Monday, 6 September 2010

Toodle Pip, my lovelies.

This was the last dish Henry ever had cooked for me! Funny how the only thing I ever cooked for him was on the night I finished my final paper/final and he was scrambling to finish his. He was "too lazy to cook" and busy that he sheepishly asked me to make him some peas that I had tons of left in my kitchen. I decided to throw in a bag of boiled rice with the peas because just a plate of peas seemed ridiculous and not enough for how much that guy eats. Even with rice and peas, it felt silly. Too bad I never really cooked in England.
The next day, we went to the library to print our papers out and turned them in. We decided to go into town a bit to look at some more stores we hadn't been into which went by quite fast. Since I never got to try having wine and cheese in Paris, we decided to do it in Brighton! So off to Sainsbury's we went. (Apricot and Brie) Cheese, wine, grapes, blueberries, and crackers! We ended up going to the park right after to get my inner child tendencies out. Even though it was short, it was still very fun. I'm glad I had a friend to partake in this silly outing.
It was absolutely beautiful from where we sat overlooking our dorms. It was really quiet since people had either already left, were in town, or were probably sleeping.
Unfortunately, I had a rather hard time drinking that wine. I think I'm just not an alcoholic drinker of any type. I can't even drink cider! We decided to play around on the swings for a bit after eating, but boy was that a bad idea. A big seagull swooped down and ate all of that delicious apricot cheese!!
You can see the bulge in its neck if you look closely. Not long after our little picnic, we went to a farewell reception party where our tutors also attended. I stayed for about an hour to see some old friends from the first session and so on. We had some catered food and desserts: sausage, sandwiches, pastries, ice cream, etc. All in all, a sweet little party.
The next day, Henry and I went into town for some afternoon tea for the last time! I had a fruit black current tea while he had Earl Gray. Mine came along with a salmon cucumber sandwich and scones! Yum-- I love scones. He got some assorted sandwiches which I can't really recall along with (I think) a strawberry shortcake of some sort? Boy that made me happy! The rest of the day, we walked around Brighton looking at more shops and hats. We did some last minute souvenir shopping where I decided to get more fudge to bring home. Eventually, we made our way to a pub for our last dinner in England and then back home.
This is what my room looked like just about all packed up. :( It looks so empty with no books or papers! No food, kitchen things, or electronics on the shelf. After I packed everything, I went to Henry's dorm to watch some shows a bit before getting tired and heading back to sleep.
I woke up early to really get everything into my bags like my laptop and such and make sure everything was clean and spotless. This was the view outside my window in the morning. Colder and rainier. :( Made me very sad.

A huge and gross amount of pots, dishes, and cups were left piling out and over the sink so since I had some spare time, I cleaned it all. Henry came to make sure I was awake and ready. I knocked on a fellow dorm-mate's door to make sure she was ready since she was tagging along. We turned in our keys, took a shuttle to Falmer station and got our tickets for Brighton and London Victoria. As I was making my way up the stairs to get to the platform at Falmer, I realized my luggage was too heavy (not overweight, though, thank goodness!) So he very kindly helped my carry it all the way to Heathrow. (I feel so bad!) We all had some lunch before splitting ways. It was hard to say goodbye, but experiences keep us together forever.

I made it to the far end of my terminal with 15 minutes to spare before boarding for Denver made sure I had my passport along with my boarding pass. Then for as much as I could, I soaked in everything for all it was with every sense I had.

Beautiful England. Beautiful people. Beautiful culture. Beautiful weather. Beautiful everything. Beautiful ending to a beautiful dream.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Time For Swotting!

Now, I'm not sure if this week takes the biscuit as they would say here, but it was definitely enjoyable. I know I say this a lot on here, but the week that goes by always ends up feeling like I've lived only three days here. I'm not sure if it's because I only have class twice a week or if it's because I'm truly swimming in a pool of bliss, but I hate that I am leaving on Saturday.

I love being away from everything and everyone. I can do whatever I want here. If I don't feel like talking to anyone, I can go out for a stroll and get some peace and quiet. If I want to do something with someone, there's always someone here who would be willing to spend quality time with me and I enjoy that for once. It's not like at home where people are so used to you and take you for granted. Everyone needs each other here and they are all so kind. My friend Henry, for example, sometimes makes me breakfast or dinner which you can see above. (They're always delicious, too!)
It's always nice to have friends that call you up for a change, too. Another friend of mine, Geraldo, called me to catch up on things even though we don't have class this session together. It was really sweet having a baguette and latte before his class together. Those small meetings can mean so much to me. It leaves me feeling refreshed and happy and then I end up working faster and harder.

On Thursday, Henry and I worked out for a bit as usual. We've been good about going every day :) Then we went into Brighton to browse some stores, but instead we wound up having tea! Chamomile tea, baklava, and scones (for me). It was so peaceful and I loved soaking every bit of my surroundings in quietly. I could imagine myself working in a tea shop... wearing an apron and happily serving tea, coffee, scones, and cake to customers to twinkle music rain or shine. I told Henry working in a tea shop could help me become a little more domestic. Not that I like the idea of filling in that womanly-domestic role, but it is good to dip my feet into everything in moderation. I mean, my roomies in Davis are more domestic than I am for goodness sakes!
Afterwards, we quickly went to Sainsbury (a place to buy groceries) and I stocked up on tons of lemons, apples, grapes, salad, and yogurt. I'm pretty sure I saw Henry's eyes bulge when he saw my basket. I've been on a health-craze for the last 3 weeks, which I'm sure he can attest to :P He, on the other hand, eats what he wants when he wants without shame and that makes me jealous. For example, eating huge chunks of meat, and I mean huge. Almost barbarically huge; it's amusing to watch.

We fittingly brought his huge chunk of meat to the pub on campus while I nibbled on some organic banana chips. We were waiting for a pub quiz later that night. I made my way to the bar to see if I could order a latte or hot chocolate. Henry, completely amused at my naivete gawked at me...I guess he was in disbelief that I ever thought a pub would serve me such kiddy-like things. So he urged me to order a hot chocolate to see if they would actually serve me and sure enough they did! I was a happy little child and he was completely bewildered. :)

Anyway, the pub quiz took place and we tied for second place. (We won cookies!) Yesterday, Henry and I went to London for the last time to see the English National Ballet's Cinderella for their 60th birthday. We first went to a tea place called Whittard of Chelsea because I loved the tea there and wanted to buy more to bring home. We definitely bought more tea (and hot chocolate). There's a picture below depicting how much and what kinds we brought back.

Then we made out way to a pub called Bag of Nails and I ordered an Open Seafood Sandwich which was delicious! Henry ordered a Pie of the Day which was steak pie. It definitely looked like something I wanted to eat, but I was trying so hard to hold back. Still on that health streak.
We then wandered around Leicester Square where Chinatown was. I had visited Chinatown once when my parents were with me during our week in London, but it was nice to come back. My inner asian came out as I saw egg custards and other pastries in the windows. I could smell dim sum from every corner of the streets and it was torturing me! We decided we would come back after the ballet to eat at one of those places.

As for the ballet, walking into it, I was definitely having high expectations because well, it's the English National Ballet. They are supposed to be good. I was unfortunately a little disappointed. It wasn't terrible, but it didn't meet or beat my expectations like the Bolshoi Ballet did. The choreography for the stepsisters were wonderful, and I feel as though Nancy Osbaldeston and Laura Bruna (the dancers for those parts) were the only ones who truly became those characters. Cinderella, Elena Glurdjidze, didn't seem to have enough emotion, and she looked as though she was going through her steps in her head like all the other company dancers. I'm also not sure if it was the director's wish, but her developes were always at 90 or 110 degree angles. I kept in mind that it's true audiences expect height over technique like turnout nowadays (not a good thing), which is what made me wonder if that was just part of the director's request or if it was a distinct characteristic meant for the part of Cinderella... but it also made me wonder if Elena was capable of doing it at all? Hmm, some things to ponder.

The Prince's companions Junor Souza and Max Westwall were wonderful, but there were times when Junor Souza's detournes were shaky. Max Westwall did everything as though he was the prince. All in all, I felt that Cinderella and the Prince were out-shined by far and that the stepsisters made the ballet. Not a good feeling to go out with. It makes me wonder what I would have felt like if I saw the evening performance with Erina Takahashi, the senior principal dancer that I wanted to see so badly.
Henry and I left feeling indifferent about the ballet with our stomachs still full. So we wandered for about a half hour looking at places that we wanted to eat at. Eventually, we came to a Szechuan restaurant which turned out to be completely satisfying to my Chinese food craving taste buds. Although, I think I stuffed myself silly and my health streak went down the hole. Especially after we after some Japanese crepes for dessert! I had a green tea gelato with mixed fruits (banana, kiwifruit, and strawberries).
We safely made it back from London and all along the way, I took pictures of the London Victoria station, train, and Brighton station as it was our last trip back.

It makes me sad that I won't be going to London again because I absolutely love it there, but I was happy to be back home in my warm snuggle bed in Brighton. I love just as well, though Brighton because it reminds me many times of Oahu, my second home. And it makes me think of my grandparents every morning. So I will surely be sad when I leave this place... which is why I'll be working hard for the next two to three days to finish my final essay very early! I want to play and make amazing memories while everyone is working as I enjoy a blissful and dreamlike time in England...

Monday, 9 August 2010

How About We NOT "leg it"?

I don't want to trudge through these last two weeks quickly, even though it seems to be creeping up all on its own. I've come to some amazing realizations, especially today, which I wrote about in another blog. (I wanted to keep it separate from study abroad experiences since this is my study abroad blog.) But I bring my little epiphanies up because I want to express how amazing this place is. It is doing so much good for me. I love that I am getting time away from people. I needed it.

I've become more independent instead of waiting around for people, be it at home or here. It's good, and I love it. This place just feels so right. Other places would make me homesick, but I have never gotten homesick here. Not once. I'm so in love with this place, I could stay here forever by myself... Yep. It's that good. I get so caught up in the beauty of it all that I forget to update more frequently!
To start off, I had a presentation due last Wednesday and so I spent last Monday and Tuesday working away on it. Most people in my class had partners, but I did it by myself so it took more time. I had to be more thorough and careful with it. Well, I was working so long that I hadn't eaten all day Monday and my friend Henry made me a full dinner! I was so surprised. I can't believe how I get so lucky running into such amazing and caring people. It was so delicious; I devoured it all pretty fast. Boy was I so very grateful... I felt terrible that he had made me an entire dinner but it definitely made me work harder and faster. That's the food you see up there, though.

Later that week, we went to the Battle Abbey. I love historical things, so this was a real treat. It is amazing to see ruins or the grounds on which so many people fought and died on. The open lands around the abbey and to see how people had to work with the land for battle just blows my mind. Like I said, if something or some place makes you wonder what it was like in that particular time period, that's how you know it's good. This place did just that. Every step I took had me in disbelief that I was actually there.

We walked not only saw how the battle progressed as we did a 40 minute walk around the abbey, but we saw other ruins and places where monks would go to. We also got to see other natural beauties like this little robin!
My friends and I just stood there for a long time sneaking up to it closely and observing it. To marvel at something you don't see every day in the states, who wouldn't stand there like idiots amused at a bird? It was so cute and calm. I think it liked attention because we got really close.

On Saturday, we all went to the Pride Parade down in Brighton. Brighton is considered the San Francisco of Europe. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It made me so happy to see people openly happy just like us holding hands. They showed a true fondness and not those preconceptions of sexually active, non-biologically failing junk that people argue. Love is love. That sums it up back home and here as well. We stayed for about an hour or two and then headed down to the LGBTQ carnival. It was just a 10 minute walk or so. There were rides, food, dance tents, and other LGBT stores with clothes, objects, pictures, and other non-LGBTQ related stands. My friends got me a drink (Coke and vodka) which at first tasted completely like just a coke. But half way down it started to taste nasty. Let's face it, I'm just not a fan of drinking period. I am officially done with having beer or any alcoholic beverage even though I only had a total of two drinks since being here. I just see no point in drinking, or drinking nasty things at that.

Well, after an hour or so, we wandered back to get some kebabs which were absolutely delicious. We also went to a cupcake shop since I was craving cupcakes. There was a neat and cute one that was suggested in the beginning of my study abroad session 1. I finally got to try it. It was heaven on earth. No lie. There were so many that I wanted to try but I tried these three angels. The chocolate chocolate cupcake (yes, two "chocolate" words in there). The lemon cupcake. And the blue vanilla cupcake. Oh so scrumptious. I almost went back there today to try a few more to make me feel better after a really disappointing day. I was already wandering in town to get my mind off things bothering me, anyway, but I resisted. Boy it was hard to resist walking over there. Those three little suckers cost 5.25 pounds!!

Oooh boy. Lastly, the very first picture above was how I ended my weekend: the Bolshoi Ballet's Don Quixote with Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. They are were beyond phenomenal. In my opinion, Natalia surpasses even Paloma Herrera. There's just some amazing energy and charm that no other ballerina I've seen on youtube or TV program has. Paloma Herrera has an elegant and hint of charm in her Kitri, but Natalia takes it seven levels above that. I can't describe how easy and fun she makes it all look. Her jumps looks so effortless but it's as if the gods are giving her the power and lifting her with such force. Youtube videos just don't do her justice. Then there's Ivan. He complements Natalia perfectly. He has the most incredible jumps and turns I've ever seen from anyone. (Maybe not counting past danseurs, but probably of our time). He's like the new Nureyev, but who knows. They were a power house and so incredibly enchanting all throughout the performance. I could go on and on about how amazing this ballet was and how indescribably amazing Osipova and Vasiliev were. The in-steps were perfectly clear even through out all... chaines, chasse, developees, entrechat and entrechat six, etc. Everything was perfect. Even the epaulement had me in awe at how perfectly they were executed! I could keep talking about how I loved all the dryads and especially the cupid. How everything was completely faultless, but you will never know until you see it in person. :)

Although, I do have to mention during the Dream scene, one dancer's shoes came completely untied, which is so dangerous. I just gasped and couldn't believe it! But even still, it didn't detract from the soloists' variations. That's how amazing the Bolshoi in its entirety was.

Afterwards, Henry and I had some strawberries and ice cream together while watching some Whose Line Is It Anyway clips. Simple, yet fun night and a perfect way to end a perfect day. :)

That's all for now. Time to work on my final paper due next week!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Don't Throw a Wobbly Just Cuz I'm Havin' Fun!

I never got to catch up on updating, but I'll do that now. I just finished working two days in a row on a presentation for my class tomorrow (which, by the way, I am very nervous about!) Normally, I'd be sleeping, but I am sipping on my second cup of green tea for the night and eating some grapes.

This week, I've decided to go on a diet. I know it must sound crazy but as my friend put it, we notice things more about ourselves than others do. I tend to notice my face getting rounder, my legs thickening, and my arms getting more fattylicious!

My friend, Henry, whom I mentioned in the last post, has been wonderful in motivating me to work out. I always get very anxious when working out with people I don't know very well because of my asthma which is very serious back home. I can't ever finish a mile without stopping constantly after about 2-3 minutes, but Henry made me feel very comfortable and was understanding of my needs. He let me set the pace and everything (which I felt bad about) but he was so patient and never asked about my asthma problem. We just carried on jogging, and I began to forget about how slow I was running. One of the days we were working out, he even walked me up to where the cardio floor was, haha. It was so sweet. :)

The air here is so amazing. At least, in Brighton it is. I've found that in the last few days of my working out, it has been much easier to cope with my asthma. On my first day at the gym, I was able to run a little over a mile. I had to stop of course, but I finished a mile which I hadn't done since probably elementary school. In high school, I always had the nurse note and even when I tried to finish a mile, I would come close to fainting. So to accomplish this was amazing.

Yesterday, I finished my first mile without stopping at all. It took a little under 12 minutes, but I was so proud of myself. It must sound crazy, but for people who don't fully comprehend how dangerous my asthma is, it really is surprising. It's a big accomplishment. My next goal is to run a faster mile and after that, run over a mile gradually (without stopping, of course). Today, I ran a mile without stopping, again, and I ran about a mile and a half with a teensy stoppage after the 5th lap. I'm working towards going to the gym twice a day. It definitely feels good to work out.

I've been eating salad, grapes, drinking green tea (and some tea that Henry gave me), as well as lemon juice in warm water. This diet seems to be working for me over the past few days. I'm seeing results and it definitely helps that I have high metabolism. Anyway, that's what I've been up to aside from school and sight seeing.

On Thursday night, I went on my first pub tour with the school and some friends. I learned that "pre-gaming" is drinking before you go have drinks elsewhere. (At least, that's the impression I got in context from everyone that talked to me). Everyone was already having beer or wine. Upon my arrival at the meeting site, my friend, Prany, quickly motioned me to drink some of her wine. I was hesitant at first since I've never had a drink before... but I took a sip. It was ... a sophisticated sort of taste, I suppose. When we got into town, the pub hopping began. Along the way, we met some guys that were already graduated, way older than us... who shamelessly tried hitting on us. A few pubs down, I finally got my first beer-- a cider. Everyone told me since it was my first drink, it should be a cider. I got a pint and I had only 30 minutes to finish this sucker. My friend Prany kept urging me "Drink! Drink! Chug! Chug!" That was definitely like doing homework. It took me about 15 minutes to drink almost half of that thing, and by that time, I felt unnaturally sleepy. My head started to feel whoozy. My other friend, Kyle, told me that's what I was supposed to feel like, although he says for him it takes about 5-7 of those to make him feel that way. I guess everyone's assumption that I can't handle drinks is true, but it's not like I'll drink again, anyway. We went to a club to finish off, and that was the end of my night which ended around 1 am. Others didn't get back until 5 am in the morning.

Friday, I went into Brighton with Henry to get tickets for Inception. I'd been wanting to see this for so long, and he was kind enough to want to come with me! We got tickets and then got dinner at an Italian restaurant where I got a delicious Tropicale Salad and Henry got a pizza (can't remember which kind he got). Afterwards, we took a stroll down by the beach and sat on the bench to just appreciate the view and digest our food, but it was getting too chilly! We ran to the theatre after about 5 minutes of that and after watching the movie, our minds were completely boggled. We started forgetting how we got into the theatre and when I got back to my room, I noticed my trash bag had been changed even though on cleaning day, it wasn't removed. Someone had probably been in my room? Or I was just confused.

Saturday, I went to the Canterbury Cathedral. I was so excited for this because after reading about The Canterbury Tales in English 10 Honors, I wanted to see this place! And boy, it exceeded my expectations. It was better than all the Cathedrals I saw in Paris. I know some of you might think I am partial in my opinion, but in all seriousness and leaving aside my love for British culture/history and bad experiences in Paris, this Cathedral was without a doubt mesmerizing. It wasn't like any other Cathedral I'd seen before. This Cathedral had more amazing history (at least in my belief) than the ones in Paris. My appreciation for the history behind this place grew tenfold from it's unique architectural structure and unusual mosaics, tombs, and events. It was wonderful to walk through the same path as the pilgrims. To go to the crypt and see that that was the only part of the Cathedral to remain as it was over 900 years ago... I can't even wrap my mind around that.

After that short excursion, we went to Leeds Castle. I personally wish we could have spent more time in Canterbury... but oh well. Leeds Castle in itself wasn't as amazing as Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle of Wight, but everything surrounding the Castle was enough to make up for it. This place is almost divine. The half hour walk to the Castle was filled with lush green everywhere. The willows were so beautiful regardless of how woebegone they appeared.

There were black swans which I completely fell in love with. The only other time I've seen black swans was in China, so I was beaming at the sight of them. The white swans were half my size! And as graceful as they might seem in my presuppositions, they are quite feisty. Still, they completed the scenery and made it all the more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

This place is one of the best places for a date. Boy did I want this for a date. :( It made me a little sad, but it didn't detract from my reveling-in-beauty moments. I couldn't stop myself from taking a million pictures.

Here is a picture of me and one of my classmates from last session, Geraldo. It was actually his birthday yesterday, so if you're reading this, Happy 22nd birthday again! :) When we took this picture, Henry said, "Aww, it looks like you two are getting married" to which we both awkwardly said "uhhhhhh..." I think you can see it more on Geraldo's face more than mine, haha.

By the time we made it to the castle, we started to see food. Much to my dismay, I gave in to buying an ice cream. Boy did I feel guilty for having that one scoop of ice cream, but it was incredibly amazing. I got a honey flavored one which tasted heavenly. It was so sweet, and if you know me, I get giddy like a little kid. Though I had a rueful grin slip across my face, I am glad I got that darned ice cream. I tend to be way too stingy with my money and diet lately.
After that, we took a tour of the gardens before getting into the castle. I think this was one of my favorite places to be. I'm not much of a girly-girl when it comes to flowers, but maybe because I've never seen any really pretty ones that aren't over-rated. But no, here, I saw amazingly simple and beautiful flowers that normally don't seem to be appreciated. It really made me actually want flowers. I even saw one of my favorite flowers-- the Callah lily. Walking in the castle was pretty ho-hum. Looking at it was somewhat a lovely sight even if it was tiny.
Definitely a beautiful place for a date, though. I'd love to immerse myself in that breathtaking atmosphere again... I saw a wedding there. Oh man, did it make my heart yearn. I was so happy to see something so beautiful taking place in a magical-like spot. So although Leeds Castle was not much, its surroundings kept a part of my heart there for me to come back for. It definitely beats the hustle-and-bustle milieu that I have grown up in...

And now it's time for the long awaited British culture difference! People here say, "I'm going to the loo to take a wee" and that basically means I'm going to the bathroom to pee. But I'm sure you geniuses figured that one out ;)

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Cheesed Off? Not Anymore!

The proper way to start off a blog after a gloomy last two posts. The day I got back from France, I started my first day of my second session. I was in my room for all but an hour before I decided to check my email only to notice my class time had changed. I had ten minutes to run to class, but I made it. My expectations were set pretty high after my last session. The lively, engaging, and critically intimidating class was what I was hoping for again this time around, but I think I hoped for too much. My class on the European Union was utterly boring. To give you an idea of how boring this class can be, the girl sitting across from me had her eyes rolling to the back of her head constantly on the second day. Yep, I speak the truth. This guy means well, though, and hopefully the next three weeks will be better.

After my second day of class, I headed straight to London with my friend, Henry, to see the Bolshoi Ballet perform Serenade and Giselle. Boy was I excited: 1) I'd found someone who wanted to see a ballet with me in England 2) I'd found someone other than a girl who actually appreciated the ballet and music as much as I did. How much better can that get?? I don't think anyone can fathom the excitement I was going through. The train from Falmer to Brighton was closed for some reason, so we took a bus into Brighton and caught the train from there. Once we got to London Victoria, we walked around losing ourselves on the way to Covent Garden, which was actually pretty fun.

For dinner, we stopped by at a pub and I had "Salmon with aromatic noodles." It was actually quite scrumptious. I was caught off guard. Not sure what it was, but just trust me on the fact that it was good. If you want proof, I finished my food. (And for those of you who know me, I never ever finish my food.)
The dessert looked cheap and so delicious. My growing stomach was caving in and I hadn't been really eating out in restaurants because I'd been stingy with money. So I took a chance. Might as well have fun on a day out in London before a ballet, right? Right! Here's our amazing dessert which cost a little over 4 pounds. Mmm... delectable little things they are!
On the left, you have a sticky melted toffee cake. In the middle, vanilla ice cream with dates. And lastly, a mint chocolate fudge cake. Om nom nom... if I could have it again, I totally would! But not before I exercise excessively for a week before and then make sure I exercise after that. Haha

Can you see how mouth-watering this stuff is??
Yes, we finished it all. I ate almost half of each, but my stomach couldn't take anymore and the gentleman easily cleared my portion. Waste not. :P

We bought our tickets for the tube to get to Covent Garden after dinner and made it 20 minutes before the show-- perfect timing. We wandered around for a bit before taking our seats, and I took a picture of these miniature costumes. Most of the tutus are either from Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. There's a catch, though: they are over 1,000 pounds each. :(

This is the Royal Opera House on the inside. If you ask for my opinion, I might be partial from my ballet teacher's instruction, but the balcony is the best place to watch a ballet. I'm sure it's not just her opinion as an instructor but also from the standpoint of her when she was once a professional ballerina. The audience tends to be critical and the top is where you see the formations clearly.
The program first started off with Serenade which was a ballet created by George Balanchine to the music of Tchaikovsky's C Major for String Orchestra, Op. 48. (I loved playing this when I was in an orchestra, by the way. It's the most amazing feeling ever.) At first, I was skeptical about how the piece was being played by the orchestra, but as I imagined myself as the dancer... I started to appreciate the tempo that it was being conducted at. Things were more drawn out and I could feel how the dancers were interpreting and expressing the music. The only thing I could not come to compromise with the conductor's interpretation was with the dynamics. Seeing as I've played the piece before and heard it played in many different ways, I knew the song by heart. There were parts where he really didn't do the piece justice by not pulling out the dynamics more expressively-- those parts to me were climaxes leading to other sections of the piece.

As far as the dancing for Serenade went, I was pretty satisfied with it. The diagonal lines that happen in the first and fourth part were a little off the further upstage it went (at least for stage right). Also, one of the most elemental choreography formations was changed slightly and I wonder why that was. It's a pretty big part of the choreography, and I'm sure they had enough dancers to make the proper pyramid-like formation. Hm. Oh well. In comparison to the one I saw in SF, I'd say I think I liked the SF one better for a few reasons. The orchestra had more command in their music and the choreography/preciseness of the dancing was very well held together.

The music for Giselle was wonderful. No complaints from me on that. Perhaps because it was a different conductor with added instruments. The girl who played Giselle did everything wonderfully. Her variations lived up to my expectations except that I felt she was missing a bit of innocence in the beginning with her first variation. Overall, however, the dancing left me completely emotional and tugged at my heart. I asked Henry how he liked Giselle and I was happy to know he appreciated all the small little things I did, too that no one else normally catches or is aware of. :)

The next day, I just went into town to relax and just browse around. Instead, I found myself actually buying things, which is pretty weird. I never really shop, but I ended up getting a new wallet and a new jacket. :) Unfortunately, the pants that I wanted to go with the jacket were out of stock for the time. :(
The sizes here are so different! Every time I browse, I get confused. Normally, I'm either a 00 or 0, but over here, I'd see sizes 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and sometimes 16?? Occasionally, I'd see even size 4's but only in some stores. I finally figured out that 4's are like 00's and 6's are 0's. It took me trying on the clothes to find that out, though, because staring and being confused at the lack of small size numbers was doing me no shopping good. Curiosity pays off. :)

Alrighty, well it's pretty late. When I get the chance, I'll update on the next three days. I'm knackered! Good night :)

Friday, 30 July 2010

Je Ne Sais Quoi

Alright guys, I am definitely slacking on the blogging. As each day passes, I think to myself: "Man, I need to blog about this, but wait. I can't, because I haven't finished writing about the last 3-4 days." So I'm making it a priority to write this entry even though I am feeling whoozy from tonight's events (which I need to blog about as well). Continuing on the last blog...

Day 3
So we woke up at 6:00 and decided we wanted to see the Pantheon. We headed toward the metro station to figure out where we would go from there. My classmate looked at the metro map and asked me how we had gotten to the Notre Dame Cathedral so I examined the map for a few seconds and showed him the highlighted points. Can you guess where this went? Yep. He didn't believe me. "No, I don't think so. I'm asking you where we went yesterday for the Notre Dame." I re-examined the map and said "Yes, these are the lines we took to get there." He wouldn't have it. So I waited a few minutes to wait for him to figure out and the light bulb went off for him. Voila; "Oh, you were right, never mind." I brushed that event off since it was early off in the morning and I like to be optimistic. So off we went. As soon as we got off the metro, we found ourselves weaving through the streets and getting somewhat lost. We walked aimlessly through different alley way hills. Hit and missed a lot on streets were trying to get onto. The entire 20 minutes, I again had to listen to him going "Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk" over and over again in his frustration. He was constantly complaining with things like "This is so stupid, Gosh, I can't stand this, Ugh, Come on, Where is this stupid place?!, I'm sick of this"... the list goes on, I kid you not and I simplified his complaints. I can't stand it when people complain openly for long periods of time. I like to complain in my mind, and I did just that. Besides, it wasn't even that bad to get lost in a city like Paris.

When we reached the Pantheon, we took some pictures and then realized it wouldn't open for another hour or so. So we decided to go and see the Saint Chapelle church. Boy was that a waste of 5 euros. It definitely wasn't worth it. I'd never heard of it, I was being super stingy with my money refusing to take out more euros than I already had, and I was saving it for Marie Antoinette's estate. I caved in and went in since it was supposed to be famous for it's history with the Byzantine structure and all. I'm a sucker for history and architecture, but boy was this a let down. It was such a let down that I didn't even bother taking pictures. I'm probably being excessively harsh on this thing, but unless I'm a fanatical history/architectural major, I'm not going to be crazy about spending 5 euros on this thing that I could literally see within 2 minutes.

After this short little excursion, we went back up to the Pantheon. This place was also 5 euros but boy was it absolutely worth every bit of it. I appreciated the structure of it, every little nook and cranny, every piece of painting on the ceilings, walls, the caricatures along each far side of the walls... even the huge pendulum hanging from the dome. It was almost unequivocally matched to anything I'd seen thus far in Paris. For more and better pictures of these, you can check my facebook album.
After seeing the ground floor of this place, we headed to the tombs of many famous people such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau (who is pictured above), Voltaire, and Victor Hugo among many others. It might sound creepy but I was enthralled to see these tombs and to see such amazing tombs kept in amazing condition for years!
Each tomb I visited alone in silence, my classmate would follow, and as soon as I would leave, he'd yell "Ohmigosh, this is so freaky!! Ahh, I'm coming with you!" It was really embarrassing... Oh well. I enjoyed it and got the pictures I wanted. :)

On the way to Versailles, I started losing it. This guy asked me if I was a fob. No joke. I really don't mind if a guy doesn't know what the meaning is, asks me, and carries on. Even if it is joking. But no. I told him no, I'm not one. I defined it for him and what we tend to characterize them as. Not to be mean or anything but this guy is the literal definition of fob even without the oddities of one. Instead of understanding what I had just told him, he laughed at me hysterically and began using the term "fob" in the most derogatory way possible towards me. When someone does that to me, I find that pretty offensive even when I kindly ask them to stop. That string of "Come on, let's go fob! We don't have all day fob!" continued for at least another 10 minutes before I really started hinting that his name-calling toward another friend of mine was impolite and that she was taken aback when he'd done that to her. Finally got him to close his mouth the rest of the way.

Once we got to the Versailles, I made it a point I was going to see the Marie Antoinette estates and nothing else because I didn't think I'd have enough time to do other things. He went to check that this was the line we needed to be in, but not before asking me to hold his things which he did the entire trip. (My shoulder was hurting from all the huge water bottles and souvenirs he was buying. I'd hinted to him before to get a bag, but he obviously knew he could take advantage of me.)

Well we first walked on the premise and the only ticket signs were on the left side. There was a huge line which we stood in for 2 and 1/2 hours only for me to find out they were selling all the tickets except Marie Antoinette's tickets. Seriously? They couldn't have huge signs telling you where to buy tickets for separate things? They couldn't even write it in the brochure? I can't have been the only idiot to do something like this could I?

My friend got his Palace tickets and I told him I had to go to the gardens to purchase my ticket. At least that's what the lady told me to do. So off I went to the gardens. The ticket line didn't look right so I asked someone in charge of taking the tickets how to get them, and she told me I had to get tickets to the gardens to get to the estate. Screw it, I'd pay extra money to see the one thing I wanted to see in all of Paris. I get in line, ask a few other people the same question and they all tell me yes. I get to to the front and the lady tells me this isn't where I buy the tickets and that I have to walk completely out of the palace grounds and walk for a half hour to the Queen's Gate to get the tickets. Alright, no problem. I'll keep my cool and just take it as it comes. Off I go taking the longest route possible that she told me, walk a half hour to this place only to be told the same thing: You don't get the tickets here... so I walk another half hour back and find a short cut back to the Palace... hooray. Thanks woman who works at the Palace. So by now, I have wasted a little over 3 and 1/2 hours. I continued to ask 7 more people telling them so-and-so told me this, where can I get the tickets. I got told to go into a group line, which was obviously wrong and others told me to get it in the gardens, to get it at the Queen's Gate.

By this time, there was no way I'd be able to get my tickets and enjoy walking leisurely throughout the estate. I was not going to pay 10 or 15 euros just to run through the place in an hour because they would close in an hour and a half. If I walked back to the Queen's gate, I'd lose half an hour. Out of frustration, I just walked to the golden gates of the Palace, completely frustrated with all of the nonsense I had to hold in and deal with from my classmate... and slumped against the wall crying uncontrollably. These guys just screwed me over for a total of 4 hours and 15 minutes, which is basically my entire day. How awesome is that? The French were really rude, too. It's true what they say. Screw that. I'm sorry I never grew up learning your language and don't know my way around here.

I waited another hour and a half for my classmate. He found me, asked me about everything, and I was surprised he felt bad for me. He didn't laugh. He actually felt bad for me. At least that made me feel better. We went to cheer me up with some ice cream, which made me the happiest little kid ever. It doesn't take much for me to be happy again. I kept the napkin from this ice cream place, and now I can't find it, but this ice cream place is amazing. Just know it is right by the Versailles. I wanted to buy their chocolates and bring them home for friends!

Afterwards, we went to McDonald's for dinner. We were running low on money so we just had our little meals and watched some French MTV stuff. I was so happy when Lady Gaga came on and this guy said he didn't like her. I don't mind us having differences, but I'm pretty sure if I hear you singing Telephone in the Louvre for 20 minutes straight, that means you like the song. This guy would also state obvious things like "French songs are weird" but then say "because they have English." I told him pretty much every country had songs with some English in it like Korea, Japan, China, Spain, etc.

The rest of the day actually went by pretty fast. We visited the Eiffel tower and Arc de Triomphe again at night. I really thought by this time that most of Paris was over-rated. Especially the Eiffel. We stood in line to get up to the top and while waiting in line, my friend asked me how I was liking the place. I told him I was a little more fond of British culture and history along with the environment and people. At this point, this guy called me a real let down. It's nice to know I can't have an opinion.
We left the Eiffel tower after I bought some souvenirs from within it and headed toward the metro. At some point, we heard the crowd do a wave of "OooOoooOo." I turned around to see the Eiffel tower not just lit up, but glittering. Now this... this was something more special. I changed my mind; the Eiffel tower is not over-rated. It was wondrous at night! We stood in awe just watching it for a long time before taking way too many pictures of this thing. We decided to do the same with the Arc before heading home. Hardest three days of my life were over. Or so I thought.

Day 4
We went to the Basilique Sacre Ceour and upon arrival, we saw some blacks blocking the entrance to the church. My classmate and I tried to walk by without them accosting us but they got to him first and wouldn't let me leave. They started telling us to not be scared because they were from the church. Yea right. I tried to leave, but he insisted I stay in a sort of forceful manner. By the time they made these lame bracelets, they started asking us for paper money in the most aggressive manner possible. I told them I only had coins; thank god I had my pouch on me. They'd never know, but then they'd never let me go. My classmate on the other hand gave them 10 euros in paper money, but they still were not satisfied. They wanted him to pay for me, too. By this time, he started making a huge scene so other people would see that they were about to mug us, and because of this they backed off. Thank God for that. This crazy guy I was with told me he was angry, which I was, too... but not but 10 minutes later, he was telling me how exciting it was to experience such a thing. Tell me this guy is a little nutty.

Anyway, we walked up another huge flight of stairs similar to the Notre Dame. The sight was amazing from the top as usual. Seeing France from the top never gets old. After the Sacre Ceour, I wanted to go shopping and have a relaxing day so we took the metro down to where the Grand Palace was. Apparently, though, many of the streets were blocked off because of the Tour de France. I didn't want to wait to see bikers coming through because I had a feeling they would be setting up for a while, and I'd rather shop then come back to watch. Instead, this guy made it a point he was going to stay and watch because he wanted to see Lance Armstrong. Fine. I waited just a few feet away from this guy for 3 hours. A parade happened for the last hour that I was there before getting sick of standing in the heat, swarmed in a huge tight crowd. I looked over to see if my classmate was still there, but he wasn't. I walked to the other side of the street to see if I could find him but he was no where to be seen.
I couldn't believe he left me. Paris is shady and especially the metro, which I had to take by myself. If I didn't know how to work the metro it would've been a disaster but thank God I could figure it out. I made it back to my hotel thinking he would meet me there, so I fell asleep for another hour. By this time, it was 4:40. I headed up to see if my friend was in his room and he was. Sleeping. He woke up laughing at me in disbelief that I had waited an extra 2 hours for him on the streets and in the hotel. This guy... He told me he didn't see me and didn't bother to come find me and tell me he was leaving. He left to the freaking Eiffel tower to get crepes. Can you believe that? And when he got into the hotel, he didn't bother to see if I was around or make sure I was okay. He just laughed at me. I was incredulous at all this. Was this guy for real???

That definitely took the cake. Cherry on the whip cream. Leave me in shady Paris, France in a huge crowd where I have to make a journey around all by myself in the underground creepy system. Yep. The next day, we left the hotel but not before the guy realized he left his camera there. He left me outside in the dark 3 blocks away at 4:45 in the morning to watch his things by the metro for a good 20 minutes. So awesome, I tell you.

So there you have it. My trip to France.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Paris ≠ J'adore, C'est la Vie.

Well, as most of you have figured out, much has happened since my last post. I was excited to be finished with my final paper and to be off to romantic Paris. I came back and quite unfortunately, disappointed and angry. The looming cloud over my head has finally dissipated but since this blog is an honest account of my time abroad, I need to revisit those awful emotions again. So I will divide this blog up into 2 different days at a time so that it will maybe be easier on your eyes. I will, however, leave one pretty big situation out of this blog for certain reasons. It was a pretty upsetting one, but I don't feel it is appropriate to post here... hope you don't mind. But without further ado...

The trip to Luton airport Wednesday night went by pretty fast since I was pretty anxious. We left the pub in Brighton at around 7:00 pm after a friendly meal with our tutor and made it back to campus by 7:45 pm. My company consisted of a classmate who shall go unnamed. We went to his room to gather up his duffle bag, last minute directions, and refreshments for the trip. I caught myself acting like a mom when I had him check for his passport (which he would have left had I not reminded him), tickets for the train, and confirmations for the flight as well as the hotel. I just wanted to make sure I wouldn't be traveling alone or have a companion stranded and confused about what to do.

Well we headed off, took a train for about an hour and a half as well as a bus to the airport. After that we attempted sleeping from 12:00 - 4:30, which went unsuccessful since I was anxious about missing our flight. Basically, I got no sleep all the way to Paris, but I didn't mind. I was excited and too filled with feelings of responsibility. My classmate was constantly falling asleep and I had some natural instinct to stay awake for the both of us.

Day 1
We made it safely to our hotel with the kind help of an elderly French woman, and I knocked out for an hour before taking a shower. It wasn't long before I got a really upsetting phone call and had to go down to deal with it. (This is the part that I'm going to leave out.) After that situation, I was completely upset that my classmate suggested we go out to blow some steam off. Our first stop? The Arc de Triomphe. Getting there was pretty easy. I quickly realized that much of Paris smells like Pee and is pretty shady-- even where all the tourist attractions are. Aside from all that, however, the Arc was absolutely amazing. It's in the center of a roundabout and it automatically commands attention and authority. Perhaps more than the Eiffel Tower. We walked beneath it and looked at the amazing carvings and took a few snapshots. We then headed back to the metro station to get to the Eiffel Tower and get some crepes.
It wasn't long before my classmate realized he carelessly placed his metro card worth 50 euros in his sweater pocket which could easily blow out in the wind. Why anyone would do that as a tourist, I don't know... but I was definitely more careful about something that small, light, and expensive as that. He started screaming uncontrollably in the station a few times which I awkwardly had to watch as other people gawked at us. He ended up buying a few more tickets that could only get you in certain parts of Paris for another 12 Euros (all the while making a scene at the machine as I gladly watched from afar). When we got to another station, he managed to buy the actual euro card. This time, his card was only 20 euros, which he boasted to me in the most nasty way possible and laughed at me "You got jipped!" That wasn't annoyingly rude or anything, but I just laughed it off and replied along the lines of "Yea, it's too bad. Although we both did need that card to get out of the airport." I was so tempted to remind him that he got the same card I did because we needed it, but something clicked in my mind and I found out his metro card wasn't going to allow him to go through all the zones in Paris. So again, he needed to head back to buy a different metro card. The 50 euro one. Oh, what the prideful get themselves into.

So altogether, he spent over 120 Euros just on travel purposes. Can you believe how crazy that is?? Whew. We finally made it near the Eiffel tower, got some chocolate crepes, took some pictures by the Eiffel and headed home. Heading home was difficult and annoying because my classmate kept wanting food but then changing his mind on whether to eat or not for a half hour, but we eventually made our way home.

Day 2
The next morning, I was excited for a new day. We woke up at 6:00 and got to the Notre Dame around 8:00. It was a beautiful site to behold from outside, especially as the sun was finally beginning to dawn on the building. There was no line when we got there and walked in easily.

I honestly wasn't expecting much out of this place, but by the time I had made my round around the entire bottom part of it, I was amazed and reminded of its history. I absolutely loved the gothic structure of the building, the chandeliers, and holy places along the sides of the cathedral.
Walking down the aisles and in the silence made me want to get on my knees and actually have a conversation with God about my struggling faith. That's how amazing this place was.
It was a truly amazing experience to walk around the Cathedral with very few people inside of it.

After walking out, we wandered around and my curiosity brought my attention to the bell towers. Hate me for this, but I was thinking of the Disney movie and wondering what the bell towers looked like. Could we actually make our way up there? I was expecting more than just the bottom of the Cathedral (which I was expecting to be bigger from my preconceptions). It turned out we could actually walk up the bell tower. We waited for a half hour for them to allow us to walk in. For security reasons, they only let 20 people through every 10 minutes. We walked al the way up. All 400 steps, which my companion noted to me several times but didn't remember saying it.

We saw "Emmanuel," the biggest bell in the tower. It was absolutely amazing to take a gander at. Every time I see something so old and historical, I can't believe I am looking at something from a long distant past. You know it's good when the things you look at make you ponder what living in those times would be like.
The entire time going up and down the tower and even during lunch, my classmate continually reiterated the plans for the day and changing them as he saw fit. It got quite annoying and I just went along with his string of tangents; I learned to tune him out after a few hours. Getting to the Louvre was even more frustrating. "Sortie" means exit in French and there are signs in big bold letters-- you just can't miss it. Then there's the entrance where you have machines to swipe your metro card, which clearly is the way to the metro. Well, this guy didn't know which way to go, so I just politely smiled and pointed in the direction of the machines without saying anything. He, on the other hand, spoke down to me as if I was an idiot and said I was going the wrong way, so we walked toward the exit incase for some magical reason he was right... literally 10 seconds into walking, he realized "Oh wait, it's where the machines are! This says the exit!" Then proceeded to make it my fault that we walked in the direction he wanted to even though I motioned toward the correct route in the first place. But to avoid conflict, I just walked in silence behind him.

I was so happy when we made it to the Louvre. This was a place where I could just walk in silence and not have to deal with any problems.

I didn't exactly want to speed through something that takes a day or more, but seeing as I only had 4 days, I needed to. We saw all the things you'd expect like the Venus de Milo, amazing French paintings, and amazing relics from ancient times.
We were meandering throughout the huge sections of the Louvre and among our first stops, we saw the Mona Lisa encased in a small gallery to one of the side rooms. It took a while to get to the front in a huge and tough crowd. I waited patiently and courteously, however. It wasn't worth getting hurt over or angry burning eyes on the back of my head. I eventually made it to the front, got some pictures, then looked at the painting for only but a few seconds before letting others have their turn. I'd hate to say this, but I think the painting is just a bit over-rated. Perhaps I'm not as cultured as I would think I am, but it really seemed like many of the other paintings. I mean, I saw other paintings where eyes followed me wherever I went. With the Mona Lisa, I didn't get to walk in front of her and pace around to see whether her eyes were actually magical and followed me. I guess that's why I didn't think much of the piece, but at least I saw it. If I ever go again, maybe I'll take another gaze into her eyes and rethink on my opinion.

We continued to trudge along the long halls and I fell in love with many of the sculptures including the ones of Athena, Artemis, and Diana since those are my favorite deities of all time.

We saw many other things, but I think it's just one of those things you have to go and see for yourself. I can't exactly explain everything for something that takes a day or more to get through normally. All in all, I was impressed and so very satisfied with this part of the trip. We made it through the Louvre in about 4-5 hours! I think I had the legs of Zeus by the end of that day. Walking up 400 steps and probably another 500+ more from the Louvre.

We got back to our hotel hungry like lions. We got directions to places to eat, but my classmate wouldn't listen to me... so I just followed him. The stubborn guy really just thought I was full of lies or really incompetent. Maybe both. So we went back, asked for directions again, and then he realized he was wrong. When he figured out I was right, he called me a jerk, even though I didn't say anything... Sometimes, I wonder how trips can turn out so annoyingly terrible when you're just taking the backseat and kindly letting everyone run the show just to avoid conflict...

Anyway, that's my blog for the first two days of Paris. :) And, if you're curious about that person reading this blog, I've taken all measures to make sure this won't be seen.