their leashes. Londoners come to give their dogs a run, and the park was full of delirious dogs running around after tennis balls and sticks. The dogs will not come up to you though, which is very interesting to me. At home I always worry about being approached by strange dogs; here, they trot right by without even looking at you.

I am rather glad the snow is gone; I like to see everything green outside after I have been shut up with various ailments. Walking restored more of my good spirits, and I am looking forward to this week. I hope to get out and do some more exploring on my own (I find the only cure for missing certain people is to increase my solitude; funny, isn't it?), and I hope to join the knitting group that meets at a nearby college. I think think of no better way of crossing cultural boundaries than through needlework.

I have been scheming over my spring break as well. Here is the plan: Go to Tuscany. Rent a bike. Ride around, and eat Italian food. Good plan, no?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Everything in London feels both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. In some ways, London is like any other city. It is not such an absolute change as it could be. Everyone speaks English, there are cars, and shops, and movie theaters. In some ways, I don't feel as if I've come very far at all.

Then there are all the little differences that crop up when I least expect it. Small acts, such as crossing the street, are different. I'm still anxious about getting run over because I looked the wrong way before crossing. Making change is a nightmare. Everywhere I go I am not quite sure how to act, what the etiquette is. I have to keep reminding myself that the pounds are not equivalent to dollars. Even watching the weather and seeing a map of the UK is strange. I look at it and think, "Oh my God, that where I am."

I had to go to the doctor today (long story involving a 24hr stomach bug that has now morphed into an infected tonsil), and it made me realize that I didn't know where to go or what to do like I do at home. Then I had to find a pharmacy to get my anti-biotics. Did my overseas insurance policy cover the medicine? How much would it be? Little things jump out at me all the time and I realize that I don't know automatically what to do. It's strange because I don't expect it, even though I should.

I have survived without too much trouble. I met with a very kind doctor who reminded me that the sudden change in environment could be quite hard on me, and that I should take care of myself and keep my spirits up.

So, that is what I intend to do. I may have missed out on the theater tonight, but I have much to look forward to when I get well. Mostly I am grateful to have the room (which I share with two others) to myself for a few hours.

There is only one thing I miss right now. I have noticed that any word or offer of kindness by my flatmates has made me want to hug them. I realized that I haven't had many hugs since I got here. I am hugged constantly at home by my friends and my boyfriend (we are an affectionate lot; Americans seem to hug more anyway), but here there is no one I know so well yet. Really, I'd just like to cuddle with one of them now.

I suppose I'll just have to be a big girl and give myself over to the healing powers of tea, biscuits, and Jane Austen.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Adventure Begins

I've been wanting to post, dear readers, for a long time. I've been in London for two days now, and it feels much, much longer. I am overwhelmed. My laptop is also stubbornly refusing to connect to the wireless (I am borrowing from my kind roommate Abbey). The clueless IT guy did nothing, and I don't know what's wrong. I hope that I will get it fixed soon, and then my fingers will be able to type until they wear out.

Anyway. Kensington is beautiful, the city is amazing. The living situation is basically like being in a hostel; 20 people and one kitchen. That will be a challenge. It is worth it though. I am living right down the street from the house where Virginia Woolf used to live. Today I took a bus tour and saw... so many places I want to go. I don't know where to start. I can't even comprehend the notion of taking classes yet. I want to go to Brighton, and Bath, and Oxford too. I keep thinking of all the British novel's I've read. I've fallen in love with pubs, they are the perfect place to relax.

I can't even compose anything about how I feel. I am excited, and nervous. I have yet to hear from my sweetheart who is getting settled in Germany. I am trying not to be shy about embarrass myself with the Brits (so many coins... I hate change!) I don't know, I just don't know how I feel or what to think. I am adjusting well so far, but we'll see how things go. So I think I could categorize this as the honeymoon phase. My strongest feeling is one of gratitude, really. I am so grateful and happy to be here. So few have this opportunity. I am convinced it is the perfect place for me right now.

I suppose that is all for now. I will write something a little more organized when I have my own computer working again. Cheers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Leav'in on a jet plane...

Tonight is my last night in the states for next four months or so.

I don't know what to say. I am excited, and very happy. Somewhat nervous, not happy about some of my goodbyes, but this is it. This is it, I have to go and just trust that everything will be okay. Better than okay.

I will blog as much as possible (don't know what that means yet, we'll see). I will do my very best to keep you posted, dear readers, on all my adventures in London and in Europe. Wish me luck.

Friday, January 1, 2010

So, that's that.

That is that. 2009. Done. Caput. Over.

Usually I write a lengthy retrospective on the past year, a tally of all that has happened... I am having trouble thinking about the past this year, though. I have been so intensely focused on the future that it is difficult to think in detail about 2009. I suppose I will write down a few generalities and then keep focusing on the future.

2009 was difficult. Academically, certainly. Emotionally too. I consider that a good thing, though. I think I have been slowly learning to take things in stride more, to ride out difficulties, to be more patient. Maturity is a big word, but I think I managed to gain some this year, kicking and screaming all the way... I've seen it happen to some of my closest friends too. Maybe that is part of college; watching each other grow. 2009 was rewarding. My relationships have been rewarding, my classes have been rewarding. I am not the writer or the thinker I used to be. I think, if anything, I have gained more conviction and confidence that I had before.

Courage and conviction. This is what I wish for all of us heading into 2010. I know that my difficulties pale in comparison to some. I see that we are all struggling for something, for someone, for some reason. I hope we know when to lean on one another, when to be grateful, when to be patient.

I am trying to see past my anxiety to just be grateful for the grand adventure that is in front of me. It is not easy during the stage of packing and anticipation; of scared and excited imaginings. I am envisioning afternoons in museums, walks in Hyde Park, visits to The Globe. I am also envisioning more stressful things, but I'm trying not think about that, as it is a waste of energy. At any rate, I can't wait to document it here for you all. I am grateful, and ready (mostly) to set off on my own. I am grateful that my loved ones love me enough to let me go (although it does sound like I may have a number of visitors!).

Best wishes for the new year.