Sunday, December 28, 2008

I'm Home! Now What...

My country tis of thee,
Land where the water's free,
Of thee I sing.
Land where the dollar's used
Brits' slang won't me confuse
Back to plain old BYU
Let freedom ring.

I know you've heard the rumors, and they are true.
I am home.
[insert elated cheering here]
Christmas and New Years have been great, I've had some big activities like eating, watching my favorite TV shows, (DogTown, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, America's Next Top Model etc.) eating some more, snowboarding, (too bad my little sister's already better than me) a little more eating, coming to the realization of how out of shape I truly am at good old Gold's Gym, and of course, eating still more. It's been kind of lazy. But I do start the real world of BYU in about 10 hours, and seeing how I haven't been to a real college class in... well, longer than it's been since Paris Hilton had her last DUI that's for sure, it might be a little bit of a culture shock.
Although I am looking forward to having a little structure in my life and having more to do than just eat and entertain myself during the day, it's going to be a bit difficult to step back into the competitive world of Cougars. To combat this anxiety, I decided to make some New Years resolutions. 4 days late.

1. Stop procrastinating. As you can see my New Years resolutions done on the fourth of January is a telltale sign of what a big part of my life this is.
2. Get a job. This is probably going to mean a lot less America's Next Top Model.
3. Stop wasting so much time. This is definitely going to mean a lot less America's Next Top Model.
4. Make friends in ALL my classes. I'm starting to think that this post displays my social skills as somewhat under par, but really I'm a pretty friendly person. Mostly. There's just something about being in class that shuts me down. But not this year.

Yes. I realize the last one is kind of covered in the fact that the aboves are "resolutions" and not just some happy thoughts on life, but I thought if I typed it out it might help me realize it. That's why it's in all caps too. I once heard that if you typed something in all caps then it is the online equivalent of yelling. So forgive me for raising my voice. I'm just excited to start school.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane

3 Hours.
That's all I have left of my London paradise.
I know I'm greedy by thinking that I deserve even one more day of this fabulous life, but how can I help it?
I'm convinced that no one had a better Study Abroad than London Fall 08. And I have the scientific evidence to back it up.
Not only have I had an aMAZing time here, but I have learned a lot. (Imagine that, learning on a study abroad?)

I've learned:
When they say there are going to be slight delays on the Circle Line, do NOT get on the train unless you never want to get to your final destination.
A sunny, blue sky do not mean that you won't come home looking like you just swam the English Channel.
Just because we walk everywhere and climb four flights of stairs to get to our room doesn't mean I deserve a magnum, Hummingbird's cupcake, Ben's Cookies, and possibly another Magnum. Every day.
The word cheers, when said with a British accent, can mean: please, thank you, you're welcome, hello, goodbye, pass the salt, shaken not stirred. . . and anything else a Brit needs to say.

But the most important things I've learned have been from the people I've spent these glorious months with. I wish I could name everything from every single person, but I don't think I could manage it in the three hours before my flight leaves. But to everyone of you--you touched my life. Thank you for being the type of girls that make me want to be a better person. I know I came to London for a reason, and it was to meet every one of you. You all deserve medals for putting up with me for four months. And the rest of your lives, because you're not getting rid of me!
Nothing but love.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Once Upon A December

I can't believe it is already December.
I have seen that month looming at the end of the calendar, but I don't think I ever really thought that it would have the bones to actually appear.
But it did.
Which means the lovely segment of my life that consists of reading the London Paper everyday, and eating West African food on the way home from the National Gallery must soon come to a close.
But let's not talk about that right now.
Let's talk about how everything in London is still amazing and I couldn't be happier to be here!
Thanksgiving was awesome, and we totally schooled London on what it's like to be a grateful American. We went to a synagogue in the morning. Which is a tradition in my family. Yeah you're right, it's not. But it was cool to hear a lot about Judaism, because all I really knew was based on my knowledge of Adam Sandler songs. Then we hit up some high tea at the Kensington Palace Orangerie, which was dreadfully good. The tea was herbal, of course, but it was so yummy! I may not have converted to Judaism, but I think I have converted to the tea-drinking way. By the way I take my tea with two lumps. And then some. After tea we had a bit of a photo shoot where the thanksgiving spirit descended as a pigeon onto Jordyn and Rebbie's heads.

The reaction was heightened by Jordyn's already nervous disposition, but as you can see Sara wasn't shaken at all, and the fuss only caused me to blink. Which I'm proud of.
Here's a closer view, courtesy of Jordyn's blog:

I hope this brings you as much joy as it brought Jordyn anguish.
After gorging ourselves on the Centre's version of Thanksgiving, (which was spot on, except there were no orange rolls (Thomases) or rowdy expletives (Browns) which made me sad, on both parts) we decided that in the grand tradition of the post-Thanksgiving movie-going we would go see a musical.
Lion King.
Blew my mind. I knew I would love it though, it's got animals, and music, and is backed up by Disney. It couldn't go wrong.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Au Revoir Paris

Although I'm so sad to see this beautiful city go, I say goodbye with bittersweet breath. After a delightful last day of Sacre Coeur, catacombs, faire de magasins and one last crepe avec jambon, oignons, fromage, pomme de terre et salade, we headed toward the train station. That's where it all went bad. Running all the way across Paris to get that delectable crepe, pushed the time limit and left Rebbie, Jordyn and me running through the Gare du Nord to pick up our luggage and run madly around the terminal looking for our train. It was at Passport control that I realized I didn't have just that.

My Passport.

It was in the bag which my lovely roommate Lauren had so kindly picked up for me because we were late. I frantically tried to tell my friends where my passport could be in the bag as they were going through border patrol and onto the train which was holding my bag where my passport was nestled safely between my well-worn keds and fake Juicy Couture perfume. Mind you, our train is supposed to leave in mere minutes. As my friends tore through my dirty socks and cardigans, I sat in limbo between customs and passport control with tears running down my American face which chocked up my few French words about how I need to go to England. During this whole mess I'm trying not to look at my watch as much as possible but I can't help but notice that my train is leaving very, very soon (forgive the lack of particulars, my watch doesn't have numbers on its face) and I am still an American who needs to go to England but is stuck in France.
Just as I'm imagining myself going back to the hotel we just checked out of, with my metro card that just expired and find the American Embassy where I can wait in line for a week and get a new passport; a few security personnel approach me and start asking me all these questions in French, English and probably a little Spanish, with which all I could reply with was "J'ai perdu mon passport et j'ai besoin d'aller au l'Angleterre!" Finally, one of them asks me my name and I respond with Je m'appelle Alexandra Thomas (thanks Ann!) and he hands me the most beautiful little blue book I've ever seen: my PASSPORT! Now with tears of joy I run like Pocahontas when she dances with the colors of the wind through security and relax. A little bit like my friend Anna.

Apart from the stress at the end there, there were definitely some fabulous times to be had in the city of love.
A little photo session on the top of the Eiffel Tower at dusk

As beautiful as that was, I don't think it topped the absolutely divinely inspired Greek crepe (I know right?) we had on La Rue Mouffetard. TOO good. This is the one that almost got me stranded in France.

As you can see by my face it was totally worth it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Paris Holds The Key To My Heart!

Bonjour mes amis!
I thought that I might do my whole blog en Francais, and then I remembered that thanks to 5 years of French all I know how to say is that I like ice cream and that I'm 14 years old.
So that will come in handy if I meet a pedophile.
Despite my limited language skills, I am tres excite! (Use your decoding skills to decipher that). I can't wait to go stay in a hotel where I don't have to run madly down the hall to find a very dirty community bathroom that I share with an interesting cocktail of European youth.
Or have the assurance that I won't be fed sausage, ham, baked beans, soup and toast for breakfast.
But the best thing about the delicieux food, and the beautiful city filled with beautiful people is that they all come with the Euro! This blessed form of currency doesn't make the dollar look quite as ridiculous as the pound does and maybe I'll feel like my country has more to back up my little George Washington than Monopoly money.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Coming Of Age In London

Seeing as my dear friend Jordyn is about to turn twenty and leave the safety of her teen years to enter into true adulthood, I have been thinking a lot about the future. And I don't really like it. It scares me to be as old as I am. I don't like that I can remember things that were ten years ago, and I don't like that kids who I baby-sat are getting their licenses, but I especially don't like that in a few months' time I will no longer be a teenager and I'll end up being one of those people that tell you that they were once your age not too long ago, and then the recipient of the lecture just rolls their eyes as I fix my dentures and pull up my panty hose.
But instead of lamenting my fear of growing up, I decided to take affirmative action with where my life is headed, so I'm devoting this post to a list of things I'd like to do before I'd die.
Please note that this list is provisional, and subject to change.

1. Be in a Britney Spears music video. (I know everyone says she's past her glory, but the classics never die)
2. Raise a lion cub (I might settle with just petting one, after I thought about how big lion poop probably is) so I can have a "Christian the lion" experience. If you haven't seen this on youtube, I highly recommend it. It changed my life.
3. Make a fat-free croissant and fat-free bacon. Or just live long enough to see it done.
4. Find evidence of a mysterious phenomenon (i.e. Bigfoot, Lochness monster, UFO etc.) and be published in the National Enquirer.
5. Eat at Beto's (your finest 24 hr. burrito supplier) and not regret it. Just once!
6. Make an ice sculpture like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
7. Become cultured enough that I no longer am entertained by low-budget and low IQ reality TV shows. They get me every time.
8. Come to be unashamed that I really love baked beans, carrot cake and corn bread.
9. Perfect the Angelina Jolie Sexy Scowl.
10. Yield more raw power than Oprah herself.

I know those are some pretty lofty goals, but at least I have 6 months before I really have to start thinking about them.
I wish I could say the same for Jordyn.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Claim To Fame

I know guys. I know. You're all insanely jealous of me right now, right? For all of those who, for some reason, can't tell; this is a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio. You see the pink blur? He is two blurs to the left from that. Beautiful.
Ok, in my defense there were adoring fans all around and since I was clearly the muscles of the situation I was the one hoisting the little girl on top of my shoulders. Thus the horrible picture.
But who else can say they have an unrecognizable picture of the back of some semi-washed up teen heartthrob's head?
Yeah, I'm pretty lucky.
I really did get to see him though, and it was quite grand. Right when I looked into his blue eyes I knew that even though I was squished into the arm pit of some full grown man who kept yelling "Leo" at the top of his lungs approximately every seven seconds (he must have been pretty close to Leonardo because he was comfortable enough to call him Leo), Leonardo saw me and knew that we would be fast friends. I am expecting a call anytime soon and he'll invite me to drink cocoa with Gisele and him.
I wonder what I'll wear...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Remember, Remember The Fifth Of November

Can I just start out this post with a few kudos to our new President elect? Just in case Barack stumbles across my blog in his spare time I'd like to let him know he's done fine. This election has been filled with almost every emotion available to humans; on both sides (even though Cindy McCain's face is not capable of anything but that smile-like grimace). I know my political experience is nothing, seeing as I've only known Bushes and Clintons in the White House, but this election was pretty exciting. Apart from re-defining the lines of race and gender, the election had some pretty impressive merchandise.
My favorite is this Obama-ka.

Not only is this a great day for America, but it is a great day for the world. Because it is the day David B Thomas was born.

My dad.

Whether it's helping me do my Beaver County report in roughly the time it took to make my cinnamon toast before the bus came, because I had neglected to tell him anything about the report until an hour before it was due. And it still turned out awesome. Fully equipped with a pin-the-tail-on-the-beaver game and partly factual information from the one and only brochure Beaver County has.

Or driving me all the way back down the canyon to get a coat from grandma's house when my seventh grade vanity prohibited me from wearing his oversized olive green sweater and I had forgotten my own coat. Even though he was so mad at me he wouldn't speak the whole way down, we still made up over the obligatory, raspberry-filled powdered donuts from the gas station.

Or when he sacrificed the lawn, and the wood floors, and the carpets, and the garage door, and almost everything else below knee level in the house all just to give me what I wanted even more than a little sister: a puppy. When I made myself a collar and a tail and pretended to be a dog myself, he didn't see it as creepy like everyone else, but he saw it as an endearing cry for the dog I so sorely needed.

I know it's hard for my dad to be the only sane one in the midst of three very different girls, and a lot of times what we mean gets lost in what we say, but the best way to say I love you, is by not saying anything at all.
When I ran the jeep into a car in our driveway on New Year's Eve and instead of yelling at me you just laughed and helped me out of the driveway so I could go to my party.
That told me you love me.
When I hit my middle school crisis, and was positive no one understood what it meant to be a 13 year old at Farrer Middle School, you listened to all my woes, and even made a packet of all my talents, complete with pictures and diagrams, when I didn't think I was good at anything (which I still have today).
That told me you love me.
Especially when I'm five thousand miles away and I'm too busy having the time of my life, and get stressed about all the little things I was supposed to do before I left (like planning a return ticket for the right day) and you swoop in on your white horse and take care of everything.
That told me you love me.

Here's to another amazing year with an amazing dad.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm in Love, I'm in Love and I Don't Care Who Knows It!

Sometimes when I've just had a grueling day of seeing priceless works of art at the National Gallery, or am forced to go to the Royal Opera House to see Swan Lake for my Humanities class I just have to sit back and take some time for myself.

That's when I go to hummingbird.

This place is a dream come true. I have yet to eat one that hasn't completely rocked my world and given me an out of body experience. Let me just give you a preview of some of my faves: the Pina Colada one takes frosting to the next level with a soft coconut flavor, then has a sweet and slightly citrusy cake, and when you think they've done it all, you hit the real pineapple chunks at the bottom. Another highlight is the Lemon Curd, despite the word curd, nothing is curdish about it. The lemon frosting on top tastes like how clouds look when you fly over them at sunset, and then the cake below it offsets the tart frosting with sweet and somehow salty blend that rivals even kettle corn. Oh yeah, then there's a Nutella flavor. It would be unholy for me to cheapen this with words.

It is so fabulous it even makes you throw inhibitions and societal norms to the wind. On one of our recent excursions we paid the extra 45p so we could eat in and sit on one of their cute velvet stools soaking in the posh ambience. After standing awkwardly in the small shop that was full of customers that were just as happy as we were, we managed to get a little table from a nice couple that graciously gave up their coveted seats. After we had all devoured our own little baked dreams we couldn't help but joke about how funny it would be if we ate the rest of the cake the lady before us left behind. After a few awkward smiles and some shifty eyes, we all swallowed our pride and picked our forks right back up. We started at the edge with the frosting, the side that hadn't been touched by a stranger's fork, but things quickly progressed until we had eaten every last bite. Every one. Like a homeless person.

It may not have been my proudest moment, but I don't regret it for one second.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fleeting Fall

Fall is here! And in honor of this beautiful season I have changed my page. Again. Now hopefully it looks a little less like seventh grader's myspace page and a little more like the blog of a gentlewoman and a scholar. I don't know how classy online profiling can be though... you can't help but feel that you're doing something creepy.
The changing seasons are always enjoyable for me. Seeing the season change on a completely different continent is especially enjoyable because it is actually quite similar to little Provo. The sweet smell of half rotten leaves coupled with the crackling of dried ones under foot still make me want to wrap up in a scarf and sip some apple cider. Even if the British put corn in their tomato sauce, wear a little less deodorant, and make the quest for an ice-cold Dr. Pepper like the search for the holy grail, we still share the same small world.
Going from one season to another always reminds me of the inconstancy of life. Just as all the seasons come and go, so will everything; good and bad. Which is important for me to remember while I'm on this never-going-to-happen-again trip. When I catch myself worrying about not studying enough or eating too many magnums (if you're not familiar with these divinely inspired ice cream bars I will pray for your soul. They taste like rainbows and laughter dipped in God's special stash of chocolate then frozen and sold at your local Tesco) that my few jeans I brought here will finally give up on me, I just have to remember that Fall will be over soon and I'll be back in Provo again waiting for the next great thing to come along.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Underground Rap

I think my entries have been a little flat, hopefully this little ditty about the London pub-trans will spice things up a bit.
This one is done to the musical score of Eazy E.
If that means anything to anyone.

Cruisin down Bayswater to my tube, yo.
Flash them the pass, walk through the do'
Sniffing up the urine and the B.O.
Waitin for the lift to come to my flo'
Chick gets on the mic and says "next lift"
and I smile a bit cause it smells like... poo

Elevator comes and we all pile in
Next thing I know I'm spooning an Asian
Of course it's awkward silence, but it's all cool though
I brought my Sudoku from my Lite Metro
The doors open and the wind's all up in my grill
Tears are blowin down my face it's so hard homie ya feel?

Barely make the train--Mind The Gap!
There never is a seat, man that's whack.
Holding to the bar like it's the iron rod
Staring at some strangers while listening to my Pod
Britney Spears comes on the phones and I can't help but nod,
I'm dancin to the beat even if I'm not usin my bod

Queensway, Lancaster, Marble Arch and Bond,
To say we're flying by, ain't too wrong.
The lights are flickering, but man I ain't scurred
I own this city now, London ya heard?
They's people all around, one's got a nasty cough
Then I holla to my peeps, "Dis where we gettin off".

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Priceless Trip to the North

I'm sure you've all noticed the facelift I've given my blog, although it's not exactly what I'd always dreamed my blog would look like, it's all my poor technical skills can manage.
As I write this post, I am once again tucked safely back on the third floor of 27 Palace Court. We just returned from the wild North yesterday, and while I had an absolutely fabulous time, it is nice to be able to be back in London and not be "coach sick" every other hour. Before we headed up North I had pretty much no idea what we were in for. Luckily I trust my professors enough to know that it would be well worth my time. This week's activities started out with a sobering visit to Quarry Bank Mill, a busy cotton mill during the industrial age. While I've been on this trip we've dropped in on mansion after mansion and almost every palace, but we've not seen much of how the majority of the population lived. Quarry Bank Mill was definitely an eye-opening experience. There are times I've wondered, as I've been here, why any of our ancestors would have wanted to leave this beautiful island, but after seeing the conditions of this huge textile mill, what with their 15-18 hour days, 2 meals, cotton filled lungs, body deformities from child labor and such meager pay that you have no other choice, it's a wonder why anyone stayed! This trip was by no means a downer though, we visited happy places like the cavern in Liverpool where the Beatles first performed, or the cottage in Ambleside where Beatrix Potter lived. We ended trip on almost the polar end of how we started it though; at Chatsworth.
We got scolded in perfect British form for taking this picture.
This "house" was like taking Buckingham Palace, mixing it with the Louvre, throw a few rolling dales in and then you have Chatsworth manor. The opulence of this place really just hit me like a punch to the face. When you go to a palace you expect to be bombarded with gold gilt and glittering crystals, but when you go to someone's home (who still lives there today) the whole palatial thing kind of catches
you off guard. As our guide was telling us about the 150 kilo solid silver chandelier, and the 15000 paintings, most by big names like Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo (not the turtles) someone in our group couldn't help but ask the question that was pressing all of our minds; how much? Of course he had to say that they were all priceless, but a very very conservative estimate was about 7 billion pounds. In paintings. Alone. All for this old couple with bad teeth. Maybe it was just because we had driven in the bus for about 3 hrs and my stomach had nothing but bad hostel food, but hearing that really just made me sick. All of that stuff, while beautiful, is really just stuff. We say it is priceless, but it is really just worthless. I had never realized how much it doesn't matter, than when I was surrounded by so much of it. The fact that I was surrounded by so many people that make life matter helped my perspective as well. It's so easy to get drawn into the material side of life, but it's so easy to forget it too. Whenever you laugh until you cry, or cry until you laugh you're a part of what really counts. My life may never be documented in a museum, or people won't travel thousands of miles to take a picture with a bronze effigy of me, but I can still appreciate a good laugh with a good friend.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Don't take things for Janet

Let me just preface this entry by explaining the title. My lovely friend told me a charming little story about her thinking the common phrase "take things for granted" was actually "take things for Janet" which happened to be the name of her older sister. It sounds like a cute juvenile story until you find out that she misunderstood this term until late into her teen years. Why I chose this as my title shall (hopefully) be clear to you at the end of this blog.
We visited Oxford today and thought it would be absolutely charming to go punting down this river and ogle the "fit gents on the football pitch". So we paid our deposit and got ready for a romantic getaway with four girls. Little did I know that balancing on the back of a very long boat with an even longer and heavier pole would not be the best plan. The happy and confident me above is pictured just after our very experienced guide pushed us off into the unknown and let me man the boat myself.
This lovely picture of me was taken only seconds after my happy pole got stuck in three feet of mud and in my attempts to pull it out, I wound up deeper in the mud than the pole. Amid frantic moans (I wasn't even coherent enough to think of obscenities) I made it to the river bank. Even closer to the "fit gents on the football pitch". Luckily the wind was blowing at roughly the speed of sound and the 60 degree weather went from crisp to frigid almost immediately. Luckily, I had friends there to help me laugh while I was pulling pond scum out of my hair, but it wasn't too long before we not-so-gracefully gave up. I braved the water again and we tied the boat up to a dock nearby and just headed back to the boat rental place on foot. After unceremoniously climbing three or more fences we got ourselves completely trapped on an island with no way across except to climb this bridge (that was not high enough for this to be a stunt equal of Jason Bourne, but high enough to rack up European medical costs should we have been unsuccessful). My friend Brooke and I got up pretty easily (despite the fact that the crotch on my soggy pants was about to my knees) but another one of our friends does not sit well with heights and she found herself halfway up (and halfway down), luckily for us (and the crowd we had gathered) she was coherent enough to spit out a few obscenities which only made the situation better. Then as she was hugging the side of the bridge with my hand firmly in her armpit and Brooke's leg under her elbow, this man that looked something like a Greek god mixed with a Calvin Klein model came and told us that there was a foot-bridge nearby.
Having crossed the bridge we made it down to the boat-rental and received quizzical (an understatement) looks from the men who were expecting us to come in from the river on their boat. We told them (in very animated terms) what happened and where the boat was and they were kind enough to jog down there and get it and not charge us an extra pence. Too kind.
We then had just enough time to hit up a souvenir store and buy me some matching Oxford sweats and big-T shirt (I looked like an Oxford crazed women's basketball player) before we had to be at Christ's Church for Evensong.

As soon as we got to Christ's Church we were regaling our friends with our epic story and didn't notice that half of our quite large company had already entered the courtyard to the Church. We hurried around the corner and walked into this beautiful sight:

Naturally we knew we had to bust out the camera and capture this priceless moment. What we didn't know was that this was strictly against the rules. We didn't know it until this very large man was yelling at us to get out. At first he didn't even tell us why to get out, just that we had to. Then when we found out that it was because we weren't supposed to have taken pictures we immediately explained that we had no idea, we were profusely sorry and we would delete the pictures. He told us that he had told our group (which we weren't with at the time) and we deliberately disobeyed him, and he didn't want us to delete our pictures because he wanted us to show everyone at home what cost us our ticket to see Evensong at Oxford. Power trip? We tried every trick in the book for him to let us back in (i.e. pointing out that there were no signs forbidding photography, we were out of earshot when he told our group, even our professor came back and tried to reason with him), all of which he either ignored or came back with his favorite phrase "that's your problem". When I had reached the point of exasperation, I finally tried to tell him that we were from a Christian college and just really wanted to attend evensong and I believe my exact words were "worship the Lord" (I was going for sympathy. OK, guilt). He then told us that Christians don't break rules, but after a little more pressure, he cracked and let us through. While running across the courtyard to catch the doors to the service before they closed I was thinking thoughts that definitely weren't worthy of worshiping the Lord. Although we got seats that made me feel like Rosa Parks, it didn't take long for me to calm down. In fact, as soon as they started singing the Lord's prayer I couldn't help but get teary eyed. Then when my friend whispered at how amazed she was that you could feel the spirit so strong in a place that is so different from our church, I couldn't hold back any longer. I started bawling. Not the single graceful tear down the cheek. The real deal. We're talking huge mascara-running tears, runny nose and catching breath. Normally this isn't my emotional expression of choice, but I just received such a strong testimony that the people who made all these sacrifices to build that church and many, many others did it for the same reason we make sacrifices for Jesus today. Although they didn't know about Joseph Smith or baptisms for the dead, they knew that there is an eternal God who loves them. I've always known that God is an eternal God but I've never felt it before now.
So I'm sitting in a pile of liquid emotions and I can't help but reflect upon the day. Although I could easily have interpreted it as a pretty crappy day what with me having to walk through upscale Oxford as a muddy mess, dropping 25 pounds (roughly $400 dollars with the current exchange rate) on a very touristy getup, almost crying because of a mean man with a vengeance, definitely crying an obscene amount in a chapel filled with stoic Brits... but this day couldn't have been more opposite. I found that I have made absolutely fabulous friends here who can make even the worst situation a hilarious adventure (or at worst a charming anecdote), nobody will ever doubt whether I have been to Oxford with all the merchandise I loaded up on, and I had a very necessary spiritual awakening. It's vital to appreciate things for what they are and not what you would have them be, and I'm no longer going to "take things for Janet".

Monday, September 22, 2008

Anglos And Their Animals

Finally, a country that gets me! This is a monument dedicated to all the animals that have died along British soldiers in the past because "they had no choice". Now I don't feel quite as alone for being the only one who is more sorry for the hero's horse than the actual hero when the cannon finally falls the two. Not only do the Brits love their beasts of burden, but they are quite fond of their canine friends as well. I love running through Hyde Park in the morning, not only because it helps me justify all the delicious waffles and gelato and hob nobs and various cadbury products, but because of all the prancing beautiful dogs (even the dogs in London dress better than I do). It's like a potpourri of world-class dog breeds. I never thought anything could satisfy me more than a Saturday afternoon broadcast of a dog show, (dog shows: one of my many guilty pleasures) but this meets all those expectations and more. Not only do the English love their dogs, but they love the people that love their dogs. Americans, I think, can be a bit snooty when it comes to their furry, four-legged friends. The more we love them, the more we treat them like humans (yes, myself included) which is not good for the dog or the human (believe me, I've been ridiculed on more than one occasion for attempting a web-camming session with my puppy I left overseas). The British, on the other hand, while still loving their dogs as much as their children (or more, these dogs really are beautiful) are able to remember that they still must be treated like dogs to be happiest. Instead of dressing them up like puppy-prostitutes, they let them run wildly through the parks (leash laws are more of a guideline) chasing after the frolicking European squirrels, which are never out of sight (or sniff).

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The English Riviera

When I think of glistening turquoise water with emerald hills that blend into perfect sandy beaches I generally don't think of England. Somehow our professors managed to find this gem of a contradiction though. Granted the water temperature was just a notch above "organ failure" and it was filled with half-naked Brits before noon (think lots and lots of sun-shy skin and very little amounts of spandex), but it was an absolutely fabulous experience. After spending all day at various breath-taking sights we found shelter at a YMCA in a neighborhood called Alexandra. Naturally it was everything I could have imagined and more. I finally got a taste of what real British food is. We were served noodles (covered in salt and pepper of course) with a sort of sauce that consisted of hamburger meat, stewed tomatoes, corn, peas, green beans and all other canned vegetables available to the cook. Topped with a cheese and an option of ketchup (which I graciously declined). Because I couldn't decide whether it was pasta or stew we called it pewt. And it will forever hold a soft spot in my heart.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thames Fest! Woot Woot

Every event I go to here is just better than the last I don't know what to do with myself! But I've realized that my last few posts have looked rather dull without pictures, but since I'm rather awful with taking photographs, I found this one on the internet. So it's not authentic at all. It's not even a good picture. But Emma, since you're the only one who reads my blog I'll put up some pizzaz for you.
Although I couldn't capture the essence of Thames fest in picture form, that's not to say I didn't have a good time. Quite opposite in fact, we were packed from shoulder to shoulder with half drunk Europeans from various origins, most of which weren't wearing as much deodorant as they should, and I couldn't have been happier. As we walked down the row of booths that were selling mind-blowing jewelry, cutest wool pea coats (which were sadly highly out of my price range), and everything antique from first edition books to Kama Sutra talismans. Don't forget all the best food from all around the world like Morocco, Caribbean, Greece, Thailand and even somewhere as foreign as Louisiana. Top it off with some street performers like a dancing Mona Lisa (don't worry the frame was securely fastened around her painted head) or a magician with just one eye and you cannot fail!
Of course my favorite part of it was the food, after much deliberation I decided on Moroccan food. It was a very good choice. Not only did I get some fabulous food, but the ethnic wonder behind the counter (he was probably 30 years my senior) asked if I would be his wife. So that was cool.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ah, The Power of Cheese

I am officially a resident of London now. I am unpacked (which generally consisted of dumping m extremely large suitcase into a disappointingly small drawer. I actually defied the laws of motion and space). I've already proved everyone wrong that said London didn't have any good food. I got this sandwich called the Mature Cheddar Pret Pickle. So good. There was just bread, lettuce, cheese and this mince meat/relish pickle spread but the bread was whole wheat and scrumptious, and the pickle spread added enough foreignness to give it an identity. But the cheese. Oh my gosh the cheese! It made me want to break all the American cheese-makers' knee caps for not bringing this cheese to America. You and I both know I love my country as much as anyone, and better than most, but cheese is one area where I have to shake my head in shame. I am very disappointed that we haven't mastered dairy products yet. We can spot weapons of mass destruction from outer space, but we can't make a good cheese to save our lives. It's the only thing holding us back. Just to let you know my goal is to master the art of fermented dairy products. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Plane

As fun as everyone knows international travel to be, I think I had it pretty easy. Despite the fact that I only ended up sleeping about 2 hours before catching the plane at the departure time of the "butt-crack of dawn". I was in such a tired stupor when we set off from Utah I could have been strip searched and I wouldn't have known the difference. Our first layover was in Minneapolis. Yay. Had we been there one day earlier we could have witnessed a little of the Republican National Convention on our layover. And you thought layovers couldn't get any worse. Our layover actually ended up being just long enough for us to work up a hearty sweat running down through the entire airport (and most of Minnesota for that matter) trying to make up for a delay brought to you by the savvy team of motivated personnel at Northwest Airlines.
After our close shave in Minneapolis, we touched down for a decent two hour layover in Detroit, where we indulged in Quizno's (where one sandwich cost a whole month's salary) and dancing on the express tram. Luckily on the long trip I sat by the nicest southern man I think I could, or ever will, meet. He is here on business with two equally hospitable southern belles. I wish I were the kind of person that looks like I would like to chat it up with my neighbor in 34 G, but I had to settle with eavesdropping. I think the fact that the first think I did after sitting down was was slather my hands with hand sanitizer and pop two Tylenol PM's. Generally not the tells of a real people person.