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 :)