Archive for the ‘Stateside’ Category

The End Has No End

18 August 2009

Wow.

Who procrastinates this much on a blog?

I guess I was struggling to find a way to sum up this whole experience with the perfect balance of poignant/nostalgic/witty…but anyway, since I’m going back to New York City for my senior year (whole other issue right there) I thought it was way past time to close up shop here in Londonland.

Without further ado, the final entry:

REAL ADVENTURES

I wish I could say I went abroad because of James Joyce.

It was last summer. While reading Dubliners for my Facebook book club (kids these days, right?), I stumbled upon the following line: “But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.” The quotation took a moment to sink in. When it did, I jumped up, Eureka style, and announced that I too must go abroad to seek these adventures!

But that would make me seem a lot more whimsical and spontaneous than I am. In reality, my decision to study abroad was carefully orchestrated, beginning in the previous December (now we’re way back at the end of ’07) when I negotiated with one of my co-workers to cover my Resident Assistant position during the semester I’d be away. Still, I have to give ole Jamesy some credit. It’s rare for one particular sentence to leap off the page and resonate so profoundly with me. But for an English major, relevant reassurance about The Future from a book is kind of a big deal.

That’s not to say my life was completely lacking in adventure. I’d already lived two and a half years in New York City, spending the school year 1000 miles from home, mostly on my own. But this was different. Studying abroad meant going to another country, across an ocean and five time zones. “Oh it’s just England,” people told me. No, it’s not “just England,” as if the same language (give or take a few oddities) somehow makes it less of a different country.

In January, D-day finally came, and abroad I went. The experience was beyond incredible. You know. You’ve been reading along. I travelled to ten countries and took 5,134 pictures (supposedly worth a thousand words each, but even that would hardly do it justice) over the course of the semester. There is so much beauty and wonder in this world, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have seen just a fraction of it.

After five months, I came back with tea in my suitcase and “God Save the Queen” in my heart. I suffered immensely from the phenomenon known as “Reverse Culture Shock.” I talked with an affected authentically acquired British accent. I scoffed at crude Americanisms like “trash can” and “bathroom” and “sweaters” and “tennis shoes.” I unfurled my British flag and hung it in the living room. It was still there on the Fourth of July, and the family told me that no, it was not appropriate to fly as a substitute for our lost-in-the-depths- of-the-closet Old Glory, nor was it appropriate to wear as a cape in the Independence Day Parade in Geneva, FL. Oh well.

Of course, I’m exaggerating (what? Leonore? Exaggerate? never.) But only a teeny bit. When I came home, as absolutely delighted as I was to see my family and be in my house and snuggle with my kitty, I missed England something awful. It was an experience, a time, a feeling, that I will never be able to recreate. Pangs of nostalgia hit me pretty hard when I went to see the latest Harry Potter film. Hannah had to restrain me a few times while we watched the camera pan through London. If she hadn’t been there to enforce my maintenance of decorum, I might’ve jumped out of my seat shouting, “I’ve been there! I know that train station! That little English village is just like the ones I visited!”

I spent 149 days in England. It’s been 73 days since I left. Sooner rather than later, I will have been gone more days than I spent there. In that perplexing way that time works, it seems simultaneously like I just left, and also like it was so long ago that I was never really there at all.

Returning to Real Life has been a hard transition. After what was essentially a five month vacation (with classes and appropriate amounts of, ahem, Learning) returning to a job that I did two summers ago seemed like backsliding. Hadn’t I grown, matured, changed, and travelled the world? How was I supposed to fit back into this normal life that had continued even though I was gone?

And then I think of another quote that’s had an disproportionately profound effect on my life:

We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

—TS Eliot

Here I am at home again, where I started, and this is another adventure: trying to find the new in the familiar, the thrill in my every day life. It means responsibilities and obligations carefully balanced with hopes and memories. Life is full of beginnings and endings and beginnings again, and learning that is all part of the most important adventure: growing up.

England, this is not the end. I WILL be back. Just like The Terminator. Except you can call me the Englandator.

From the tops of Cathedrals in York and Paris and London and Milan and Rome, to underground catacombs,
From the Highlands of Scotland to the seaside in Brighton,
From the Moors of Charlotte Bronte to the grave of Jane Austen,
From the Western Hemisphere to the East,
From the Thames to the Seine to the canals of Amsterdam and Venice,
From Inverness to Nice, Madrid to Venice,
From the slope of the Alps to the Mediterranean coast,
By way of trains and planes and taxi cabs and The Tubes and subways and trams and busses and funiculars and a river boat and a ferries and my feet and even a horse…

…It was an Adventure.

And James Joyce? You were right. I had to seek it abroad.

Cheers, England. Thank you so much for everything.

flag

THE END?

The End of Days

30 July 2009

(Don’t panic! Just for me in England…not like…the end of the world or anything.) 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Here, allow me to illustrate with this chart I just happened to have on hand:

Venn diagram

Hannah and I got back from EA!P2 on Wednesday, June 3. We made the trek from Gatwick to RoHo in the early afternoon and met up with Miranda and Phoebe in Staines for the Last Ever (for us at least) Orange Wednesday (two-for-one movie tickets through our mobiles…that’s “cell phone” for the yankees). Saw Angels and Demons. I’m sorry, I just cannot buy Tom Hanks as an “action hero.” But I love Ewan McGregor in anything and everything. And it was super cool because I had been to almost every place in Rome that they filmed. Overall, I’d say it was better than previous movie. “I have to get to a library! There’s a snake in my boot!”

Thursday was crazy packing day of crazy.

June 4 5 6 003

It always gets worse before it gets better.

Hannah went off on her own to London to shop for some souvies, Grace came back from her Euroventure, and then it was Farewell to London Time. Grace and I found Hannah by Southwark Cathedral (the first place I went with Grace and Tyler and Colin and Annie the first time I took the train into London waaaay the heck back in January) and had fish and chips and Bulmers (HOW I MISS THEE) at a pub by the Thames.

June 4 5 6 005

Then Grace went off for her farewell ritual, and Hannah and I kept walking along the Thames River Path (I think I saw it called that on a sign, but it is also entirely possible that I’m making the name up) to Shakepeare’s Globe for Romeo and Juliet!

They try to be very authentic in their props and costumes and set design and lack of microphones. And lack of comfort in seating. Three hours on a wood bench with no back. I guess it was better than the poor groundlings who had to stand the whole time. Oy. And because it’s open air, it was cool to see the sky change and the sun set (dare I say…Waterloo sunset?

) and all that.

Back in Egham, I said goodbye to Miranda and Phoebe (who are suuuuper cool, btw, and I’m really sad that I didn’t start hanging out and getting to know them earlier) and Hannah, Grace and I hunkered down for some more packing and Surrey Sleepover 3.0.

June 4 5 6 012

See? Progress was made.

On the morning of D-Day, I was feeling surprisingly ready. It was the most ready and calm and on-time departure morning I’d had in a long time. For example, before leaving New York in December, I was running around like a headless chicken, trudging through the snow, trying to mail home last minute packages, desperately pawning my belongings onto other etc etc.

Everything was ready ahead of our goal time for going downstairs to wait for the taxi. Of course it started to rain just then, but there was enough time to take a photo at one of RoHo’s most beloved landmarks:

June 4 5 6 014

The taxi was right on time and the driver was super nice, even in the face of our huge huge pile of luggage. We had a nice chat on the drive to Gatwick and got there super early.

Of course, both of my suitcases were over weight, but somehow I only got charged for one, which was a magical surprise.

We spent a lot of time in the departure lounge, browsing the duty-free shops and buying up snacks to strategically get rid of as much of our left over British money as possible. And then there was the ceremonial Taking of the Last Picture in England.

June 4 5 6 015

It took a bit of diligence to get seats together on the plane because we all had separate reservations, but hard work pays off.

June 4 5 6 020

Airplane cheers for us. I was lucky enough to have the window seat…

June 4 5 6 019

Great view, right? We gazed out over the Atlantic the whole time.

June 4 5 6 030

Eight hours in a plane isn’t so bad, especially when you’ve got your besties. You’ll note we were not immune to the crazy, however, which can be seen in our faces. Or mine at least.

On our landing cards, we all put that we’d been to a farm (because we had) which caused us to get special marks in immigration (the line was super long, and then the conveyor belt for the luggage wasn’t working so it took forever), and then we got pulled aside in customs for a special xray of our luggage (which we had diligently loaded on to carts and had to immediately take off again) and the Official Decontamination of the Farm Contaminated Shoes. They were also placed in a plastic bag for Extra Protection.

June 4 5 6 032

And once we got through customs, they are like “SURPRISE! Give back your carts for now there is only an escalator to the shuttle to the main building. Or you can put your luggage on this slow mystery conveyor that will take it to normal baggage claim so you can wait for it all over again.”

Of course, being the strong, independent women that we are, we were like “heeeeeelll no” so we comically transported the bags up the escalator one at a time.

June 4 5 6 031

The task was overwhelming, to say the least, because then there were more bags to pull than hands to pull them with.

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Our parents were waiting on the other side of security. It was a joyous reunion, filled with much laughter as our precarious luggage arrangements and SaniShoes continued to malfunction and relocate…so by the time we got into the terminal, we were just dragging them higgaldy piggaldy and giggling with jetlag. Nevertheless, we made it home!

Whew! Finally!

So there you have it folks. There and back again!

Life in Londonland
Leonore’s Adventures Abroad
January 7-June 5, 2009

Stayed tuned for one last reflective/conclusionary entry coming (fingers crossed) soon!

Reverse culture shock?

9 June 2009

It’s rather hard to think of what to say in a study abroad blog when you’re no longer abroad.

I just downloaded pictures from almost all of EA!P2, and it struck me all over again how mindblowingly beautiful Switzerland was.

I would hate for so epic of a chronicle to end on such a weak note, so tomorrow during my dreadful day at work, I shall try to figure out what to say about the end of my trip. Something that will do it justice.

In the meantime, I suppose I’ll just have to try to adjust to real life.

In which politics are discussed (BEWARE)

21 January 2009

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this special important breaking news:

BARACK OBAMA IS NOW THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!! WHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I had six straight hours of class today, otherwise I would’ve gone to London to party it up. If you watch this video, at 0:53, you’ll see 2 tables full of my peeps celebrating at the Hard Rock. Pretend I’m one of the people with their backs turned.

Instead, I wore my Obama buttonday-132

and managed to catch the Inauguration on the telly at Medicine, one of the campus pubs, with a friend of mine from New Zealand. It was rather fun to provide commentary during the opening bits about who was who, and what was going on, and why I was laughing at the ornery looking man in a wheelchair. There were a handful of other students there (no other Americans as far as I could tell) but everyone got really quiet when Obama started speaking, and there was polite applause at the end, by which I mean, everyone went back about their business while I cheered like a maniac.

It was a bit upsetting that after all of the great orating that has come out of Barack Obama, he stumbled over the oath of office!! However, I maintain that it was all John Roberts’ fault.inaug-3

Every time I think about the speech, I get goosebumps all over again. Here’s one of my favorite parts:

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

APTOPIX Obama Inauguration

I agree. Thumbs up.

Other exciting events in my OBAMA DAY celebration include watching a billion hours of MSNBC.com coverage of the post swearing in events. Rachel Maddow is my new favorite person, and I don’t really understand by Chris Matthews says “Americans” the way that he does, but anyway, gotta love that non-stop coverage.

Tomorrow morning, I fully expect to wake up to angels singing from the heavens and baby bunnies prancing in the meadow and people spontaneously hugging each other on the sidewalk and cookies wafting their fresh-baked goodness through the air.

YES WE CAN!

In conclusion,Obama Inauguration

BYE GEORGE!!!!!!!

Almost…there…

1 January 2009

In one week plus one hour, I will be arriving in London!!!

Things I have:

passport

new clothes

non-sneaker walking shoes to prevent pickpocket targeting

bed things

copy of prescriptions

guidebook

Things I need:

GBPs

plug converty things

toilletries

to pack!

 

I still can’t believe it’s actually almost happening!

Leaving on a jet plane

4 December 2008


From: Orlando
To: Gatwick (London)
Depart: 7 Jan 2009 18:35
ArriveL 8 Jan 2009 07:35
Class: World Traveller Plus
Operated by: British Airways
Booking status: Confirmed


From: Gatwick (London) Terminal N
To: Orlando
Depart: 13 Jun 2009 13:30
Arrive: 13 Jun 2009 17:45
Class: World Traveller
Operated by: British Airways
Booking status: Confirmed

AHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Just spent a jillion dollars on a plane ticket to England!!

It’s getting so much closer to Really Happening!

Dear Royal Holloway,

23 November 2008

It’s done! I just emailed my acceptance!!

It’s true!!

24 October 2008

I now know, for sure, that nobody doesn’t not get in!

Still, I was a little bit doubtful and nervous that my app would get lost in the mail or some other tragedous tragedy, but alas, today I opened my gmail, and what do I have but a LETTER OF ACCEPTENCE FROM ROYAL HOLLOWAY!!!!

I was definitely giddy. And excited at my internship (where I was when I got the email). I had a huuuuge smile on my face.

So I made Hannah buy me Pinnacle after rehearsal. To celebrate.

In which Doris gets her oats

15 October 2008

Phase 1 is complete.

I mailed my applications today!

Now it’s time for Phase 2: Waiting.

Flashback

13 October 2008

I am having one.

Back three years, to the tender young age of high school senior. Today, I finally actually filled out my application forms (in hard copy! how old skool). I’m still finishing up my personal statement, and the whole thing is giving me heart palpitations! Even writing my name and copying my address and figuring out how to write my telephone number with the appropriate codes was making me all anxious!

On the plus side though, it just occurred to me that there aren’t any application fees! Sweet.

It was my goal to finish and mail everything today, however, it is a holiday. Curse you, Columbus, for having your day when I need to go the post office and have them explain to me how to mail things overseas and how much it costs and is magic required etc. etc.

I’m also trying to remember how to achieve a balance of serious explaining of myself to being charming and witty in my essay. It’s leaning to the latter.