Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tolkien says it best.

"In Britain's land beyond the seas
the wind blows ever through the trees;
in Britain's land beyond the waves
are stony shores and stony caves."

Of course that little gem pops up in my assigned reading for my Tolkien and Medieval Literature class. Of course.

I will always and forever be home-away-from-homesick. Bottom line. My senior seminar professor asked us, as an exercise, where we would go if we could go somewhere 1) for 4-6 weeks, 2) for 6 months to 1 year, and 3) to serve our fellow humans. My answers were all to places I've already been and I've already fallen in love with. 1) South Africa, 2) England, 3) South Africa. I kind of surprised myself for narrowing down my answers to places I've already been and eliminating different places like Argentina, France, or New Zealand (to name just a few). As a response to the second question, my professor asked me why I would choose to live in Europe and in England specifically. My answer was that four long months just wasn't enough. There are plenty of places in this country -- in this region, even -- that I would be fine with calling home, but if you gave me a million dollars and half a chance, I would be right back in York in a heartbeat. I'm pretty sure that means that my reverse culture shock or reverse homesickness or whatever I'm supposed to have had hasn't quite worn off yet.

I love this world, but distance is a cruel, cruel thing.

"In Britain's land across the seas
the spring is merry in the trees;
the birds in Britain's woodlands pair
when leaves are long and flowers are fair."

-- J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, September 30, 2010

re-entry SUCKS.

That is how overwhelmed I got with life...I haven't posted about returning to my home and native land until four months after the fact. Actually, coming back to the States wasn't really the problem. After I got over my initial shock about how big everything was (e.g. the cars), I got into a summer rhythm. Well, first I had to be home for two days, then drive to Grand Rapids, then drive to Kansas City for a wedding and then drive back only to drive from Cleveland to GR again to move into my summer house and start my new job, but hey, whatever. After that I got into a summer rhythm that involved Hope friends, Hope's campus, Holland, and the area I've come to know so well within the past three years. I thought I could take everything on again. I thought I was ready. After a brief jaunt home for my friend's wedding in August, I thought I could drive back up to Hope and take the plunge back into American classes, American academia, American schedules, American life...

...fail.

This is really freaking hard. English classes meet once, MAYBE twice a week for a couple of hours, and the only homework I had all semester was to read books for class and write two 2,500-word essays. That was it. That was the whole semester. Oh, and I only had three classes and ONE society with which I was actually involved.

Yeah, here's my Hope schedule:

Monday: work in the English department 11:15-12:30, Chapel Choir 4:30-5:30, Luminescence 5:30-7, Nykerk meetings 9-11
Tuesday: class 9:30-11, class 12-1:30, class 1:30-3, Chapel Choir 4:30-5:30, class 6-7:20
Wednesday: work 11:15-12:30, Chapel Choir 4:30-5:30, Luminescence 5:30-7
Thursday: see Tuesday
Friday: work in the English department 11:15-12:30, work in Saugatuck 1-7 and close
Saturday: work in Saugatuck 3-9 and close
Sunday: sometimes church, if I'm lucky and can drag myself out of bed for it.

...and then I begin again. Pretty much all of my free time is spent doing the massive amounts of busy work and reading I have for my classes. THIS IS SO MUCH READING. AND SO MUCH WRITING. AND SO MUCH BUSY. Not to mention that I have yet to secure myself an internship for next semester which needs to happen within the next two weeks or earlier and Equestrian Club hasn't even started yet and Lumies hasn't had any gigs yet and Nykerk hasn't happened yet and Vespers hasn't happened yet and and and and

this is why I'm spontaneously combusting.

In the meantime, everyone I left behind just kept living their lives without me. I know they don't mean to rub it in, but every once in awhile it slips out. "Hey, remember that one time that ____________?? That was hilario -- oh. You were gone." "Hey, remember doing this song? What part were you? Oh...you've never seen it before. You were gone."

-_-

They don't mean to be rude, they're not blaming me, and I wasn't gone on purpose. Nobody is at fault, and yet I still feel bad every time this happens. Yes, I was off having the time of my life in a new place, but while I was doing that, everyone else was having a pretty good time, too, and they were doing it without me there.

This is turning pretty emo pretty quickly. I promise I'm not depressed beyond all reasonable comprehension...I'm actually pretty happy, for the most part. I'm happy to be back, I'm happy to see everyone I missed while I was gone, I'm happy to get to do all of my favorite Hope activities again, and I'm happy to be back in my own familiar corner of the world. It's just sometimes hard to reinsert myself into the world I vacated; sometimes it feels like there's not a lot of wiggle room and I don't quite fit the way I used to. A small part of me felt guilty talking to students at the Study Abroad fair today. I was repping my heart out for York St. John and talking about what a great time I had there, but somewhere deep down I was thinking, "but if you go...you'll have to deal with this, too...and nobody tells you about the numb homesick ache you get once you're home and you can't just go back."

I've compared it to feeling like I graduated from Hope and went off in the world and then all of a sudden I was just...back. It feels so good to be back, but it also doesn't really feel quite right, either. It feels like I shouldn't be here and that I should be somewhere else.

Honestly, if this is what graduating feels like, this is gonna suuuuuuuck.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I...don't know how to feel.


It's a fairly surreal experience to be surrounded not by the posters, decorations, and vestiges of my four months in York, but by bare walls reminiscent of a stark prison cell. It's kind of weird to see empty drawers, empty wardrobe, empty room, empty everything, just the way I found it way back in January. It's strange as all get-out to see my suitcases again, and to see them filled with my entire life for the last semester. I've had my head wrapped around the idea of being and living HERE for so long that I can't exactly wrap my head around the fact that tomorrow, I'll be HOME. The home from where my parents have been skyping me this whole time. The home where my friends live. The home from where I kept hearing stories about the life going on there without me. Tomorrow I'll BE there, and everyone's lives there won't go on without me anymore.

But everyone's lives here will. And that's the part that hasn't really hit me yet, and probably won't until I'm up in the air or on my layover in New York or even back home in Cleveland. Four months abroad seemed like forever until I actually lived them...but at the same time, looking back on everything I've done and seen and learned over here, it really does feel like it's been almost forever...except forever will keep going, and so will everyone's lives here long after I've returned to Cleveland and to Hope.



I literally don't know what to feel. Nothing has sunk in yet. It's not registering that I'm packing to leave this room, this flat, this university forever. It's not registering that it will be years before I see these people again...if I'm ever lucky enough to. It's not registering that after tomorrow, I won't live here anymore. York will not be my adopted hometown. After tomorrow, this will no longer be my life. This doesn't mean that I'm not looking forward to my life at home, but I can tell already that it's going to take some MAJOR adjustment. I was able to adapt to life here well enough...now I just have to repeat the process for my return.

I'll let you know how that goes once I've actually figured out that I'm leaving.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Done.

DONE with essays. WHOO!

DONE with exams. YEAH!

DONE with studying, classes, and school in general for the year. WOOTILY WOOT!

DONE with York St. John University. YAAAYYwaaaait...?

DONE with junior year, and thus 3/4 of my college education. uhm.

DONE with England in ten days. WHAT the whaaaaat???

Done packing? Nope. Haven't even started. I think I might be in denial that my remaining time across the great big sea has dwindled to nearly single digits.

This is going to be harder than I thought.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The things I learn when I'm not writing my last essay...

-- "Ligretto" is the Norwegian version of Dutch Blitz...and it's just as addictive!

-- "Bolle" (BALL-luh) are Norwegian sweet rolls. They *look* like scones, but they're sweeter and far less crumbly. In other news, Kjetil makes excellent bolle.

-- Writing 2,500 words? Dumb. Making words in "Bananagrams" with your housemate? WAY more entertaining...except when you end up with all the Q's and X's and J's. Then it's dumb. Hah.

-- Shopping for presents, running errands, and tidying my room are so much more satisfying when I'm putting something off.

-- Keep a respectful distance when you encounter a man in the post office who is standing in line, gesticulating wildly and shouting animatedly at people who aren't there...

-- People appreciate random appearances of sweets. I learned this while handing out "stress packs" in the library with the CU kids. :)

-- It's guaranteed to only be sunny outside when I wake up in the morning, pull back the curtain, and say, "Golly gee whiz, what a wonderful day! I think I'll go outside and be productive!" The SECOND I'm done getting ready and I'm ready to enjoy the day...it gets cloudy. Sometimes I'm even lucky enough for it to sprinkle a little. -_- (This has literally happened for almost two weeks straight. I am not lying.)

-- Finding useful quotations for my essay is TEEEEDIOUS...but looking up hours of tuneage on YouTube is not.

-- Getting snail mail, especially all the way across the pond, still makes me happy inside. :D

-- No matter if you're able to say his real name or not, Mr. Stupid Icelandic Dumbbutt Volcano (we've named him Jeremy, for lack of a more pronounceable moniker) needs to STOP projectile vomiting all over Europe. Get over your hangover already, Jeremy. Take some Pepto-Bismol and sleep it off. This behaviour is getting old, and I need to go home soon.

-- Speaking of home...13 days. Yiiiikes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Striking moments from the back of an anonymous postcard...

I read Postsecret's new postcard secrets every week, and this week I came across one that really mirrors my own experience...



(Despite the fear, anxiety, and loneliness...there is. There really, really is.)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Crunch Time

I hate it when I wake up and it's May.

Well, actually, I don't, but I have every reason to be slightly alarmed at the sneak-attack of this particular May. All the papers, reading, and studying ("revising") to which I said, "oh, whatever, it can wait til May"...waited til May. May is now here. Ever since I woke to the cold, damp, grey English day this morning and realized it was the month where stuff actually happens, everything has become a countdown. I have one 2,500-word essay for Writing the Caribbean, one portfolio with self-reflective essay and pieces from two different genres of writing for Creative Writing B (both due May 7--six days from now), and one final exam for which to revise for Nineteenth Century Writing on May 14 (thirteen days from now). Also, slightly more daunting is the fact that I leave Limes Court, York, and England on May 24 (twenty-three days from now).

I haven't gotten very far on my essay. I haven't finished the short story for my portfolio. I haven't been to London. I haven't been to Scotland. I haven't been to Wales. I haven't been to France and practiced my abysmal knowledge of French. I haven't walked the city walls. I haven't figured out what the heck Clifford's Tower is. I haven't been on a winning pub quiz team, as hard as we may try and as laughable as our efforts may be. I haven't walked by the river enough. I haven't taken enough pictures. I haven't hung out with people enough. I haven't gone on enough coffee dates. I haven't had time to realize that it feels like I've been here forever and I'll just keep on being here and everything will still be the same. I've been here too long to realize that it feels like I just got here last week.

But I have been to Spain, Italy, and Ireland (with both fun, fantastic Hope friends and with my dad). I have met fantastic people. I have had picnics in the park and met for coffee. I have wandered down the streets and made fun of the tourists. I have established a routine that makes me feel comfortable and at home.

However, that routine is about to be shaken up by May. I have 7,500 words to write and an exam to take shortly thereafter. I have things to do and people to see. I have pictures to take. I have a life to live. I have stories to rack up so I can tell them later.

I have twenty-three days to finish being a student abroad. In twenty-three days, that part of my identity will change, and I'll be merely a former study abroad student. I'll be an American on American soil again; one of many. I'll be living a different sort of adventure -- adventuring through a final year of undergraduate study and figuring out what in this big wide world to do with my life, like many other final-year students. In twenty-three days, I'll be home and thinking of here instead of here and thinking of home.

In twenty-three days, these essays, these final days, and this semester will all be a memory.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

If home is where the heart is, then I belong everywhere.



Right now, I'm trying to work out the finer points of wrangling a slightly earlier ticket home from StudentUniverse (fairly unsuccessfully, I might add...every agent I've talked to has had a different story about how much it's going to cost, and when I went to actually change, their computers were down and they couldn't make any changes. Oy.), in order to be home in time to attend a wedding. When this change finally and finally goes through, that means I'll have one month and some change from this exact point in time before I'm boarding another overseas flight and heading west to the States, with no English return date in sight.

I can't wrap my head around the fact that that means I've been here for three months. I arrived here on 25 January, and here it is, 22 April. Almost three-quarters of my time here has already passed. I've seen and done and learned so much, but there's so much that I wish I could have done that I know I won't get to do before I leave. It simultaneously feels like I just arrived (in full discombobulated and jet-lagged glory) a week ago and like I've been here for years. Some things haven't changed; I'm still disgruntled at the exchange rate, pubs with free wifi are still my favorite places to plop down and do homework, and my curious accent is sometimes still a novelty. But when I arrived, it was cold and snowy and everything was unfamiliar; now, spring is doing its best to fully arrive, and I've met many good friends and settled into a comfortable routine that will soon be upset by final exams and semester's-end essays, as well as the preparations for my departure.


(York Minster sanctuary at night)

It's starting to get to the point where I miss my family and friends and everything about home that's so familiar (like root beer and driving on the right, among other things). At the same time, though, I'm almost appalled by my willingness to go home and leave this place with its own distinct familiarity, and am deliberately trying to resist beginning a day-by-day countdown, knowing that once it ticks down to 0 I don't know when (or if) I'll ever have the chance to come back. As much as I desperately want to stay and to hang on to my last remaining shreds of time here, I'm ready to go home; as much as I desperately want to see my family again, and hang out with my home friends, and get/start a summer job, I'd love to stay. It's an interesting dichotomy of the anticipation to leave and the dread of it.

I've jokingly said before, "This is exactly why I need to learn to teleport." But seriously, though, if I was able to bend location and distance to my will, I wouldn't have this problem. I could wake up one morning, say, "I feel like being in York today," and be there before lunchtime. Unfortunately, this is not how travel works. I guess getting there (and, in my case, staying there) really is half the fun. If I was able to just blink my eyes and end up somewhere, then the fact that I was 3,000 miles away for four months of my life and for one semester of the eight in my college career wouldn't really mean as much...and the fact that I may very well spend the rest of my life 3,000 miles away from where I'm sitting as I type this wouldn't be quite so heart-wrenching. I'm comforted by the fact that I definitely made the right decision by coming here in being so happy and so resistant to leaving, but it's going to be tough knowing that a place I've so grown to love is going to be so hard to come back to, and even if I do, it will never be quite the same.


(The view from my window)

On Tuesday, I went to visit Katie, a longtime family friend who currently lives with her husband in Harrogate. After trading stories of various travel experiences, she talked about a friend who had come over to visit her and become enthralled by traveling. "I told her, 'I knew it! You caught the travel bug!' Once you catch the bug, you've got it for good," she said. It's so true. I don't think I'll really be able to just stay in once place ever again. I'm going to have to travel and see new things, whether I'm going across the state, across the country, or across the ocean. At the risk of being torn between staying and leaving just like I am now, at the risk of meeting awesome new people who will inevitably live too far away to see regularly (or ever again), at the risk of falling in love with something just to be relegated to loving it from a distance, I have to be able to travel. I have to be able to look back at pictures and memories and say, "Wow...what a ride." I've become much too mobile to ever be content with being stationary again.

This doesn't mean I don't love having somewhere comfortable and familiar to come home to. This doesn't mean I won't need a break from all this adventure every now and then. This doesn't mean I'll become so mobile I'll become a blur and forget the simple joys in just being still. But this does mean that I'm aware of how big the world is and how small the patches of it that I've come to love...and how little the time I have to love these patches of world while I still can.


(The River Ouse)

I have one more month to sip my English tea, traipse through the Minster, do homework in The Habit, read by the river Ouse, window-shop my way down Stonegate, and finish my time at York St. John University. It's comforting and discomforting at the same time...but home is calling, and in one month's time, I'll be answering by way of baggage claims, currency exchanges, and U.S. Customs. And somehow, by the time that month passes and I'm back on American soil, I think I'll be ready to be home.

Friday, April 16, 2010

waxing poetic at three am

I've spent thousands and wandered miles for a few forevers in an attempt to "find myself." From across an ocean, all I've really "found" is that my heart is a cruel backwards scavenger hunt. I leave bits of it everywhere I go and "find" myself in the empty, gaping puzzle piece places left by this place or that. I've strewn myself across oceans and continents and left tufts and flakes of self in lakes, rivers, and seas. The art of "finding," I'm slowly coming to realize, isn't merely acquiring. It's losing so one can acquire different, more, better, new, whole. Loss is gain and losing is finding
and becoming
and beautiful.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Photobucket > Flickr.

Clearly. I finally have all of my pictures in one place, and my Ireland pictures are now up. :)

http://s822.photobucket.com/home/nutmeg07588/index

Monday, April 12, 2010

three things...

1) I guess Flickr has some sort of photo limit. So not only did it eat my York/Whitby pictures, but there's no room for me to put up my Ireland pictures. Stay tuned for updates. Or, if you're Facebook friends with my mom, look at the ones my dad took that she put up. :)

2) I HAVE SIX MORE WEEKS BEFORE I LEAVE. What?!?!?

3) Attempting to find summer employment from afar is a drag, man.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Barca, Rome, Galway, Dublin, York!

That's right, I'm back in home sweet York after two weeks of spring vacation in Barcelona, Rome, and Ireland. The Ireland part was actually a surprise...I didn't know until I was in Spain that I was going to meet up with my dad there after Rome. :)

For convenience's sake, instead of giving a huuuuge run-down of everything we did, I'll explain everything in dates and bullet points...

29 March 2010
-- Caught a taxi at 3:30 am to catch a 4:15 train to Manchester for my 8 am flight from Manchester to Barcelona. Sick.
-- Landed in Barcelona's main airport. As soon as the wheels of the plane touched the tarmac, I suddenly realised that a) I had never been to a country where at least one of the official languages is not English, and b) I did not speak the official language.
-- After lots of waiting and back-and-forth calling, met up with Brittany outside the hostel.
-- Ordered food in French, as that was the only language we had in common with the waitstaff.
-- Took naps, waited for Jeanine, and then slept some more.

30 March 2010
-- Slept til 11:30. Awesome.
-- Went to the same restaurant as yesterday, but francophone man was gone and replaced by Spanish-speaking-only man. Language frustrations ensued, but we were still able to eat (thankfully).
-- Wandered around the city looking for Las Ramblas (main road)...took us awhile. :P
-- Found Travel Bar, an international bar that sponsors lots of fun events for internationals visiting Barcelona.
-- Found a market with the BEST FRUIT/FRESH-SQUEEZED FRUIT JUICE EVER.
-- Got told off by an older Spanish lady for not having my purse in front of me enough/too far around my side (which was probably lucky, as BCN has a HUGE pickpocketing problem).
-- Went to a Spanish cooking class, where we learned how to make tapas (appetizers), sangria (YUM), and paella (sp?)...a seafood dish with prawns, squid, etc. Yeah...I'm not a seafood person...I'm sure it was good to people who like seafood, though. :P

31 March 2010
-- Went on a walking tour of Barcelona...basically learned all the inside jokes of the city, as well as other interesting history.
-- CONSUMED CHURROS. SO GOOD.
-- Went shopping for breakable things (mine got home to momma in one piece! Hooraaaay! I got her a beautiful bowl from a pottery store.).
-- Got rear-ended while walking along the pier by a band of probably illegal immigrants selling definitely illegal ripoffs while they were running away from police.
-- Had Spanish quesadillas by the Mediterranean Sea.

1 April 2010
-- TOSSA DE MAR! We got up early and went to a small seaside town about an hour away by bus (theoretically...it was more like an hour and a half).
-- Consumed Spanish pina coladas, as well as patatas bravas (fried chunks of potato with a spicy cheese sauce on top...SO GOOD!).
-- Wandered around a market that went down a good few blocks.
-- Splashed in the Mediterranean Sea.
-- Met an ADORABLE older English/Irish couple.
-- Wandered around the old castle/towers/village up on a hill.
-- Hiked around the trails we found up on the hill.
-- Found an old watchtower (for Moorish pirates!) pretty much by accident.
-- Had dinner and sangria by the sea.
-- Went back into town only to find we'd missed the "Magical Fountain" show in front of the Museum of Art by mere minutes. It was still a killer view, though.

2 April 2010
-- Did our own walking tour of everything in BCN we hadn't seen yet...started of at the Sagrada Familla cathedral designed by Gaudi, then went to the bullfighting ring (but not to a fight...eeww...), the Cascada fountain and park that Gaudi designed, and the Spanish Arc de Triomf (that doesn't celebrate anything...it's just copied from France's!).
-- We tried to go to our favourite markets (like the fruit market!), but they were closed due to it being Good Friday and all.
-- But we did see a cross procession through Las Ramblas.
-- Walked along the coastline up through Monjuic (a mountain area) through beautiful gardens and part of the 1992 Olympic Village up to a castle and around an old fort that we kind of found by accident.
-- Took a mini nap on a wall of the fort and got sunburned on my chest. Silly Irish skin. :(
-- Made our way back to the art museum to catch the "Magical Fountain" show.
-- Saw a flamenco show!

3 April 2010
-- Barcelona to Rome with Jeanine...our flight flew right over the coolest stuff in Rome (i.e. Colosseum, etc)!
-- Got groceries and made a delicious pasta/salad dinner...and made our own "sangria!" ;)
-- Saw the Colosseum and the Roman Forum at night...very cool indeed!

4 April 2010
-- Got up early to catch the bus to St. Peter's for Easter mass.
-- Spent 15 minutes in Mass...enough to snap some pictures and prove we were there! The rain was getting annoying at this point, too. :/
-- Got some authentic Italian pizza and gelato en route to Jeanine's church (OMG YUM).
-- Went to Jeanine's international church so we could say we actually were in church on Easter. ;)
-- Walked around all day in the rain seeing all the cool (free!) stuff in Rome, e.g. the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Jeanine's favorite gelato place, etc.
-- Had dinner in Trestevere (OH MAN WAS THAT GOOD...I will never be able to have pasta again now that I've had the real stuff!).

5 April 2010
-- Flew to Dublin and met up with Dad!
-- Got on the Go Bus that took us straight to Galway.
-- Found our hostel in gale force winds and rain and nastiness.
-- Ensured that Dad got his first real Irish pub meal. :D

6 April 2010
-- SLEPT IN! Mostly for Dad's benefit...he was getting over the jet lag, dontcha know.
-- Checked on Hope classes that the Registrar was nice enough to sign me up for...let's just say it's an ongoing process.
-- Explored the town of Galway with Dad -- saw the Claddaugh ring "Museum" (tiny room in the back of a tiny shop!), St. Nicholas Church (where Christopher Columbus once worshipped), and Galway Cathedral (where I got a Connemara marble rosary!).
-- Wandered around the Salthill area -- right on the sea. :) We went into a little coffee shop/gift shop while it rained, and then saw the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen in my life. Unfortunately, we did not get to the end of it to claim our pot of gold. ;P
-- Went to the King's Head Pub for dinner...yes, it does have something to do with Charles I.
-- Watched the Arsenal v Barcelona game in the pub...the reactions of the football fans to the game were priceless!
-- Met people from Illinois in the pub with kids who go to Notre Dame and knew Kevin Healey...whoa. Small world.

7 April 2010
-- Bus tour today! Went through County Galway and County Clare to Corcomroe Abbey, Ballyvaghn, an ancient Druid Dolmen, the towns of Kilfenora and Lisdoonvarna (home of the Matchmaking festival), had lunch in Doolin, and then stopped for awhile at the Cliffs of Moher. Holy epic.
-- Back to Galway for dinner at Monroe's, where we watched the Man U v Bayern Munich game.

8 April 2010
-- Headed back to Dublin. Dumped our stuff at the hostel and proceeded to make our own walking tour.
-- Saw Trinity College Dublin and the Book of Kells (DROOL) as well as the Long Room in the TCD library (totally geeked out. Oh man.).
-- Saw Christchurch and St. Patrick's cathedral (where Jonathan Swift was once a dean...yes. No lie.).
-- Went to two different bits of the National Museum (on two different ends of town!), but got to the second one with ten minutes to spare and then we got kicked out so they could close. Dumb.
-- Relaxed for awhile in St. Stephen's square...had a beautiful day for it, too!
-- Went back to Temple Bar and walked around deciding on a place to eat (it took awhile...we kept getting distracted by the really talented four-piece busker band). We eventually settled on Three Crown Alley, where we found out our waitress was from Chicago.
-- Went to bed early cuz my flight out was at 6 am, meaning I had to be up at four...blah. >_<

The end. :D I promise pics are coming...Flickr was just being really obnoxious yesterday, so I'm gonna see if I can't persuade it to work sometime today or tomorrow. I'll try to include stories in the captions, too (or as many as I can remember!).

Summary: Spring Break '10 = great success.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Up in the air again

So basically, the next time I blog, I'm going to do so to say I have insanely awesome pictures from my Easter Holiday trip to Barcelona and Rome with two lovely Hope girls for you to look at. Yeah, that's right...I'm spending a little under a week in Barca, and I'll be in the Vatican for Easter. I leave on Monday. Granted, I leave Monday morning at about 3:30ish to get to my train to the airport on time, but I still have cooler spring break plans than you. (Just kidding...but seriously, though.) ;) Hopefully it will be nice and warm and Mediterranean for me...England may be trying to have a sunny and warm springtime, but let's just say it gets an "A" for effort (I love you, England, but try having a day that's *consistently* sunny instead of sunny in patches. Then I'll love you even more).

Also...I came to the realization (wow, it actually took some effort to type that with a "zed" -- I'm becoming grammatically Anglicised!) this morning that I have approximately two months until I fly home. That means I've been here for two whole months already. I've officially reached the halfway point of my semester abroad. Where has the time gone?? It's getting easier and easier to measure time academically and begin end-of-term countdowns. I've turned in "halfway point" essays for my two literature courses, and my creative writing course turned out to be only a half-semester class. I basically have to just work on my end-of-term portfolio for that class, write one more end-of-term essay for my Caribbean lit class, and take a final exam for my 19th-Century lit class. After my week and a half of traveling and my other week and a half of holiday is over, I only have about five weeks of class left. I have only two more books to read (THAT is an accomplishment!), one for each lit class. I only have classes two or three days a week (since my 19th-Century lecture on Tuesdays is only every other week), and have a four- or five-day weekend every week from here on out.

Usually I look forward to the end of the academic year with every fiber of my being, but this time, the end of term means the end of my time in this beautiful country, with no foreseeable return date (I'd love to say "I'm coming back and I know exactly when," but a) I don't, b) my schedule doesn't, and c) my finances don't, either, considering that I have to start saving for Real Life upon my return to the States. Blech). Every first time I do something may be a last time. I've joked to the folks back home that Customs will have to drag me out of here kicking and screaming, but in all honesty, in two months, I'll be leaving here with about that amount of resistance, if only internal (I know enough not to cause scenes in international airports...creating embarrassing headlines on Fox News is not a life goal of mine). I'll still want to see everyone back home again, I'm still excited to restart my life back home with whatever job I end up getting, and it will be nice to be reimmersed in what is most familiar to me, in the life I grew up with...but at the end of these two months, I'll be sitting in the airport in Manchester, wishing I'd done [insert thing here] or had the time/money to go to [insert crazy cool place here] or been able to hang out with [insert friend here] just one more time.

Which means from now on, I have to soak up as much of England (and the surrounding area) as I can before it's all gone. After I get back from Rome on April 7, I've decided that the rest of Easter holiday will be spent exploring York, taking my camera everywhere, and finding new places to eat/read a book/take pictures/write/exist, in an effort to get to know this city I'm calling home even better than I already have. I have a shortlist of places I need to go before I leave, both in England and otherwise, and will see as many of these places as my tight budget will allow before the end of term. I'll spend more time writing down every thought, every observation, every made-up story from extensive people-watching before I stop getting to observe these idiosyncrasies and watch these people and soak in this place. People have "bucket lists" for things they must do and see before they die; I have a bucket list of things to do and see before I'm gone from England and my time here is only a memory, and outdated blog, and a collection of snapshots of a former life I was lucky enough to live.

My 8th-grade Language Arts teacher, Mr. Thompson (one of the best teachers I've ever had), wrote in each of our yearbooks at the end of the year, "Live your life so you have few regrets." My 14-year-old self didn't realize at the time what my 21-year-old self would look back and see in such a statement. I see a call to arms to live the best life you can. I see wise counsel from someone who's lived more life than I have. I see advice to live as wholly as you can in every moment, because every moment is a blessing. The fact that I get to live and learn in such a beautiful European city and spend a chunk of my busy life across an ocean is more blessing than I thought possible, and something I intend to savor as much as I can so when I'm gone from here, I can look back with fondness and with few regrets.

On that note...I'll see you in a week and a half.

Ciao.

Friday, March 19, 2010

For the record...

I would like to document two "firsts" today.

1) I TURNED IN MY FIRST ESSAY TODAY. This is actually a HUGE deal, because essays and, sometimes, exams (depending on the class) are literally the only source of grades ("marks") in the ENTIRE CLASS. If you do well on one/both, you're golden. If you mess up...may the administration at your home university have mercy on your soul/GPA.
SO. After much hemming, hawing, revising, fretting, and going in for quick once-overs with my professor/"tutor" ("Do I really have to use Harvard style citation?" "Yes. It's dumb, but yes." "(sigh)"), I turned in a 3,175-word/ten-page essay taking a deconstructionist view on the endings of Mansfield Park and Oliver Twist for 60% of my grade in my Nineteenth Century Writing class (the other 40% is a final that sounds remarkably similar to the ones I've taken for Rhoda's lit classes, so hopefully I won't be taken by surprise come exam week!). Crossed fingers, prayers, and boxes of chocolate/monetary bribes sent to my tutor would be much appreciated.

2) I'M BUSTING OUT THE FLIP-FLOPS AND/OR CHACOS TODAY. Yeah, that's right. It's sunny (SUNNY! In ENGLAND! Who knew?!?) and almost 60 degrees Fahrenheit (mid-teens Celsius, for the rest of the world). If that's not occasion to bare my toes, then I don't know what is.

I have half my grade turned in and done, and now I'm sitting with my window open enjoying the sunshine, listening to Train's new album, and relishing having nothing to do right this second. Life is good. :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

FLICKR AGAIN

Yeah, I'm doing that whole teasing-with-a-post-that's-not-actually-a-post thing again, but I just thought I'd call your attention to the pictures from my small group's trip to Scarborough on Saturday. What a lovely day at the seaside. :) (see the Flickr photostream...)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Leeds

Yesterday was a day of gains and losses. Yesterday was also the day a bunch of us took a shopping trip to the city of Leeds, about a 1/2-hr train ride away. Over the course of our day trip, I gained...

-- my railcard (FINALLY!)
-- a very basic knowledge of some of a new city

(LIES. There were NO zebras.)

-- an appreciation for Primark...it's like a beautiful, beautiful T.J. Maxx/Marshall's love child (also...apparently T.J. Maxx is called "T.K. Maxx" over here)

-- a skirt, a nice button-down shirt, two dresses, a pair of rain boots, and a pair of cute sandals for summer ^^

I lost...

-- lots of monies. I mean, Primark is crazy cheap, and I found some awesome deals...I just found more deals and sales than maybe I should have. Hah. BUT I got some great stuff out of it. I mean, come ON...Union Jack Wellies? I think SO.



Elisabeth and I


Tina, Sabina, and I


Caroline and Marina had a speed-eating contest at Subway. Caroline won by a landslide. Marina looks miffed.

Friday, March 5, 2010

ILIE = I Live In England

Today, I used the word "dodgy" as an adjective synonymous with "sketchy" or "spotty" in an email to my mother. I'm so used to hearing/using this word in normal conversation, I didn't realize I'd said it and that this could possibly be perceived as foreign until the email sent. ILIE.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"True friendship consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and value."

-- Ben Jonson.

This has been a week of friends, new and old. It's been four straight days of a weird dichotomy of meeting even more people (after a month of doing nothing but sift through seas of faces for one that I might know) and, finally, seeing some familiar faces from back home.

It all started Wednesday when I was invited out quite spur-of-the-moment to a "social" (basically, bar-hopping with twists, such as drinking games and challenges...mine was to slip 2p into someone's drink without them noticing until the very end of their drink! I'm proud to say I accomplished this feat by dropping the coin into the social leader's cocktail when he had his back turned) by one of the leaders of the climbing club. Turns out it was a social with the climbers and the horse riding society, which are the two clubs on campus I'm really interested in joining, so naturally I had to go! It was a little awkward at first not knowing anyone but the guy who invited me at first, but I slowly started introducing myself to the horseback riders and then the climbers and got to know a good number of them by the time the night was over. In addition, I learned which bars have two-for-one cocktail nights on Wednesdays. Score. I got to see a couple of the same people on Thursday when I went to my first climbing club meeting...AND I got to climb for the first time since this summer! Holy cow, my limbs were like jell-o. It was worth it to get to the top and feel accomplished, though. ;)

Friday was just a whirlwind of sociality...and a whirlwind of crazy Michigan-esque weather ("do I rain? Do I snow? I dunno, maybe a little bit of both...but one thing I know for sure, I'm gonna be WINDY as HECK and screw with everyone's umbrellas and lives!! Muahahaha!" "...Thanks, Mother Nature. Thanks."). Somehow, Sam, John, and I were able to brave the elements to get to Starbucks for FREE BROWNIE DAY!!! ...Yeah. I'd love to say it was a chocolatey fudge dream all wrapped up in everything I'd ever hoped for and more with sprinkles on top, but it was pretty much just your run-of-the-mill brownie. Except it was free. With the purchase of an espresso drink. That little boring brownie was lucky I'm an espresso gal. ;P

After brownies, coffee, and camaraderie (including Sam beginning a list of examples of how I fail at being American...and all of them are pretty fair points), I went down the street to an adorable little tea shop where I met with Katie, a family friend/former next-door neighbor who goes way back...in fact, she used to babysit me! She and her husband live on a U.S. Army base near Harrogate right now, which isn't that far away at all. Talk about surreal...I've gotten so used to this world I'm living in now being my own individual adventure just by necessity, and not getting to bring in anyone from my former life in the U.S. simply because of distance. Seeing someone familiar -- someone I remember from across the ocean in a part of my life I left behind a month ago -- was kinda crazy for a split second. Don't get me wrong, it was amazing to get to see her and catch up on life (she even brought me Reese's cups and JIF peanut butter from the on-base grocery store!!!), and I think seeing someone familiar really helped me to feel like I'm not completely alone over here. Of course, going to Sabina's birthday party later that night (which included a pirate party at the Student Union, where I won a limbo contest, and going out to Revolution after that) with a plethora of the other internationals helped with that feeling, too...but in a new-friend kind of way. :)

Today (Saturday) continued the American-friend trend when I awoke to a text from Brittany, a friend from Hope. She's studying in Liverpool, and her uni took a day trip to York, so naturally we had to meet up! We met for coffee and then I took her around the city (I knew where stuff was! I knew where COOL stuff was! I'm actually learning this town!! Who knew?!?), and we got to talk about our experiences so far and compare notes. I'm happy to report that both of us have formed very favorable opinions on living and studying in England and on international travel in general. :D

It's been a crazy, nonstop week this week, what with classes, societies, parties, coffee/tea dates, and the mad rush of life in general. It could have been very tempting to get overwhelmed by everything...or by the fact that I have 75% of my time here remaining. I have three months until I see my family and my friends back home again, BUT that means I only have three precious months left to experience every unique, once-in-the-foreseeable-future thing I possibly can with the crazy, friendly, fun friends I've made here. It brings up a point I made in a previous post...no matter where I go for the rest of my life, I'll be far apart from a friend. This, more than anything, has made my global experience that much more global. The world becomes a much bigger place when you know you have friends who are separated by miles and miles of physical distance. This realization really put things into perspective for me; I am one person of many, many billions of people on many, many thousands of square miles of earth. No matter how many people I meet and know, there will always be distance and there will always be strangers. My job, through this experience, is really to lessen the number of those square miles I have not seen at to make fewer of those strangers strange. This is definitely a worthy goal for the next three months I'm in this place I call Not Home (Yet).

On that note: Barcelona and Rome spring break tix are SCORED. Holla.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An update and an observation

UPDATE: Yet another Flickr success -- the Cambridge pics are finally up! I guess I just can't upload anything from the crappy internet in my room. Hmph.

OBSERVATION: I have yet to see a drinking fountain. This has become apparent as sometimes I drink through my whole water bottle and say to myself, "oh, I'll just fill up at the next...oh. Um. Hmm."

...that is all.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Taking Inventory

Incapacitating/violent stomach bugs: one. Thank goodness it was over the weekend and I didn't have to (gasp) miss any classes! (pushes nerd glasses up nose)

Friends featured in a series of one-act plays by Anthony Minghella: one. Kjetil Berge was a featured dancer in "Hang Up" (flanked by "Cigarettes and Chocolate" and "Days Like These"). Overall a great night out watching three really fantastic and well-acted plays...that made me feel inadequate as a writer. Thanks, Minghella. Thanks. Way to be awesome. (slinks away to brood in cave of mediocrity)

Trips to Cambridge...zero. This will change to "one" on Saturday. I'm excited...I haven't gone "down south" yet. Teehee.

Spring Break Trip Plans...one, so far. Jeanine, Brittany and I are meeting up in Barcelona and cruising around the south of France before ending up in the Vatican for Easter! From there I have no definitive plans as of yet...Aftan and I may or may not be crafting something magical. Or so we hope. ;)

Ten-minute word-vomit pieces written for Creative Writing B: ten.

Ten-minute word-vomit pieces of which I'm proud and may actually turn into something: ...potentially one. We'll say 1/2.

Oliver Twists finished: 1/2. Heh. Luckily it doesn't have to be until next week, as I found out.

Spontaneous plane sonnets finished: 1/2. I think disembarking from the plane may have killed it. I kind of hope not. I liked where it was going. I can say that because I know where it ends, and I know where it ends because I wrote it backwards. Yeah...yeah.

Classes chosen for next semester at Hope: ... :/

Time spent caring about next semester: not enough

Time that will be spent soaking up all that is here: never enough

Months spent here: ...nearly one of four. Yikes.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Learning

I've been on these fair, far shores for approximately three jars of Nutella.

I've learned to say "crisps" (not chips), "trousers" (not pants), "takeaway" (not take out), and "cheers" (not "cool, thanks").

I'm taking pub quizzes...and losing. Miserably. I'm also making vows to drastically improve my performance on pub quiz teams.

I've learned that I should take offense when I'm called a "Yank" by a gruff Yorkshire quizmaster.

I've learned that snow is commonly viewed as a cold, fluffy menace to society/impairment to everyday life.

I've learned that Diesels are delicious...more so on "Pound a Pint" night.

I'm bemoaning the indifference the English display toward the Olympics. If only Eddie the Eagle was still around...("if only, if only," the woodpecker sighed, "the bark on the tree was as soft as the skies...")

I'm getting my budget situated. No, really, I am. I swear. Tomorrow.

I'm planning a spring break trip all over continental Europe. Currently I'm still in the "wouldn't it be cool if" stage where nothing really gets off the ground...except the planes I could be on if I made more concrete plans.

I'm at that beautiful point where life (here, back home, in general) is just coming together and everything is beginning to make sense...

and I love it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Look to the right...

...and you'll see a Flickr photostream. Right there, right above my followers. Or at least part of my photostream. That's right, I finally conquered Flickr! Enjoy my life so far :)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

And so it goes :)

Week one of classes at York St. John is finished, and I can honestly say I've got some really interesting course subjects. Two literature courses and a creative writing course will be challenging to get through (especially reading/writing!), but it'll be so worth it. My Creative Writing B course is a blend of poetry and...basically everything else (creative nonfiction, short fiction, screenwriting), so I'll be largely challenged in genres I haven't really been quite as exposed to in the past (admittedly, this is kind of my own fault...I'm kind of a poetry dork. Hah.). Challenge? Yes. Intimidating? Yes. Needed? Muchly -- my writing will grow and vastly improve as a result, and for that I'm excited. :)

My lit courses are pretty sweet, too -- and I FINALLY got them worked out in my timetable (trans. "schedule")! Nineteenth Century Writing kicked off with Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (technically pre-Victorian era, but still in an arguably Victorian style), and my Writing the Caribbean class has already changed my perspective of the Caribbean itself and of the writing which we're about to encounter. I've read a little bit of French Caribbean literature for my French classes at Hope, but then again...it was in French, so there was little hope of me reeeeally comprehending the deeper messages of the authors. Hah. :P Our tutor (trans. "professor") for the module (trans. "class") took out a bunch of travel magazines and cruise line catalogues/brochures and had us say basically what we could infer about the Caribbean just from looking at the travel paraphernalia...Jennifer and I had a whole two pages about the Caribbean in our 100+ page brochure, and all we could infer was that there were beaches (with shells) and sunsets. Oh, and scuba diving sometimes. There was literally more about the ship itself than the places where the ship was going..."in case you want to get out and see the world, but not touch it or get cooties from it or be in any way changed by it, this is the vacation for you!" It really is a culture of extremes: extremely nice weather vs. extremely hurricane-blasted weather, extreme riches vs. extreme poverty, etc. etc. And that was only the first class! :P

But don't think it's just all work and no play...I get out! I promise! In fact, Bea, Sam, Mark and I participated in a pub quiz (trivia contest between teams at a pub), to which I was able to contribute some answers! It didn't help a whole lot, seeing as how we tied for last...but hey, we tried! ;P A couple of nights later we went out to Lendal Cellars for Mark's 21st birthday (we tried the Old White Swan first, but alas...no room), which was pretty fun. :) I also got to go with Bea to the Christian Union (where I saw a couple of people I already knew and met a ton of people I didn't), and really liked it. :) After that, we went to the Student Union for a bit and caught the end of a hypnotist show...almost like Frederick Winters back at Hope (haha!), but I didn't know as many people up on stage this time. It was still entertaining, though. :) As for the rest of this weekend...who knows? I'm going to go to church at the Minster tomorrow (OH MY CRAP I'M SO EXCITED) and probably sit in a coffee shop or cafe again for the rest of the afternoon reading my life away (ah, the gregarious and outgoing life of the English major), but it's not a bad way to spend a day...in fact, that's what I did today! I got a window seat in Starbucks (yeah, yeah...I'll try to find something a little more local/less American next time, promise) and was able to look up from my muffin/hot chocolate/assigned reading every now and then to watch the world and the inhabitants of York go by. Very relaxing. :) Hopefully tomorrow will be as productive as today...I've got a fair bit of reading to do.

Oy.

(I love my major...I love my major...I love my major...)

Monday, February 1, 2010

One week anniversary with York, England -- observations

Tonight, it occurred to me as I was spreading Nutella on bread for my midnight snack that today was not only the first day of classes, but the first day where I really started to feel like I had a schedule I could stick to. With a schedule and a set course of action for my upcoming weeks here in England, I really think I'll be able to feel like I'm myself again. Myself in a new geographic location and educational situation, yes, and a self ready to experience loads of new things...but myself nonetheless. It was like I had finally woken up and regained consciousness from a restless sleep that had taken a week...and the entire month preceding it.

When I came home from Hope for Christmas break, I had packed up all of my belongings out of my apartment (with the wonderful and able assistance of one Ms. Claire Shea, to whom I owe my life about fifty times over) -- the first time I've had to do that before a summer, the first time my place at Hope faded into emptiness while everyone else's remained filled. Christmas vacation and Christmas itself seemed just like all the other years I've been at school, but then after New Years, my friends started slowly but surely scattering back to their respective colleges and individual walks in life while I was left behind to recuperate from wisdom tooth surgery and think long and hard about what I was about to do. Such long periods of international travel, especially if one is attempting such a feat for the first time, should not be taken lightly. The rest of break was a little bit surreal -- I sat around on the couch watching TV and my Hope friends' Facebook updates day in and day out, becoming an odd combination of maelstrom of nervous energy (going out and buying tons of crap, applying for credit cards, organizing crap...eventually) and couch potato (oh hey, Say Yes to the Dress is on again). I tried to mentally block out the life I had chosen to leave behind for four months. It was almost painful knowing that my life's orbit and those of all the people I loved five hours north wouldn't intersect until I was done spinning off on my own, and in my absence they would drift through their Michigan universe without me. It was a buzzkill, to say the very least. It was a psyche-shaking realization that made me disgusted with myself for being such a pansy and angry at myself for being disgusted...and in the cycle of nerves and self-examining questions, I lost myself in bowls of ice cream and What Not to Wear.

The day before I left through the first full day I was here, I was pretty much a wreck. There were tears, there were frantic questions to myself, there was doubt, there was assurance and confidence and gradual elation...and then there was a relapse. Over and over. I had to get used to the money. I had to get used to looking both ways (and right first) before crossing the street. I had to lug nearly 90 pounds of luggage through an airport and a train station in a place where I had never been. I had to set my watch five hours ahead and power through two days melted into one. I had to set up my room and be friendly (or at least civil) to the people who were trying to help me. I smelled and I'd slept MAYBE 4 hours in a span of about 30. I'd love to say I was nothing but awestruck and starry-eyed when I landed on Britannia's shores, but in reality, whenever I found myself alone, I couldn't help but ask myself why I dreamed these dreams, why I wanted what took me away from those I loved, why I had become both hungering for change and utterly resistant to it. In my state of weariness, hunger, loneliness, and shell-shock, I had literally forgotten who I was and why coming here had been a dream of mine for years.

Slowly but surely, I crawled out of my hole of confusion. I slept (a lot). I ate (little by little). I made friends. I went out. I explored my new surroundings and tried to familiarize myself with my new life. I threw myself into the schedule of orientation week. I grumbled at the Registrar's seeming inability to schedule my classes correctly. I accepted invitations and new ideas. In short, I woke up and saw England for what it really is...the opportunity of a lifetime, and one that never would have come my way again. It's not a loss because I'm not at Hope College for my sixth semester out of eight; it's a gain because opportunity knocked, and I threw open the door and gave it a huge hug.

Now, I'm getting into the swing of things as I will know it until Easter. After some hunting and more grumbling in the general direction of Registry, I found my first class today -- Creative Writing B, a multigenre blend of nonfiction prose, short fiction, poetry, and screenwriting. I have Nineteenth Century Writing tomorrow; I have Writing the Caribbean on Wednesday. Both of those days I'm meeting up with friends before/after class to meet new people, get lost in York and find our ways back out, and soak up more experiences. I have Thursday and Friday off. Heh heh heh. ;) In having a schedule, I also have a rhyme and reason for my days and for being at York St. John in the first place, and therefore (hopefully) a means of getting to know myself again. I do very much want to be here; I do realize that I'm here for a reason; I do know that what I take away from simply being here will be so much more than I could learn in any classroom, in England or in the States.

This is not to say that I've completely cut myself off from my life in the U.S., though...in fact, as the week has gone on, I've been getting better and better about being in contact with my friends from back home (and my family, too...hi, Mom!). I'm incredibly glad I live in a day and age where I can share my new life with them almost in real time, via this blog, Skype, Facebook, email, etc etc etc. I know the reverse will also be true when I go home in May and I will then keep in contact with all of the friends I've made here. I suppose no matter where I go from now on, I'll be separated from someone I know and miss by an ocean and more distance than I would like to think about -- but, then again, if it weren't for oceans and distance, then I wouldn't have gotten to reintroduce myself to the part of me who longs for finding beauty and meaning in the unexplored corners of places I might never have been.

I've woken up from my month long coma of fear, doubt, and uncertainty...and I'm eager to introduce you to me.

It's nice to meet you, world. Love what you've done with the place.