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

Spring Break Trip, 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


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 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 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 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.


(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., 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.