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Monday, June 15, 2009

Back

Welcomed home by beautiful weather and comforting faces, I am back in PA.

My first night back was not exactly as exciting as I anticipated, but that is probably my fault because I fell asleep at 8 p.m. only to realize at 1 a.m. I was wide-awake and fully dressed.

Time in New Freedom, PA has come and gone but the routine has not changed too much.

Life started up the same way I left it.  I still need to pay my speeding ticket. My room appears in the usual order and my house operates the same way. I am still obligated to write for a new job at Fly Magazine—my first articles are due June 26. I still have to make a million appointments and catch up on bank documents.

Most of my friends are busy trying to make money and my best friend is in New York. My boyfriend Curtis is still leaving for basic training. He will be in Georgia for six months. The only change is that now the date is sooner than we expected.

While trying to get my body back on East Coast time, normalcy is setting back in. No longer am I on holiday in a foreign country. I have a lot of responsibilities to take care of. Between spending time with Curtis, I have been trying to get back to my usual schedule.

After so many new adventures abroad, my first doctor’s appointment back in the states seemed a little strange.

Sitting behind the desk was the same secretary that I had made the appointment with a few days before I left for London. Her hair was done the same way and she wore the same blue scrubs she had four weeks ago. While she handed me the paperwork and briefed me in the documents that I had forgot to bring, I could not help but to think of how different our lives were.

She sat at the same desk everyday giving and taking documents. She laughed occasionally at a patient’s joke or a doctor’s comment. She saw the same co-workers everyday and knew them well. She lives routinely, in a climate of basically no change or difference.

Perhaps in her youth she traveled and saw sights like I did. Views like the mountains of Scotland may have captured her spirit and the bustle of places like the London tube may have made her feel worldly and important. Maybe she went to a European club and met people from France, Spain, Japan and the Middle East. She probably had experiences that she will never forget.

But, today, she sits in a worn chair and fusses with me about forgotten paperwork.

I apologize and tell her I am a little tired because I have just returned from London. She does not really care. She does not ask me about my travels. Instead, she returns to her frustrated state and displays an expression that makes me think the paperwork is a life or death form of documentation.

I looked at her and thought that in a lot of ways I can be like this secretary. Often I am wrapped up in my work and my business seems like the only business in need of concern. My first year at college proved this to be true.

My world consists of a small dorm room on a college campus that is an isolated community in itself. All that seems important is working hard to keep up my grades and get to know my professors. Media projects and a J Research paper smothered my thoughts and kept me focused on only the tasks at hand.

Most likely I will keep this mentality throughout my college education, because as students, this is what we are taught to do. Mentors preach to us about how the path to success is keeping focused and dedicated to our work.

However, taking this Travel Writing course abroad has shown me a different and crucial element of education—a respect for outside experience.

While I usually am the type of person who takes control of her life and her business, this course invited me to let my environment make most of the calls. Soon, I became less concerned about the blog post I would need to write in a few hours and more excited about what the next travel destination would bring.

London is a thriving city that charmed me with accents and various elements of European culture. It was an experience using pounds and pence to pay for items instead of dollars and cents. Learning how to substitute words like toilet for restroom, cheers for thanks, pissed for drunk and prawn for shrimp added to the fun of the trip.

Scotland is a beautiful place with lochs and bens that I could not take my eyes off of. The place and the people are charming. Eating lunch on the top of a mountain is something magical. It is a land that enveloped me with appeal and beauty.

This experience not only showed me a side of the world I had never seen, but it also opened my eyes to how magnificent a different culture can be. Allowing myself to fall into the arms of these places caused me to understand a new way of life. I was learning without using Google, textbooks or lectures.

Instead of placing the focus on taking notes and writing papers, I found that keeping my eyes open and my body moving produced the best work at the end of the day.

While the everyday grind and routine I know so well is no less essential to life, it is important to know that experiences and travels grant the most unique type of education and fulfillment.

Today, I am going to the beach with Curtis. It is nothing out of the ordinary, just a trip to a local beach. We will probably lay in the sand, swim under the waves and maybe take a run. This is the way summer usually goes.

Today, my doctor’s secretary sits in her chair scolding another patient for forgetting their paperwork.

Today, Mando Steve is stepping on the Tube to start work playing his mandolin.

Today, the Haggis tour guide Debs is showing off how beautiful the mountains of Scotland look with an accompanying joke of the day.

Today, is the start of a new week and a new routine.

Today, the world lies open and vulnerable to a new group of students who will break away from their small world and discover the lessons found in a foreign land.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Journals from Scotland



June 1, 2009

This morning we headed out on our tour bus through Scotland. It is unusually hot, probably around 80 degrees. Our tour guide Debs assures us that the weather is extremely rare. 

Our first journey took us from Edinburgh to Ft. Augustus. We stayed at the Morags Hostel near Loch Ness.



Before settling in for the night, we saw a traditional Scottish demonstration of how to wear a kilt as well as learned some Scottish history about how traditional highland men and women used to live.



Next I scouted for the Loch Ness monster...

LOOK! THERE IT IS!


Ok, so I didn't see the Loch Ness monster, but the loch is absolutely breathtaking in itself.




June 3

Today is my third day in the highlands of Scotland. So far, this country is exceeding all of my expectations. I think that just about everyone in our group has said at least once that they are ready to pack up and move here for a while. 
Yesterday, we stayed in a hostel at Ullapool. It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever stayed. The bens (mountains) stood tall everywhere, the loch was still right outside of our flat window--the view is beautiful.
However, the hostage experience was a little unusual--actually pretty strict. We had an 11:30 p.m. curfew and a stern manager.
The locals assured us that such an institution was unusual and the people here are actually very hospitable and entertaining. 
At dinner, I met another Scottish tour guide who had a humorous personality and sweet Scottish cheer.

...to be continued.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Saucy Scotland

She was a Viking princess who embodied the wild spirit of Scotland. While her home resided in the purest beauty of Scotland, she indulged in scandalous acts. Most people knew her as Saucy Mary.

            She lived on the Isle of Skye and used her wit and charm to make money from local sailors. Blockading a water passage between the Isle and the mainland, she charged boats a fee to cross through.

            When sailors caught on to her scam, they began sailing a longer route to avoid her fees. However, Saucy Mary did not want her business to die. She decided to throw in a bonus.

            Saucy Mary realized that bare Scottish passion could entice sailors more than a solely shorter passageway. So, if a sailor came to pay the fee Saucy Mary would wish them well by flashing a little skin.

            Stories surrounding Saucy Mary are legend, like most stories are that are told on the Isle of Skye. However, there is some truth to this tale—Scotland is truly a place to lose your inhibitions.

            Today, Saucy Mary’s body is buried on top of a large mountain on the Isle. It is rumored that her saucy spirit still dwells on the island.

While I am not sure if Saucy Mary was the force behind my feelings on the Isle, I felt something truly liberating while being in the place where the wild Viking lived.

Pure highland air intoxicated my being and all sense of reality was lost. Sitting on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, I felt the magic of this place in a deep way. I looked at the unbelievable scenery, the water, the mountains, the people and the system of life. It seemed peaceful yet so alive, more vibrant than I expected. This fantasy world held me in its arms and provided a place apart from the normalcy and ordinary routine of home.

Loch Alsh sits still and untouched, an alluring site in the company of large mountains. A piece of wood floating near the shore creates a hint of movement. Ripples in the water radiated a mysterious quality and reminded me of Loch Ness I saw a few days earlier. Here I was not looking for a monster to rise from the loch but something did appear to be living within these waters—a mystery and a call for the spontaneous.

A wild romance whispers through vast land but can be heard most clearly through voices of the people. Scottish cheers in the pub, couples laughing in the streets and conversations lasting long into the night.

I stayed at a hostel named after Saucy Mary and spent most of my night in the adjoining pub.

Sitting among my tour group and Scottish locals, I participated in the chatter and fun. I watch as people unleash a holiday attitude and let the atmosphere wash over them.

Live music entices a couple at the bar to bring the floor alive with dancing. More people join in as the night goes on and the music swells among conversation. Soon talking and singing goes hand in hand and the night sounds like a joyous melody.

Bodies twirl in ecstasy. Lips drink liberally. A game of Never Have I Ever breaks out at my table.

Ladies who never have more than two drinks were taking shots and smiled a little looser than usual. Scottish men swoon American women and enjoyed each others company. Fears and troubles did not exist here. The structure of life seemed like a mere figment of imagination. Feelings of love and happiness floated here.

This was not a sloppy night at the bar or a hippy festival gone wild. This atmosphere indeed embodied a carefree disposition and a liberal attitude, but somehow the night remained charming and classy.

Somehow the desolate beauty protected the wild actions of everyone there. Deep Scottish Love was a strong enough power to captivate and nurture a few scandalous actions. Scandal was not scandal here, instead it was the way of the land—the magic spell cast on all who came. It is impossible to resist.

            The music died out, but the party attitude lasted through the night. People split their separate ways to socialize with new friends or kiss the lips of a charming face. The night was wild, but fun. No one went to bed without a smile—no regrets, only saucy Scottish love.

            The air is the purest, the scenery is the grandest, the people are the friendliest, and the pubs are the liveliest here. It is no doubt that people cannot help to be a little saucy when they visit.

Before the night is over, I take another breath of highland air outside. In the window, an outline of a young woman can be seen. Her topless figure flirts with outside eyes but disappears into the darkness of her room, taken in by deep Scottish love and a wild spirit that she cannot explain.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Back in London



I just arrived back in London after a traveling on a Wild and Sexy Haggis bus tour through Scotland. I'll be posting more later! Back to the states tomorrow!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Leaving for Scotland

In a few hours I will be heading to Scotland-- a new adventure. I will be there for a week. Unfortunately, I will not have Internet access, a laptop, or even a phone. 

I'll put up blogs when I get back!

Bye for now!

Sounds of the Underground



Along with suited men and women, Stephen Daly stepped on the tube like he does every day for the morning commute, but Stephen was not wearing a suit and he was not planning on getting off the tube for quite a few hours. Dressed in a red t-shirt and jeans, he was ready for the day. He, along with his friend Ben stood center on the underground car with a mandolin and a violin.

This is their office and work was about to begin. Legs spread and balanced, Daly clocked in and took hold of his instrument.

“Hello ladies and gentlemen, I’m Steve and this is Ben,” Daly said. “We are going to play you a song. So, grab your partner and dance in a clockwise direction to avoid congestion.”


Daly’s glasses sat on the bridge of his nose as his baldhead bobbed up and down with the strum of his mandolin. Ben accompanied with a quick fiddle.

 Some people stare and smile, others pretend he is not there. No one dances. However, that does not stop the music. Daly, with an Irish charm, plays an upbeat tune with a lively attitude. Ben accompanies on violin with a wink and a smile.

            They finish the song in a few minutes.

            Applause.

            “Thank you,” Daly said. “You guys were better than the last car.”

            The next song is a waltz.

The cars doors open and announce South Kensington station. The tube operators voice interrupts for only a second. They finish their song right on time. Daly knows this tube and the stations. He has been doing this for quite awhile, 25 years to be exact.

Daly introduces his last song, always a fast one. He points to a little bag hanging off of his mandolin.

            “See this pouch here, I’m going to go around for this last song,” he said. “If you don’t want to give or if you feel uncomfortable with social situations, just pretend we aren’t here.”

            He dances around the car playing a merry tune while sweat drips off of his brow. Ben is a little younger than Daly and shows off a youthful performance, whipping his wrist back and forth with the slide of his bow. His sunglasses hang off of his striped polo shirt as he follows Daly around the car.

Several people toss change into the bag. One man dressed in a blue button-down shirt even throws in £5.                       

Three songs and three tube stops is all visitors may see of Daly but this is his full-time job. He and Ben work from morning until night playing tunes, hoping from car to car with a cheerful routine.

Daly grew up in Dublin, Ireland but fell in love with London years ago. He came after planning a visit with friends and never left.

He tells passengers that he “came to London for a romantic weekend, a weekend that lasted 25 years.”

A rough face shows a little of his story while his personality and occupation reveals his spontaneous side.

Living in London, Daly needed a way to make money. He used a little Irish creativity and looked underground instead of above for a decent salary.

He found that while many people make money targeting similar consumers, he could reach all types of people playing on the London Underground.

The tube provides transportation for millions of Londoners. According to the Transport for London, 2007 marked the first year the tube carried one billion passengers. Since then, the tube has been the object of much conversation and improvement. People of all levels realize that the transportation system is a heavily used and significant resource.

While the sun peaks through the clouds on another overcast day, it would be foolish to think that simply walking London streets will radiate the essence of the area. Below is where the heart of London rushes, swipes, minds the gap, sits, smiles, sleeps, talks or is silent, breathes and even performs a daily routine.

The doors open and reveal an individual group of Londoners. Each stop brings a new flavor and smell. People coming on the tube in Camden looked a little edgier than those at South Kensington. They talk a little more and a little louder and dress a little flashier.

Diversity stands together, mashed into a speeding cylinder. Hot, humid, and uncomfortable, the tube is the literal container for all sorts of London personalities.

Daly balances well among the crowd.

For him, the tube is not just a means of travel from one place to another, it is a place all on its own. It is a way to reach people of all ages and occupations, of all financial statuses and backgrounds.

As he and Ben step off the last car, his music silences for the day.

“Thank you,” he said.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

London is...

    With my oversized backpack and stuffed carry-on I travelled to London. I did not know what to expect. All anyone ever really told me was that the weather was terrible and I need to be prepared. So, I came with too many outfits looking for adventure and looking to discover the gems that lie under the fog and rainclouds.
    You know what? The weather is terrible here. As I walked around the city last night in a dress and scarf, goosebumps covered my body and I shook in the frigid air.
    London is rainy and changeable and gloomy.

Even one of our tour guides had a song about the rainy weather:

   

    Weather is not all that is bland around here. After ordering several dishes of London food, I realized that the food is pretty boring too--nothing is really satisfying. Food is bland, lifeless, spiceless, and dull. The Fish and chips have never met my expectations since I got here. The dish looks impressive. The fish is huge and the fries look descent, but after taking a few bites, I get bored. The fish taste soon blends with the chips and soon I just feel like I’m eating some type of all potato mash.
    Yesterday I specifically sought out a meal that would be bold. “Where is the excitement in these meals?” I said. I picked up a sandwich called “spicy chicken.” I was ready to be spiced up. Disappointment.
    The meat hit my taste buds with no reaction. Nothing. No spice. No nothing. Bland. Liars.
It is rainy, the food is boring, the days are gray, the living conditions are awful. I’m thinking about all of these things as I am trying to describe to you what London is to me. But, this is not what I’m trying to say.
    See, despite the poor hotdogs and shivery cold, London is the only place I want to be right now. London is my get away and my experience. London is exciting and I despite the boring attributes and the city closing at 11 p.m., London has produced some of my most lively memories of the year.
    As the days and nights go on, the cold is not so frigid. Somehow, blood starts circulating in my legs again and I’m ok. The weather does not seem to matter. I am taken in by the sites and the architecture, the accents and the people, the red buses and the tube.
    I walk and complain about how London should learn a few lessons from New York, the city that never sleeps—but, at the same time, I proclaim a love for London that I could not for the Big Apple.

    I walk around this city and hear people with accents from all over Europe. Today, I spoke with the man that works at the front desk of my dorm complex. He is half French and half Italian. His unusual accent captures me as he tells me of his love of Paris but his hate for Persians.
London has swept over me and drowned me in a culture I’ve never known. In the rainy mist and quiet bustle, there are flickers of light and explosions of excitement.
    These sources of joy are different than what I am used too, but make life here all the more incredible.
    I sit in a pub and smile at the site of a bar full of men in suits and well-dressed women. This is not the American sports bar with obnoxious grungy people looking for some intoxicating feelings. London is proper. It knows how to look sharp. It knows how to act. It knows how to carry itself.
   London closes at 11 p.m. but maybe for good reason. Maybe it is just trying to be responsible.
    As for the fish and chips, I still think London may need to understand that spicing up your life really isn’t that dangerous.
   Anyway, the food needs a little improvement before I come back.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Food to Avoid

Today, I ordered a hotdog from a vendor on the street--worst mistake ever. It looked like a hotdog, but looks are deceiving. 

It was like eating some type of blended mush, far from meat...more like a vegan mixture gone wrong. 

Gross.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hyde Park



Open green grass seems cluttered only with bodies, relaxed and in motion. Blankets color space between tall trees and active footballs spark interest among calm scenery. Visitors within Hyde Park each bring their own purpose, they embrace leisure and activity within this royal plot of nature to savor a few hours of outside enjoyment.

Unusually sunny weather welcomed a large crowd of visitors to the park yesterday. Strollers weaved their way through bicycles as people made their way towards the Wellington Arch on Hyde Park Corner. They came to enter a green palace of open spaces and sweet smelling flowers.

There is a place for everyone in Hyde Park—old or young, lovers or friends.

I spotted couples lying together under trees and by the water of the Serpentine while some lovers relaxed on benches within small gardens.

Other people, friends or families, came with food and wine to enjoy a lunch in the company of a beautiful environment. Some people even shared their afternoon sandwiches with woodland visitors that waddled close by.

The park is desirable for many people because of its diverse recreational opportunities such as boating, swimming and rollerblading.

Rows of small orange cones decorate some walkways and usually signal that a set of rollerblades will be appearing shortly. Weaving through cones help bladers improve skills and Hyde Park seems like a perfect area to practice.

One man that I observed looked especially dedicated to the sport. Shirt off, dressed only in jeans and blades, he speed through the cones on one leg like a swift thread through fabric. His precision was amazing.

Do not be frightened though, all bladers in the park are not all of professional quality. In fact, many beginners take lessons in the park and can be seen practicing alongside experienced skaters all the time.

One specific group of fun-seekers I saw were learning a strange looking version of rollerblading. They looked like they were participating in some type of cross-country ski rollerblading. Their rollerblades were extended like skis and they had poles they were pushing off with. Most looked a little wobbly, but smiling faces showed that a fun time was being had by most.

When visitors become parched from the activities of the day, they can stop by a café like the Serpentine bar & kitchen for a drink or they can grab a cool treat from the small vendors in the park. They can even dip their feet in a path of fresh water.

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is a refreshing and attractive site that I thought was worth seeing. Water ripples down small hills and flows in a circle that is extraordinarily tempting to small children.

Little legs splash and kick around in the water memorial. A little girl dressed in only her underwear looked like she was having a great time wading around in a little waterfall.

She was kindly asked to sit on the side; according to park regulations visitors are not to walk on the Memorial. However, upon observation, I realized that this seems to be a rule nearly impossible to follow. It appears that these children embrace a lively spirit close to that of Princess Diana that will live on through their own interpretation of royal rules.

 

While in the area of Hyde Park there was another royal destination that I was sure not to miss.

As I walked on the wide paths that curved through the parks, gardens colored my journey. The smell of sweet peonies dances through the air as honeysuckle entices a travel further. Soon, I found myself in Kensington Gardens.

Kensington Gardens used to be considered part of Hyde Park but now stands alone as its own royal park. The flowers—roses, carnations, bearded irises, and more—are a beautiful site to see, but one of the most popular attractions, especially for children, is the statue of Peter Pan.

I witnessed a group of kids check out the statue, Pan mounted on a pedestal of nature images and posed figures. One boy seemed particularly interested in climbing up the statue, thinking of himself as a figure of Peter Pan—mischievous but accomplished. After climbing the statue he realized that his friends had lost interest and moved onto another part of the park.

He ran so fast, it seemed like he was flying.

 

            After all of my time at and around Hyde Park, I realized that while the nature, the gardens, and the statues add to the lure of the area, there is something that the park could not be without. People, whether they are splashing in royal fountains or rollerblading through the gardens, appear to be the life and breath of Hyde Park.



 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Touch


Feel London. Touch the walls of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, sit in the seat that Charles Dickens frequented at the Cheshire Cheese pub and run your fingers over the old and new architecture mashed together in the City of London. Textures allow this place to come alive and radiate not only a history of London, but the true makeup of its people.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral is an iconic symbol of the city of London. Despite many tries by Germany to crumble the church during World War II, the walls stood strong because of the extreme precautions and efforts the people took to protect it. The cathedral is a symbol of hope that radiates through the building and is felt by simply standing near its walls.

The outer layer rough walls are spotted with small craters that serve as remnants of the past war. Recently, the outer walls were cleaned to expose the naked scars left on the church from shrapnel. London wants to make clear that this church went through battle and suffering like everyone else did at that time, but it is one of the few that remains standing.

Londoners made sure that it would never crumble. In fact, during the war, volunteers strapped themselves to the top of the church to extinguish incoming bombs that may damage the structure.

Running my hands over the wounds in the side of the cathedral allowed me to understand why Londoners, past and present, look at the building in a loving way.

Cheshire Cheese pub

The Cheshire Cheese pub is a pretty cool place. Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Samuel Johnson frequented the pub.

I sat in the seat that Charles Dickens often drank. I ran my fingers over the wood that witnessed the beginnings of creative writings important to our culture. The hard seat seemed barely comfortable enough to pour out a classic novel.

I touched the wall that the original draft of The Tale of Two Cities hung proudly. How remarkable— one of the greatest books of all time is not being preserved in a museum, but a pub!

Pubs are where it all starts in London, they are the community meeting place and observe much of what is happening here.

Since I have been here we have eaten in several pubs and seen the activity that goes on there. Throughout the weekdays, working people—usually men dressed in fine suits—eat and drink, socializing with friends there.

They are not like American bars. No one appears drunk and sloppy. The interior is cozy, warm and classy. People do not come to get wasted or be loud. Yes, most of them carry a beer, but it seems more like a beverage here and less like a device for mischief. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Big Ben


Yesterday, I visited Big Ben. Honestly, it really is not so big. I had to weave around the streets to get a good picture of it because most of the time it appears hidden behind trees.

Also, I learned that the name Big Ben does not refer to the clock, but rather to the bell hanging above the clock.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Shape of London

Cylinders stand tall and round, strong and of use. They hold up royal buildings; yet, they also hold trash in Green Park. Most notably,  they are the shape of the 20-pound hats that the guards wear at Buckingham Palace. Throughout the day, I learned about the importance of these objects.

Changing of the guard

We arrived at Buckingham Palace this morning only to see the guards wearing a different uniform that we expected. Their outfits were dark and unexciting. Ryan said that they must have changed the uniform. I was outraged—Not only did they ditch the red coats, but where the heck were their giant furry hats?! Instead, the men wore hats closely resembling a burgundy beret.

Wait—do I see what I think I see?

All of the sudden, large black hats emerge from behind. Men in red coats march to the gates. I broke a big smile. There they are, my symbol of London—tall, heavy cylindrical hats.

The idea of the hats seems silly: huge, weighted and hairy accessories sitting on the heads of stern men. However, somehow seeing these hats in person, straight and balanced in formation, make them appear important and necessary.

These men stand like statues and their hats accentuate their stature.

I stood beside of several guards today and barely noticed them breathing. A natural human quality is replaced with a almost architectural appearance. Their uniforms complete with boots and hat make them seem like a pillar erected from the ground. They possess a rooted immoveable quality.


I posed beside of the men like every other tourist does that passes through the area, but I felt a little disrespectful. Their job is dutiful and of high regard in London. They protect royalty daily; yet, visiting the area, I think that they stand as mere tourist attractions and entertaining accessories to the city.

Sometimes tourists taunt and swarm them so much that they cannot even complete their scheduled march. I can’t help to think they must hate us.

Trashcans

Bubblicious gum is a definite favorite of mine, but anyone who chews it knows that the delicious sweet taste is gone three minutes after putting it into your mouth. The later happened to me and I began searching for a trashcan to get rid of the tasteless blob.

What appeared to be a simple task soon turned into a mission impossible. We were walking around Westminster in London and there were no trashcans. None.

I walked down Whitehall for miles and still no trashcans. What do these people do, eat their litter?

Soon, Ryan asked us if we noticed anything unusual about this road. Apparently, there truly are no trashcans on Whitehall. This was done purposefully because the Irish Republican Army (IRA) used to plant bombs in the trashcans.

I thought this was a really interesting fact. Londoners just got rid of the trashcans plain and simple. I think that if something like that happened in America we would just build titanium bomb-proof trashcans. We wouldn’t compromise convenience just because someone is out to get us. Afterall, we would see the change as a weakness. However, Londoners see it as just smart.

Have a problem? Trash it.

 

The best day of my life

Today, I saw the Queen of England. NO JOKE.

I SAW THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND. Yes. It is true.

We were watching the changing of the guards ceremony--which was boring, very boring. So, we decided to leave. As we made our way over to cross the street, a stern guard would not let us cross. Naturally, most of us got a little agitated. 

Then, all of the sudden the Queen's car comes rolling up beside of us. Truth. Truth. Truth. She came up so fast that we were all so in shock no one grabbed their camera. 

We waved like goofy tourists. She waved back : )

Did I mention we saw the QUEEN OF ENGLAND?

London Red




From the buildings to the transportation, London is red. The color shows proudly on the coats of royal guards as they stand paralyzed and patriotic for their country. Old bricks reflect a rustic burgundy that holds firm the history of the city. Rich scarlet blood spilled on the land soaks the past and remains in the present through the stories of beefeaters and historians.

Red flows through the streets of London. The buses are red, the phone booths are red and the faces of confused tourists are red.



I am foreigner traveling through London; yet, red has already tainted my experience in the city.
From the moment the other students and I landed, red greeted us and carried us forward. After we stepped off of the plane, Ryan’s red hair caught the attention of our five jetlagged faces. He stood near baggage claim, giving us a warm welcome which we had no energy to reciprocate. In his hand was a Flip video camera. A blinking neon red light gave evidence that he captured the sad scene.



Carrying large backpacks and wheeling heavy luggage, we never thought we would recover. The seven-hour flight across the pond left our eyes blood-shot and itchy. We moved slowly.
I walked alongside the rest of the group in the direction the tube (London’s version of the subway). Ryan retrieved our temporary one-day passes as we made exhausted and amusing conversation with each other.



Faded cherry colored the passes. This red is the access card to the life of a Londoner.
We stood in line to enter the tube. We stood some more. We stood a while longer. Something was not working. A red neon X that lighted the entry sign did not seem very positive. Indeed, the ticket machines decided to stop working.



Out of one of the few acts of London kindness, the man behind the gates allowed everyone to enter without swiping their ticket. We moved forward. Soon, I along with my 30-pound backpack, were smashed into a seat on the very cozy tube.


Ryan attempted to amuse us with London history and our day’s itinerary. Our blank stares and jetlagged faces were the most energy we could muster to meet his efforts.


The English accent heard over the tube speakers announced our stop. We sauntered out and moved our bodies towards the gates while being told to “mind the gap” (last year over thirty injuries occurred on the tube because people got stuck in the gap between the tube and the platform).


We started what seemed like a very long walk to the Ithaca London Center. After meeting and having tea with the staff there, we entered our lives as Londoners. We had to find transportation to check in at our flat.


We had to catch a bus. The two-stacked buses radiate a classic red, vibrant and exciting. My eyes moved to the top of the four-wheel creature, enticed by the upper stack of seating. I suddenly felt a shot of energy. We swiped our card and climbed the stairs to the top.

Something was a little strange about this bus though. It was packed but there was no hustle or bustle. More specifically, there was no conversation. No one was talking. Everyone sits silently on the buses here.



Then, I spotted two fire engine-red telephone booths. There was no one inside either of them.
Itching for my cell phone ever since my landing, I realized that new rules for conversation apply here.



A bright color inspires distinctive isolation. Londoners differ in this way from Americans who appear to be loud and connected at all times.


In London, Red is focused and controlled, purposeful and bold.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Apples and Pears



Monday

I arrived in London around 9:30 a.m. Ryan and Michael met the students and I at the airport after we stepped off the plane. Then, they proceeded to drag our exhausted bodies around the city for the remainder of the day.

Most of the day was a blur. Jet lag is a horrendous sickness. I do remember having breakfast and tea with the head of the Ithaca London Center, Bill. He has worked here for quite a few years and seems extremely knowledgeable about the area.

Another interesting fellow I met during my first day here was Fred who works at the London Center with Bill. He is an older gentleman who talks in circles of English jargon. I can't understand most of what he is saying, but he is hillarious. Soon he had everyone using all sorts of funny phrases. For example, calling the stairs "apples and pears" is appropriate here--because it rhymes?

Next, we unloaded the luggage. We took a lift up to our flat (We took an elevator up to our dorm).
Something I quickly learned is that everything in London is pretty cozy. My roommate Rachel and I lucked out and have a room with bunked beds which gives a little more room than most.

Flat problems so far:
*Lack of Internet access
*Temperamental toilet flusher (which looks like a handle stuck on the wall)
*Strange bathroom fan that sounds like a dying cat
*Electricity that turns off whenever it feels necessary





We ended the day with a night out on the town.



Tuesday

This morning Rachel and I woke up at 7 a.m. After a quick coffee run, we met up with the rest of the group and boarded the two-stack bus heading back to the Ithaca London Center. Class was at 9:30 a.m. We arrived early, and were very proud we found our way so easily. After a lecture
from Ryan and Michael, we headed to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge (commonly known as the London Bridge).


















The day was full of London history. I’ll update more later—for now, Ryan has got me working on an assignment.

Cheers. (compliments of Seth)

I HAVE INTERNET!

I have not had access to the Internet or phone since I arrived in London. The network just started working in our flat. I'll be posting an update on what I've been up to asap.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Heading Out

Today is my birthday. I am 19.

This morning I woke up around 6:30 to finish packing the last of my things. I haven't lifted my full backpack yet and frankly I'm a little afraid to. Not knowing what type of weather to expect, I tried to pack clothes for every condition. Plus, a ton of random extras are thrown in there too. I am almost positive that I have at least three travel toothbrush cases. They keep getting eaten by my backpack so I keep adding more thinking they aren't there.

I will be leaving for BWI airport in a few hours. From there, I will fly to JFK. Then, off to London.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Travels

Tuesday night I rolled into my driveway with two cars packed full of books, bedding and everything else I pulled out of my dorm. My finals are over. I took my tests and wrote my 37-page Journalism Research paper. My first year of college is over. Now I’m trading my textbooks in for power adaptors, tennis shoes and pounds. I’m heading to London and my backpack looks a little larger than last week.

I will be participating in a Travel Journalism course that spans three weeks. Our group will travel around London and Scotland, looking at sites and learning how to write about them. I will be updating this blog on my adventures.

I leave tomorrow.