Archive for the ‘Royal Holloway’ Category

In which I stumble upon a Magical Fairy Glen

31 March 2009

The scene:

There is a Certain Way you always walk to get from one Certain Place to another Certain Place. Your path converges with other paths that you sometimes use to go from that same Certain Place to Other Certain Places besides the previously mentioned Certain Places. But there is one path that you never take. It is not a malicious snub by any means–it’s just not a path you need to take to get to anywhere you need to go. So it stays unexplored…always lurking on the edge of your consciousness, but not a necessary part of your existence.

And then one day, you are on that Certain Path from Certain Place to Certain Place, and you stop at the crossroads of that Other Path. You think to yourself, “I always walk this way, and never that way. I wonder what could be over there.” Now, you’ve thought this previously, but it’s an impulse on which you’ve never before acted. Sure, you could’ve gone down the Other Path ages ago. For numerous reasons, you just…haven’t. You shake your head, about to walk on to the Certain Place, as usual, and then…

Maybe it’s the angle of the sun, or the wind blowing the daffodils, or the birds chirping their little hearts out, or some other amalgamation of factors.

…And then, you forget about the Certain Path to the Certain Place, and you step boldly down the Other Path, venturing into a land of untold glories.

And you stumble upon this:

Or, at least, that’s what you feel like you stumble upon. You actually stumble upon this:

Which is just as lovely, only lacking in deforestation monsters, which ultimately works out in your favor.

march-29-30-047

There’s a bridge, a bench

march-29-30-052

and a babbling brook.

march-29-30-053

And hyacinths! You love hyacinths!

march-29-30-0501

And…um…these things! They are also quite lovely.

march-29-30-054

This whole time, the Other Path was hiding a Magical Fairy Glen! Maybe it was there all along, waiting for you to ditch the Certain Path and the complacency for which it stands.

Or maybe the Rose Bush Gateway to the Magical Fairy Glen only opens for those who can let go of their obligations to Certainty.

march-29-30-056

You don’t know the answer. And it doesn’t matter.

You’ll go back to the Certain Path because it makes the most sense to use it to get from Certain Place to Certain Place. But from now on, whenever you pass the Other Path, you’ll look wistfully down it, smiling, squinting, and remembering all the magic that is there, if only you take the time to need it.

march-29-30-060

The end.

Advertisements

They tried to make me write a recap; I said “No, No, No.”

29 March 2009

Yes I been traveling, but when I come back you’ll know, know, know.
I ain’t got the time, and if my daddy thinks I’m fine 
You tried to make me write a recap, but I won’t, fo’ sho, sho, sho.

Alright.

Fine.

If you insist.

This music video is about 10 times lamer than the last 2 I posted. And by music video, I mean there is music and video, occurring simultaneously. Organ music. Your typical MTV fare, if you know what I mean.

BUT. You can see how freaking BEAUTIFUL York Minster is, all the while being serenaded by the quintessential church instrument.

Did you see the part where it goes like waaaaaay up? The super tall tower part? Yeah, that’s the tower we climbed to the top of. The stairs were in this terrifyingly tiny little windy shaft on the side, and then we ended up literally on top of the cathedral.
mar-14-15-061 

So that was awesome. My legs were a little bit upset about it, though. I was afraid to sit down because I didn’t want a Barney Stuck on the Subway How I Met Your Mother-esque Scenario. I love that show. I’m in Season 3 now. You should watch it, if you don’t. If you do, we should talk about it, because it’s probably my favorite thing besides England right now.

York also included going on a ghost tour, wandering emo-ly in the moors that inspired the Brontes, frolicking around a ruined abbey, and being generally amazed by the countryside. Pretty Pictures!

Now how about this for a transition?

That’s on a bridge over the River Wye, which forms much of the border between England and Wales. 

Grace, Tyler, Hannah F (from Barnard) and I went to Wales last weekend for a bit of adventure!

We saw a ruined abbey,

march-21-22-091

the WORST place to have a bookstore ever,

march-21-22-114

and a creepy haunted mansion hotel (that we stayed at).

march-21-22-140

Ok, so it doesn’t look so creepy in the daytime, but if you’d been INSIDE at night with the weird Victorian decor and the empty ghost lurking around every corner feeling, you’d think it was creepy too. And to top it all off, it was called Baskerville Hall Hotel. Yes. Those Baskervilles. As in Hounds of The…

But f I had to pick 1 word to summarize Wales, it would be sheep.

march-21-22-067

I think I saw a million times as many sheep as people. Those are exact figures, mind you. AND LIL BABY LAMBS ARE MY NEW FAVORITE THINGS! So. Cute. Part of the trip was a 3.5 hour horseride through the Brecon Beacons National Park, and we even rode through fields of sheep. You don’t know cute until a lamb baas at you when you are in its field. We could even hear them way up in the hills.

These hills:

march-21-22-147

Why, yes. You may call me National Velvet. Thanks for asking.

march-21-22-145

On the way home, I was quite sleepy, so I kept dozing on the bus. And everytime I woke up, I swear, we were in a roundabout. I suspected conspiracy–surely we must’ve been driving in circles exclusively, but no, we arrived in Oxford around 8pm. Why were we in Oxford? Because the Bus Drivers Union decrees that drivers need a 45 minute break when you are soooo close to being home (this happened on the way home from York too). If I were I bus driver, I’d skip that and get home 45mins earlier, but whatever.

It was then that I had my brilliant idea: take the train straight to Egham from there, thus saving myself the 45 min break, the tube trip to Waterloo, and the 40 minute train ride in the direction I’d just come (we literallly drove by RoHo on the way to Wales the day before). So I walk to the station using my memoriez from the trip to Oxford a few weeks ago, get to the station, get on the train to Reading. La la la perfect.

I get off at Reading and check the screens for the connecting train on the line that heads toward Waterloo. Hmm. Weird. It’s not on the little TV screens with departures. It’s not on the LED announcing things by the tracks. It’s not on the giant info boards at the entrance to the station. After helping a drunken drunk man read the sign and determine the next train to Paddington, I began to worry that I had taken a horrible transport misstep that would leave me stranded in Reading indefinitely.

Luckily, there was a worker lady in the ticket window.

ME: Um, excuse me? AretherenotrainstowaterlooIdon’twanttodiehere???
LADY: Not directly no. There’s trackwork.
ME: whimper. Ok, so, um, how do I get to Egham? And if you say ‘walk,’ I WILL cry.
LADY: There’s replacement bus service to Nowherevillehaven. Then you can get back on the train there. The bus stops out there by those drunken people in crazy Irish hats.
Me: …if you say so. But if I die, the blood is ON YOUR HANDS.

It wasn’t actually that traumatic. It was a little traumatic, but not in a major way. She even printed me out a little itenerary receipt. And there was indeed a bus next to the bar labeled “REPLACEMENT BUS SERVICE TO BRACKNELL(aka Nowheresvillehaven)” and a little Southwest Trains Important Man with Clipboard standing at the ready.

Spoiler alert: I made it. 

Despite the bus diversion, I did get home faster than I would’ve if I stayed with the tour group on the coach. So high five, me.

Check out the rest of Wales in pictures

There are probably more adventures I could recount at this point, but BRITISH SUMMER TIME (sounds better than Daylight Savings in my opinion) goes into effect tonight, so I’m losing an hour of sleep.

WOW my computer magically just did it. High five, Julian!

Royal Holliday

25 March 2009

You may have forgotten, as I am prone to from time to time, that I came to England with the intention of, ahem, “studying” abroad.

So this fact re-occured to me, and then I looked at the calendar and realized that today was my last day of classes.

Well darn.

Just kidding. Obviously I KNEW that term was ending. This sounds very strange, because you may recall that I am here until June. 

Let me take a moment to explain this crazy British system of edumacation to you:

Term 2 (which just ended) is when the classes take place. Once a week for 10 weeks plus a silly “reading” week in the middle (11 weeks total), after which, many essays were due. Then we have this magical 1 month Easter vacation/”study” time. From April 27 until June, on four mystery dates that were TOP FREAKING SECRET UNTIL YESTERDAY, exams occur. That’s Term 3. Four days that matter out of a month and a half. Yay England!

In other charming campus news, I got hailed on in the sunshine last week, and also saw a dog eat a mole. Separate instances.

SPRING PICTURES.

Snow Day!

6 February 2009

It’s snowing AGAIN (I think…the precipitation is a bit dodgy looking- it might actually be a snow/rain combo) , so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to recount the experiences of my first ever SNOW DAY.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a Snow Day is quite similar to a Hurricane Day in that school is cancelled, and it’s hard to get places, and the news media goes INSANE talking about it. Except instead of worrying about trees crashing through the roof or rising floodwaters, you frolic in magical fields of snow. With puppies. 

feb-2-015

You think I’m kidding. But I’m not. I frolicked in that field (among others), and no joke, there were people with a dog also frolicking. The dog, not the people. The people were just sort of walking like normal.

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this with you yet, but everything in England is either exactly like a) Harry Potter or b) The Chronicles of Narnia.

So, in this particular instance, Snow Day=Narnia. We were in that snow field when suddenly, as if by magic, a mystical opening appeared in the bushes/fence that was THE ENTRANCE TO NARNIA.

feb-2-022

Several epic snow battles commenced, including one that I would call “an attack by Savage British 1st years.” A whole gang of them came out of nowhere and rushed us (us being a small group of RoHo Int’ls peacefully frolicking) screaming like Anglo-Saxon warriors.

feb-2-042

At one point, I believe the preamble to the Declaration of Independence was recited/shouted and there was even patriotic song show down between The Star Spangeled Banner and God Save the Queen.

BUT there was still opportunities galore for me to take artsy shots of snow. Many snowballs hits were endured to bring you these photos.

feb-2-041

feb-2-0381

And you love these photos so much that you are just DYING to see the rest. Well, they’re right here.

Besides that excitement on Monday, the rest of the week has been really low key. Classes, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, hanging with my homies…All of the joy about the snow has turned into annoyance as a general sentiment about campus.

Tomorrow I’ll probably head into London, and hopefully the weather will be more favorable than it is right now. NEXT WEEKEND is going to be CRAZY brilliant though. Saturday, I’m going on a day tour of Canterbury and Leeds Castle, and THEN, a group of us is heading to OSLO, NORWAY early Sunday morning.

!!!

SNOWWWWWWW.

2 February 2009

I had just settled my brain for a long evening’s read,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But lots and lots of snow!!!

Snow from my window!

Snow from my window!

 

Still snowing...

Still snowing...

Note the decreasing definition between sidewalk and grass.

Note the decreasing definition between sidewalk and grass.

It's really coming down!!

It's really coming down!!

Orange Wednesdays and Public Transport

24 January 2009

Have I mentioned that the lights in the hall in my flat are motion-activated? It’s very green, actually, so that when there’s no one out there, the lights automatically turn off without having to worry about switches and all that. And when you open the door, they come on within a second or two.

I’ve started playing this very exciting game called “Try To Get to the Kitchen from My Room Without Activating the Motion Detector Lights.” My room is like 1 or 2 feet from the kitchen door, so you’d think I might be able to dart out fast enough, but I ALWAYS LOSE. Sometimes, I’ll think I’ve almost made it, and I’m actually within the realm of the kitchen, but then the LIGHT TURNS ON BEHIND ME! I think I may try a new strategy of going super slow to see if that works any better.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Wow. She’s finally lost it. It was touch and go there for awhile, but no, now it’s definitely gone,” but YOU MUST UNDERSTAND what constant cloud cover and darkness and fog can do to a person.

Anyway.

My mobile is on the Orange network, and they offer this super awesome “Orange Wednesdays” deal where you can get 2 for 1 cinema tickets. Groovy, right? On Wednesday, my friend Victoria and I went to Staines (the next town over) to try and take advantage of that awesomeness. And lo and behold, student tickets are only 5.85…divide that by two, and it equals supercheap! So we’re all “la la la that was awesome and cheap!” and leave the theater afterward and THEN

1. It’s pouring rain and windy as all get out. My umbrella flips inside out and dies (I fixed it a little but it’s still kind of dead).
2. We go back to the bus stop and check the time of the next bus, which of course, was coming in negative an hour and 20 mins.

That’s right. The last bus leaves around 10:30pm, and it was 11:50. Oops! The pub across the street directed us to a taxi stand right around the corner, which was literally a hole in the wall. Seriously. A hole. With 3 chairs and a door. There was already a man waiting with a pizza, and we were soon joined by 5 drunkish 30somethings, which makes for a very crowded hole. One of the guys offered me a pound to either sit in my chair or my lap, I’m not quite sure which. The same guy also did the Incredibly Distasteful Act of hailing a random taxi from the street while simultaneously waiting at a taxi stand. This rather angered the Taxi Man, who used some colourful racial language to describe the typical driver of said cab.

After all that, the drunks left, and a driver finally showed up. We shared a taxi with Pizza Man back to RoHo (Royal Holloway) because apparently it was all in the same direction, and Taxi Man felt bad about us having to wait.

In the end, it turned out jolly good, and we learned the invaluable Thou Shalt Not Stay Out Past 22:30 on Small Town Surrey Weeknights lesson. Because after that Cinderella-esque hour, it’s only pizza eaters and drunks who roam the streets.

????

19 January 2009

Does anyone have any idea what this might be?day-11

As  far as I can tell, it seems like eggs and tea bags? (Oh JK…just googled boiled eggs and tea bags and they must be Chinese Tea Eggs) But it has been on the stove for closing in on 48 hours, and I’m a little bit afraid of it. Also curious enough to clandestinely take a picture of it with my iPhone while no one else was in the kitchen.

Today was beautiful and sunny! It did not rain or fog or cloud up AT ALL. So I took a walk around campus in order to hang out with my new bffl, Queen Victoria.day-11-006

She’s getting a little clingy though. Every time I turn around, it seems like there’s another statue/monument/shrine to her. QVic, come on, I need some space.

I also stumbled upon someone (I like to think it was the Phantom of the Opera, getting ready for his Broadway sequel) playing the organ in the otherwise empty Royal Holloway chapel. I’m having some technical difficulties with posting the video, but I’ll try to figure it out, because it’s pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

Tonight some of the Int’ls and I had a little take-out dinner party with Indian and Chinese in one of the girl’s flat’s. I was underwhelmed, but the prices were pretty good considering.

Tomorrow begins week 2 of lectures! Back to reading Mary Barton now. It’s a bit of a downer…so far at least 5 people have died of various sicknesses and ailments and other things that trouble the lower working class in 1830s Manchester.

Sunglasses: Day 6

14 January 2009

NEWSFLASH!

I almost had to dig out my sunglasses and wear them today. You may be thinking “WHAT? She needed to wear sunglasses in ENGLAND in JANUARY? Oh, what a world!” Now, don’t go getting your knickers all in a twist–I said almost. I didn’t actually. There were 2 sunbeams and a patch of blue sky hanging around for a little bit, so I contemplated protecting my senstive eyeballs from those piercing rays…then the sun set at 4, and everything went back to dark as usual. Crisis averted.

I had two more classes today. In British drama, we had to act out a scene. That was kind of fun. But then another Int’l and I stupidly stood outside Epic, our next class, for 5 minutes because we thought it was the previous class that hadn’t finished yet. So we finally went in during the tutors very very rapid summary of the Iliad, which made my brain want to explode a tiny bit. I managed to escape seminar without having to answer any questions (again…haven’t done the reading) but I did have to read a passage aloud about Petrolium or Petroclus or something. After, another of the girls in the class said to me “I never knew what people meant about the difference with the English and American accent, but now I get it!” And I was like “So sorry to trouble you with my coarse yankee speech.” No, what I actually said was something along the lines of “Oh hahahaha! Smile.”

Still haven’t sorted out the issue with my fourth class. I’m going back to the English office tomorrow to see if spaces have opened up in a class that I’m more qualified for. Fingers crossed!

New pictures! These are significantly less exciting than the Windsor ones, but they show bits of campus, Egham, and my flat.

Cheers: Days 4 and 5

13 January 2009

I swear I have heard people say cheers at least three times the normal amount I usually hear it (which is at New Years and special occasions). Based on my observations, it seems like you can use it to replace “thanks” when someone holds the door for you or when you’re saying something like bye/have a good day/see ya later. I will have to investigate the matter further before I come to a solid conclusion. I’ll get back to you.

Yesterday was supposed to be the day where I got organized and got the rest of the stuff I need in Egham, but alas, no. I didn’t set my alarm, so obvi I slept really late (ahem1pmahem). And then, lo and behold, practically all of Egham is closed on Sundays, except Tesco (the grocery) which closes at the nightowl hour of 4pm. It’s going to be a major adjustment a) not having the grocery less than a block away and b) EVERYTHING CLOSED when I want to be at the store.

Not all was lost, however, because I successfully remembered the short cut along the RR tracks/through the neighborhood. It’s a lot more pleasant than the hazardous Egham Hill Road route with the cars rushing by and the noise and the bushes poking over the sidewalk.

And, I got to take in the scenery along the way. Tell me, what do you think this means:day-4-001

 Is the paint just so slippery that you cannot climb it? Does it cause your limbs to decay and fall from your body, thus rendering  you physically unable to scale the fence? Or is it like those people who just have security signs in their yard but no actual security system?

Also they have what I call “power-tents”:day-4-002

See how it’s sort of draping over the houses like a giant circus tent? Work with me, people!

Woke up this morning to some jolly good English rain! It was that kind of rain where it’s definitely happening, but just not quite enough to call for the opening of ones umbrella. That was a bit troubling, to say the least.

It was also the first day of the new term (not semester). I triple checked my time table (not schedule) and made it to the right classes at the right time in the right places. Victory! The course (not class) tutor (not professor) is really nice for the ones I went to today (Gaskell, Eliot & Dickens–the lecture and the seminar). Unfortunately, we visiting int’ls did not get the memo that you’re supposed to have already done reading (in this case a whole novel) for the 1st meeting of the class. Oooops! But it was all ok and fine no worries. I just have a ton of reading to do this weekend!!

I finally finished organizing and decorating my room! Yay! Here’re some highlights: day-5-001

That’s my desk and bboard, and here’s my bed (yes, it’s a full, and that’s a AAA map of England)day-5-0022

Like I said, nicest. dorm. ever.

More pictures of town and campus and my room coming soon (via link to fb album).

And how ’bout that Prince Harry? What a charming fellow. Geez.

Getting there/here

10 January 2009

It was an arduous journey of arduousness that took 15 hours (according to the clock…it wasn’t actually that long, thank god. I guess it was really about 10 hours: 7.5 to fly and 2.5 for immigration/customs/driving to RH).

On BA, I was in this pimped out exclusive section called “World Traveller PLUS.” Ok, it’s only like 1 up from economy, but I got to board right after the people in the sleepy beds. We even had those curtains for our little mini-cabin to keep the plebs out.

Here’s the seat in front of me:

flight-0011

 

I don’t know if you can see in the picture, but the headphones they gave out were all fancy and padded and covering my whole ears. And they were better than the ones in the regular cabin, too.

Here’s me trying to discretely take a picture of the cabin, but it’s all blurry because the lady next to me started to turn back toward me, so I panicked:

flight-002

Other amenities include: socks, a pen, a sleep mask, a toothbrush + toothpaste, blanket, pillow, free wine, 3 course dinner, breakfast, legroom, a footrest, and lots of movies. Apparently, there was also a place to plug in ones laptop, but I did not take advantage of that luxury.

This represents the part of the journey that was still novel/bearable (ps. I just dled GoogleEarth…AMAZING):earth

I unfortunately had to walk through the steerage a few times to get to the lavatory (I wasn’t quite exclusive enough to use the close ones in the fancy pants section, also separated by curtain).

Oh and I forgot to mention that we also got free copies of the Daily Mail, and apparently there’s a run on normal lightbulbs because the EU is outlawing them in order to be more green/eco friendly.

This represents the rather unfortunate part of the journey where I wanted to die a teeny bit:europe2

I slept a little bit, and then they turned the lights on and were like “BREAKFAST! Tea or coffee?” and I was like “gahhhshdnfmsdlgkh.”

It was pitch black outside for most of the flight (obviously), but I could see a bunch of stars. Not much down below though. As we started making out initial descent, I took this picture of the beginning of sunrise out the window:flight-0031

You can’t really see the clouds, but they were fluffy, and I wanted to frolic in them.

Approach approach approach:england

I was a little bit giddy with excitement when we finally broke through the clouds, but then, surprise surprise, it was dark. And foggy. And I couldn’t see anything exciting.

When I got off the plane, the 1st thing I noticed was several (SEVERAL) authentically British people wearing white sneakers. I hope they get pickpocketed.

Thankfully, Immigration and Customs were a breeeeeze. I got sniffed by possibly the least intimidating drug/bomb dog ever. It was a cute little yellow lab. Then I just wheeled my overflowing luggage cart right through customs. One of the officers asked a man walking near me where he flew in from (Cuba dun dun dun), but I just ran away and didn’t make eye contact.

Richard (family friend of family friends the Smiths) picked me up. I felt very official because he had a sign with my name on it. Like the important people do.

I was supremely weirded out by riding in the left side of the front seat and on the left side of the road as we drove from Gatwick.london

I saw bits of quintessential England countryside and a horse!

Now, contrary to popular belief, Royal Holloway- University of London is not actually in London. It is in Egham, Surrey. Confusing I know. But it is still within the M25, which roughly outlines greater London (in the looooosest sense of the word).

Today some of my Visiting Student comrades and I ventured into Egham, our little town for some supplies. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk down the hill. The sidewalk is very narrow, however, and it felt a little treacherous at a few points (only a little! do not be alarmed).egham-21

 It was rather cold, but I did get a hair dryer (yess!) some hand soap (none in my bathroom) and toilet paper (only 1 roll provided. Generous, I know). And another plug converter. But I must remember that only my computer and camera charger don’t need the voltage converter. In my jetlagged state this morning, I forgot that, and my hair straightener had uncomfortable amounts of smoke coming out of it after a few seconds (again, do not be alarmed, the situation turned out fine).

My room is SO NICE. 10 times nicer than any room I’ve had at Barnard. I have a full size bed, and my own full bathroom (though it’s this dodgy wet room arrangement where the shower, which is a bit too misty and not pressurey for my taste)  isn’t really separate and the whole floor gets wet.

Campus feels huuuuuge though. Way bigger than the ‘nard.campus

And my classes apparently happen one after the other, except each begins and ends on the hour, with no time between, and in different buildings. Hmm.

I’ve haven’t really taken any proper pictures of anything yet. Blame it on the culture shock.

Tomorrow, to Windsor. For tea with the Queen (just kidding). But I really am going to Windsor (my first castle!).

HOLY COW I’M IN ENGLAND!!!!!!!!!