Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Czech

Here is the information on my work camp for anyone who is interested...

Straight from the SCI website:

"Location: Kostelecke Horky in Eastern Bohemia is a small village with about 150 inhabitants situated in the rolling landscape between Divoka and Ticha Orlice rivers. It is situated in North Eastern Bohemia, not far from the town Hradec Kralove, 6 km from the important railway junction Chocen. You will help local NGO INEX SDA Kostelecke Horky.

Work: Work will be mainly manual. Organisation branch runs two building, where work will take place. The first one is building of training centre. The main work for volunteers will painting, cleaning, gardening (making the hey) and other small reconstruction works. The second one is rural centre of Blue stone house used for environmental education programmes in schools, where volunteers will help with building/reconstruction works making the fences, etc. It will be main part of work on this project.

Accommodation and board : Basic in a former village school (bathroom, hot water available), sleeping bag needed. Cooking together from local and common resources in a school kitchen.

Leisure activities: Traditional folklore event "burning of witches" (1.5), bring your music instruments. Volunteers can make a trips to surroundings towns (Litomysl, Rychnov nad Kneznou, Letohrad,...) and visit old castle ruins (Potstejn, Litice) and very beatifull scenery of Orlicke mountains)"

Does it sound lovely?

I love adventures!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Princess and The Pirate

On Saturday I took a train, a bus and a train out to the Stowmarket station a couple hours North and East of here. The morning started out terrible. I left late, gave up on waiting for the bus and walked to the tube station. Then I found out my train left from Liverpool St., not Victoria (completely across town). I realized later that the reason I thought to go to Victoria was because that's where I was supposed to pick up my tickets. I, of course, did not bother to do that. I finally arrived at Liverpool Street and obviously had missed my train. I did not fret, but just bought a new ticket... twice the price of the original ticket. While at the station I also managed to rip my pants badly enough that I changed into my jeans which I had packed for the second day and through out my cordoroys. I shrugged and looked at the bright side, one less thing to try and get home. Remember, I gave up complaining for Lent, hahah. I got on my first train, asked a lovely man in blue how to get to the bus. After I bought my coffee (it was mighty cold out) he walked me over to the bus, knocked on the door, verified the destination and I got in. It was a fine bus ride and then I waited a bit for my train to Stowmarket. I got on the train fine and as I got closer to Stowmarket I began packing up my things. I stood up as the train stopped and went to the door. There I realized, there was no handle... 4 doors and not a handle on a single one. I was sure I'd seen someone go out these doors... someone even came in them last stop. I start looking around for one of those sneaky buttons like in France. I even read the signs. I go back to the carriage and ask the woman nearest the door if she knows how to open the door. She says yes- and nothing else. Wonderful woman, wonderful. After I begin to ask again, in quite a fury by now, a gentleman farther back in the car shouts to me that I need to push down the window and open from the outside.

Because that makes sense.

I go over to the window, pull it down, go to pull up the lever and the train begins to move. I continue to try and the woman on the podium tells me I can't get out, I'll have to get out at the next station and come back. At this point I'd already called Belinda and Benjamin once to tell them I'd be an hour late and they had no mobile... so they waited for me for another 20-30 minutes. I felt terrible. When I finally arrived they were very kind, but I felt terrible. They did find it a bit sad no one helped- as usually they would, but either way, I was there then and all was fine.

The rest of the weekend progressed on much better. We had a "simple lunch" and then dropped Benjamin off at a birthday party for Nicoli. Then Belinda and I went into Diss and looked at all the second hand shops (this is a woman after my own heart). Then we stopped to get the papers and picked up Benjamin. We returned to the house and I got to see Benjamin's train set and lego room. Pictures will be up of the lego room soon. I forgot to get a picture of the train. It's pretty awesome though. I can't even explain to you the amount of toys this kid has!

More on this later as I have a lot to do and am stressing just a bit...

Note: This semester I have done better about qualifying what I have to do as less than what it is. Instead of getting really stressed about little things all the time I just get stressed about big things and then... well, you know how things go... I'm stressing.
About what? School papers & presentations... Leaving London... Planning flights... Not knowing what I'm doing for this summer and not speaking any of the languages of the next 3 countries I am going to be in.

Oh dear...

Here is the chaotic part:

I have 1 week left of my internship (as long as no one changes that). Yay!
I have 1 week until AMY COMES TO VISIT!!! Yay!
And I'm doing much better with her visit than with my parents or my sister's (sorry everybody :() and actually planning just a bit.
I have 2 weeks left of class (I'm sad I only have 2 Tuesdays left.. boo)
I have 3 weeks left in London :(
In 3 weeks I am going to Athens to meet up with my brother. After a couple of days we will then travel to Bulgaria!
In 4 weeks I will be moving to the Czech Republic for 2 weeks to build fences.. Now that I think about it I may be regretting that part of it, haha. I will also be exploring a bit.
So in 6 and a half weeks I will return to the US.
At some point during the following two weeks I will go to NYC for my interviews for the GLCA New York Arts Program.

I don't know what I am going to do with myself...

That's the scary part.
After two and a half months of that I am going to spend the semester in NYC.
I think 2009 might be the best year ever. Let's hope something happens soon so I know what I'm doing this summer... and let's hope it's amazing :)

Note: In case you are reading this and thinking I'm spoiled... well, I am blessed. I am lucky to have a family that supports me in whatever I want to do and friends that are there for me. I will have to pay for the bills of the excitement I am pursing now for the next 30 years. I am well aware of this, but I know it's all part of life. You can't wait 'til you have this or that, this IS LIFE (now).
So thank you to you for your support. I am just one person, but I am my only person and I appreciate you giving me the support to be able to be confident enough in myself and the people around me to not be afraid.

I will be more than I ever was before.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Magical! Numbers.

Three is the magic number. We learned this in communication classes for presentations and in theatre classes for playwriting. People don't like to remember more than three things. That's why people like the three bears and the three pigs and... well, you get the idea. The odd thing is people don't belong in groups of three, they just like the idea of three.

I suppose I am getting off topic. That was all to tell you that I am going to tell you three things, but in all honesty, by the time I finished that paragraph I changed my mind, you'll get more...

The Original 3:

1. There is a pink car that parks on Manrsea Road every day. I have never seen the owner, but some of my acquaintances have. She's apparently a slightly older than middle age woman. That's about all I've gotten about her. Today I was walking home from a play and I noticed the pink car and it put a smile on my face. It's a lovely looking car. Sometimes it makes me think of the pink house in The Secret Life of Bees. I don't think it's the same color pink, but rather I think it makes people smile in the same way. Sometimes I pass the car and I just think of the car. Goodness! It is pink! I'm not sure if the woman knows this about her car. I left her a note thanking her for her car and letting her know it makes me happy to walk past. I hope she "gets it".

2. I have decided the worst possible thing about having a cold in London is going to the theatre. You have to sit and hold your coughs until a loud part. Plus you're really worried about whether or not you're ruining the show for everyone else. It really makes the production quite difficult. After the show I apologized to the people around me. Apparently the guys behind me hadn't even noticed. It was a pretty good show. If I hadn't been the one coughing, I'm not sure if I would've noticed either. I hope my cough goes away for tomorrow's performance of King Lear!

3. Last week a lot of things were going wrong for my Aunt. Her health was not doing well, her purse got stolen, it was just one thing after another. However I received an email today from her that let us know that things were getting better. After she sent out her email she received many back, reassuring her, validating her, and reaching out. It really reminded me how important it is that we all reach out. Even if we're not sure what we need, perhaps someone else is able to help without knowing the exact cure either.

One thing she wrote in her email I feel as though I need to write on my wall, to remind me often. She said she is learning
"reciprocity – to bless what I have, to ask for what I need, to offer what I can"

So to you, I encourage you to take care of yourself and by doing so, you will be able to take care of others.

Instead of adding a zillion more, lemme say these three:
1. I enjoy physical comedy. They make it possible to do shows without the audience knowing the language.
2. Conversations with good friends are important. Hearing their voices is even better. Thank you to Schae-Schae, Bristol, Rachel and Amy for all your help, love and guidance.
3. I don't have a job for this summer. I am getting stressed about it in a very strange way. I know it will take care of itself, but I am worried about the way in which it will be taken care of. I'm not so sure that it'll be a good idea.

And with that, goodnight my loves.

And thank you. For everything.

1: I decided I like punctuation in plays better than I like it in regular english. In plays you can use punctuation to show the way one speaks, not just the way the rules asks for it. So the above "And thank you. For everything." is alright because there needs to be a full stop after the you. The for everything is a new thought.

Punctuation in plays fascinates me. <3

2. It was originally 1, 2, & 3 together in the punctuation comment above, but then Pat provided the Fun Fact of the day and I thought it should be shared. So here you go...

3. Fun Fact of the day: Mountain Dew was invented in the 1940s. It was made in Knoxville, Tennessee, and flavored with lemon and lime. The drink was created as a mixer for Whiskey, which is why it was named "Mountain Dew" -- a slang term for moonshine

So, uh... goodnight moon <3

Monday, March 23, 2009

You know,

As independent as I can be, sometimes I just get scared to make decisions on my own

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Summer and Strength

Seeing as this is my last summer before graduating from college, it is a bit sacred and I was unsure what to do with it. After much debate, I decided I would like to teach theatre in a camp setting. However, I'd rather not immerse myself in a strictly theatre camp. There are a number of reasons for this, but not worth explaining. I also decided I might like to work at a camp which had a goal other than simply being an enjoyable time in the summer. I spent most of the day looking at different camps. Before I even began to look at the camp application I searched for reviews of camps. It's amazing how many have a large amount of negative reviews out of there. As my search has continued I began looking at camps involving children with special needs. Most of them require the counselors to be with the campers 24 hours a day. There is usually a ration between 1:1 and 1:3 which I'm sure would be helpful, but the more I've thought about it, the more I realize, I don't think I could do it. I think I could, with some research, a little reading and a bit of help, create and facilitate activities. However, at this time in my life I don't know if I have the prior experience or the strength to be what these children/people need/deserve. I am in awe of the people who are.

If anyone has any advice on camps to apply to, I'm open for suggestions. I would like to be the theatre coordinator at the camp.

Family Time :)

I've been remiss in blogging for the past week or so as it's been a wonderfully busy time for me. My family visited me!

With the help of lots of family (including and outside of the 5 of us), the whole family managed to find good deals and change in the couch to gather in Ireland the weekend before St. Patrick's day. Needless to say there were tourists about, but we still managed to visit some beautiful areas of Ireland and meet some lovely Irish storytellers. This was my first trip outside of London with anyone and it was with my family! This was also the first time we've taken a family vacation since my senior year of high school when we went to visit my wonderful Aunt and Uncle in California. This trip was quite a bit different as none of us kids are home and we are all quite a bit busier than we were 3 and a half years ago (whether we realized it was possible then or not). As a result my mom circled things in the guidebook, reserved the hotel and the rest of just tied up loose ends in (Houston, Chicago or London), booked our flights and showed up. It was a bit chaotic with planning, but just spending time with my family is always a major blessing. The funny thing about going places with my family is that it feels even more natural than when I go visit places by myself. Since we are all together it is as if these things were just planted here for us.
And let's be honest, the best part is probably eating. The difference between eating with my family and eating with my friends is that when we order food, we share... a lot. Instead of eating your dish and maybe a tiny bite of one friend's, whose dish looks particularly delicious, you get to try decent helpings of a total of five dishes. Plus we're all old enough now that we're good sharers... this may not have always been true...
I will be honest, it was not completely easy-peasy having my family here. I had a few assignments due the upcoming week and was particularly stressed about one assignment which seemed too overwhelming to even approach. I have to thank my family for being so understanding. While I was never able to get it completely off my mind, they made sure to give me my space and encourage me to do what I needed to so that I wasn't a mess in regards to school work. And, of course, I wasn't. The presentation was fine. I stayed up most of the night before it was due, but isn't that the way college is supposed to be?

Thank you also to my sister's professor(s) and internship supervisor(s) who were understanding and moved things around so she was able to leave early and visit me for two days in London before going to Ireland. Just as I have a habit of traveling by myself (it's often easier), I usually walk around by myself. It was so nice to have my sister around and have someone to talk to as we walked. Sure, I might've gotten a bit misdirected one night- I'm not used to talking and walking, but it was just nice to have her see the world that I live in. Anna Jo's h.s. best friend studied abroad in London as well so it was nice to think about her as we wondered. I only wish Anna Jo could have spent more time in London, as I spent most of the first day at my internship and not with her. There is so much to see in London, you can hardly scratch the surface in a day. In addition, I did not have a lot of time to plan for her visit so we just sort of went with the flow. We did get the chance to see Avenue Q at the Noel Coward Theatre. It was an excellent showing and after the performance we walked around the West End for a bit. Seeing as my sister has been one of my best friend throughout my entire life, it was really important to me that she see the town that I was falling in love with.

On the Sunday of the Ireland weekend I flew back to work on some school work. Anna Jo and Justin flew back to the States Monday morning. My parents then took a ferry over to Whales. They stayed there until Tuesday and then came to London. I did not see them until late Wednesday night due to Tuesday classes & festivities* as well as my Wednesday internship and class. They were extremely understanding to the responsibilities and prior engagements I had. I was able to spend Thursday afternoon with them before sending them off to see 39 Steps on the West End (which they apparently enjoyed). Then Friday we toured the Globe and walked around a bit. I got a bit cranky due to some difficulties with dinner, but like the wonderful parents they are, they understood I was tired and stressed and we got to dinner eventually. Saturday we had originally planned to go to Stratford-Upon-Avon, but ended up going to see a fringe show in Hampstead and eating at a delicious Greek restaurant. They walked me to the bus stop last night and waited for the N11- which took its time showing up. We said our good-byes, but it oddly enough didn't feel as if they weren't going to be back. When I woke up this morning, I nearly called them to see if they wanted to go to lunch later. Of course, I realized then that they would be boarding their plane in an hour.

I am ridiculously blessed and wish you all have the chance to spend such wonderful time with your families.

*The Tuesday festivities are worth mentioning. Obviously, as I've mentioned before, Tuesday's are pretty much always great days, but this one was of particular greatness:
Grab a quick bite to eat
National Ballet rehearsals.
Amazing. There's always more to say, but when it all boils down, Amazing.
Walk by Hyde Park to bus to take it back to school.
Sing Happy Birthday to Bristol on the bus!
A bit more foodage
Present that presentation I'd be stressing about
Talk with Iwan Rheon, Moritz in Spring Awakening (UK) for about an hour.
He was lovely in case you were wondering.
More class presentations
Champagne for Bristol's Birthday
Out to a couple pubs for Bristol's Birthday/St. Patrick's day.

Yeah, it was a lovely day.

It's a whole 'nother world

You know the easiness of traveling has gotten to you when a friend informs you she'll be in Barcelona and during that time you only have a day(ish) free and that is tomorrow... and you still look up to see if there would be flights at the right time within your price range.

Inevitably, there weren't...
but I was would've flown to Barcelona for 24 hours to see a friend.


Sometimes I wish I could do that in US, but it just never seemed as possible there. Plus, there are some reallllly cheap flights to Barcelona (if you get them at the right times)

I can't believe I have to go back to Ohio so soon.

Have I told you that despite my original hesitancy on London, I am now kindasortainlove with it.
I'm not sure if coming back will be in the cards, but I don't think I'd mind if it was.
I think reverse culture shock is going to be harder than the original culture shock.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Like little dots on a map

"If you have ever slept under the stars, you will know that a mysterious world awakens in solitude and silence as we're sleeping"

On the first night I went to the Van Gogh Museum. I went to the first floor of the permanent exhibit and after exploring the first couple of rooms I was exhausted. After spending 15E on the entry fee I was not about to leave so I went downstairs and bought a cookie and a coffee in the cafe. I wrote on some napkins and occasionally dozed off. Eventually I felt slightly more alert and finished the regular exhibit. I saw many lovely paintings including another one of the Sunflowers. I have now seen at least three, maybe four, of the five which exist.

Afterwards I listened to a band playing in the lobby for a bit and then found out I didn't have to pay for the special exhibit. The Van Gogh Museum with New York City's Museum of Modern Art put together this night exhibit. It was probably one of my favorite things in Amsterdam. Not only was Starry Night (and a few of my other favorite Van Gogh -and non Van Gogh- paintings) exhibited, but they had a great audio guide to go with it. It was a good length so I never got tired. I even asked the audio tour for the extra facts a couple of times.

I really felt as though I learned a lot of things. I knew Van Gogh had tried to put together a bit of an artists' community which he was going to start with Gaugin, but Van Gogh and Gaugin had disagreements. I had forgotten- or perhaps never knew- the rest of the story. Gaugin and Van Gogh's central disagreement was how one should do art: paint, draw, whatever... Van Gogh believed your subject should be taken from life. Gaugin believed that to paint from one's imagination was even greater. The reason Van Gogh didn't want to paint completely from imagination was because he didn't want to free himself completely from reality. I suppose now would be a good time to mentionthat when Van Gogh was in the asylum he began painting more from his imagination... Of course, that wasn't the only way he painted... Landweg in de Provence bijnacht (1890) was his last painting done at the asylum. It was completely from memory.

"I have a terrible need for- I will use the word religion, so I go outside at night to paint the stars"

Starry Night was not from memory. It was painting at night on The Rhone. He manipulated some of it, obviously, but he was looking at the real night sky as he painted. The stars were a source of comfort for Van Gogh.

Throughout the exhibit I really enjoyed reading/hearing bits of Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. I think their relationship is remarkable.
Van Gogh often included small sketches of his pictures in his letters to Theo. They're wonderful and look just right. Vincent also recommended that Theo read Longfellow because he "will no doubt become a friend of yours". This is excellent advice.

While in the Van Gogh Museum I decided I could never be a museum currator. Being a museum for too long makes me feel quite exhausted. Plus I like them to be quiet and I could never be quiet for that long. I was a little peeved at one particular currator. Sometimes there are certain paintings that you want to spend more time with. There was no bench near this painting (it was on the other side of the room), but I wanted to sit so I just sat on the floor. The currator came over and told me that I needed to stand up or sit over there (he points to the benches far away from the painting). I was in no one's way. I was causing no harm. I think he had his paintings in a bit of a twist. I paid 15 euros, I can sit on the floor not bothering anyone if I want. Rawr.

"Why, I say to myself, should the spots of lights in the firmament be less acessable to us than the black spots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star."

A few other tidbits about my Museum experience:
-During the exhibit I would read the first line or two of the description before I realized it was Dutch and none of it was going to make sense
-At the museum they had two of the versions of The Sower that Van Gogh did. The larger one just liked a bigger tv in which the colors were lighter
-By adding orange and blue together you get a gross color which allows for you to have better grays
-[I knew this, but it's good to be reminded] The Potato Eaters is an exercise in color
-Avond (naar Millet)
-Eugene Delacroix taught Van hos to produce effective color contrast
-Van Gogh's father was a minister. Van Gogh originally felt called to preach or deliver the Gospel. He still did deliver that light, just in another medium. He kind of knew this.
-In 1887 "grue" (crane) and "grenouielle" (frog) in french meant "women of easy virtue"
-Seurat is a pointalism master
-Theodule Ribol did a nice still life with eggs. I don't think we often realize how complex and cool eggs are.
-The Yellow House (1888) = Het Sele Huis

"The sight of the stars always makes me dream, in as simple way as the black spots on the map representing towns and villages make me dream"
-Van Gogh

Monday, March 9, 2009

Canals, bicycles and lollipops

Entry is written in pieces as I post what I wrote down on my pink post-it notes as I was experiencing things. I plan on buying my own personal journal sometime in the next week as I realize that there are some things which need to be taken down without attention given to audience.

It's strange how different and yet, similar my trips to Paris and Amsterdam were. In both I saw Van Gogh paintings and guys peeing in the street. Whether in France or The Netherlands I found people to talk to and sketchy people to avoid. I felt slightly safer in France, but I think that was because there were more sober people and I never felt lost. Yet, I enjoyed both countries and feel as though something is more complete by visiting them.

In Paris Mona Lisa was actually larger than I thought she'd be. Everyone had talked about how small she was bigger than I imagined. In Amsterdam there were even more bikes than I imagined. They weren't as aggressive as I thought they might be, but they were simply omnipresent. And the parents have their kids on the backs and fronts of their bikes. Friends are comfortably riding with a person or two on the back. It's really a bit of a spectacle. I ran when I was in Amsterdam and until I got to Vondel Park I didn't see a single other runner. I had to stop quite often for bikes or scooters or slow people on the path. I didn't particularly enjoy running in Amsterdam. There were more people running in Gronigen, but I didn't run there.

After running by a certain fenced in garden in London, I learned that the smell of marijuana makes me tummy feel a little funny when running, Amsterdam confirmed this. I'm glad that people don't normally smoke week near tracks or cross country courses.

While in Amsterdam I walked around quite a bit, exploring the neighborhoods. I didn't take quite as many pictures because there weren't as many "monuments" and after awhile you get a little tired of bikes.
Miller had told me that if I go to Amsterdam I should definitely visit the Anne Frank Huis (House) despite the wait and this was good advice. I extend the advice to you. It's worth it... although you might find yourself wanting to read the book again by the end :)
On Sunday night, Els (a relative of mine) took me to see Valkerie which I thought would just be okay, but following Anne Frank's house, it was a great combination. Although I was a bit emotionally exhausted of WWII by the end of the weekend.

I wandered around for a bit and found Sara's Pancake House that was in my sister's pictures. I ate there. It was alright. The service wasn't the best, but hey, it had my name in the title :)
I also found this cheese house that my brother recommended. He had the street names one off, but I ran into it on accident. He was right when he said they had the best cheese. I'm not even what you would consider a "cheese person" and-- delicious. De Kaaskamer Van Amsterdam. I recommend it. It was probably the best cheese I've ever had. Next door there is a tooth brush store which my brother recommended to me. Here is a video of their awesome ferris wheel of toothbrushes. You may have to tilt your head. Ignore the sound.

On Saturday I went to an outdoor market and bought a few exciting things. One of these included a 14e dress (which I probably should've tried to lower the price for). When I returned home I realized I didn't have anywhere to wear the dress so I wore it yesterday to school. Many people complimented it and made me feel quite good about myself. I even got to twirl in it in acting. It's a lovely twirly dress :) It's pink with black designs which have some glitter on them. The dress poofs on the bottom. It fits a little funny on the top as it's a bit used, but it's still lovely.

Note for all you costumers out there: While at the Van Gogh Museum I discovered Rorbye has quite a few lovely pictures of costumes from 1850s Italy so if you ever do a show set in that period, look him up.

Also, people can tell you how many bikes there are in The Netherlands and how they run the roads and how they are essentially used as cars (people carrying everything from grocceries to children), but until you see it, I don't think you can really properly imagine it.

Written Saturday, March 7th:
"Call me crazy, but I think I'd like Amsterdam more if there was less pot and no red light district. I am not against pot, I just don't smoke it. The only time I was really tempted was when I saw the lollipops on Saturday morning. They looked quite delicious. I resisted. I can understand why people go to Amsterdam to do pot though. It's accessible everywhere and there are lots of people doing the same. Plus it's cheaper and safer than in the US. And I think the safety is what matters. The Red Light District is a whole 'nother story... having the first time I stumbled upon it being when I was quite lost, exhausted and by myself probably didn't help my judgement on it. To be honest, it feels like it's something that doesn't really exist. It's a surreal story, not a lucrative business..."

Then my coffee came and I stopped writing.

Welp, those are snapshots are my experience.
The pictures- which there aren't many exciting ones so don't hold your breath- should be up on facebook within the next week. Thanks to friends for your encouragement. So far my travels have been consistently interesting and "new experiences"... just like I asked for.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Plane ticket (check) Toothbrush (check) Passport (check). Do I need anything else?

It might seem to you that I just got back from France, and you'd wonder how could I be ready to leave already... and you would be right. I'm not, but I'm leaving anyways. I am going to The Netherlands really early tomorrow morning. I'm spending the first two days in Amsterdam and then on Sunday I am going to Groningen to visit some relatives. Super early Monday morning I head back to London to go to my internship at 10:00 in the morning. Even I am beginning to recognize the ridiculousness of my planning. I am also acknowledging the great potential this trip has for an adventure!

Originally I was supposed to be traveling with two friends, but things have come up and now I am traveling on my own. No worries, I'll take the same precautions as usual. The funny thing about going to Holland is that I don't speak any Dutch and I didn't get any books with it. In addition to that I have no major monuments on a giant list to go see. My brother compiled an excellent list of things to do/see for my sister when she went. My mom got that forwarded to me. So I just looked through it and put stars next to things I might be interested in, but I'm- once again, not going to plan. I have theatre homework to do instead and I'm kind of tired.

Wish me luck this weekend!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Advice you've heard before.

Advice on Traveling while Abroad that you've probably heard before, but I am going to reiterate, and probably add onto as this month of traveling continues: Holland, Ireland, Stratford, Some Unknown Little Place 2 hours North of here for a UK Host Program

  • Pack light
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • If you can take a train instead of a plane, do it. You spend less time in the station and you see some of the prettiest areas. All the same, it's still okay to sleep.
  • Don't travel too many weekends in a row, it's exhausting (Yes, I realize I don't heed my own advice- that's not new)
  • Remember what country you came to study in. If you're studying abroad only to travel, don't study in London, pick a cheaper and more central location.
    Note: This is not me. I am glad I picked London, for London.
  • Go somewhere on your own at least once.
    But bring your phone, journal and camera so when you're overwhelmed or just plain enthused you have someone to share it with. Also, if your university gives you an alarm or something of the sort during orientation, bring it with you. Mase isn't legal in many countries, but loud beepy noises are.
  • If a friend is living with a host family that offers to let you stay a night... or a few, take them up on it
  • Sleep before trying to tackle the Louvre. It's too much to do on 2 hours of sleep
  • Go on walks that aren't to get anywhere. You will find the best things/places (this is about all of your life, not just when traveling in new countries)
  • Take pictures, but not so many that you only look at things through the lens
  • Realize you will be sharing a hostel with people who may not share your same sleep schedule. Don't let this bring you down. Loud children (or grown-ups) on trains and delayed planes... it's all part of the experience.
  • If you're going to France, bring a corkscrew for your wine.

Better than Nutella

When I was planning my trip to France I expected many things. I had made plans to visit the Louvre and Le Musee D'orsay. I wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. After two nights in Paris I would go to my friend, Amy's host family's house in Rennes, France and visit with said friend. I knew before I went that traveling by myself would probably be stressful, exhausting and a bit overwhelming.
And for the most part, I was right. I visited those places. I saw those people. I felt those emotions.
While my experience is documented in a few hundred of pictures, I have condensed most of that town to 70 pictures. 60 of which are in this album.

What I did not expect was to feel fully confident in Paris and then to have some of the most renewing days in Rennes.
When I arrived in Rennes Amy and I sat catching up while I ate my lunch. A wonderful older gentleman encouraged us to keep our cheer because not enough people have it. I was grateful that someone, someone who doesn't even know us, was able to feel what I was feeling just by walking by. After my sandwich, Amy showed me around town a bit. We walked through a beautiful garden where spring was alive and well. I got a better feel for where Amy is spending this entire section of her life. Nine months is a long time to live in a completely new place and I am so grateful that I was given a taste of it. Back at Elizabeth and Michel's (sp?) house I met their wonderful puppy dogs (one of which is named after the awesome bear in the Bare Necessities) <3 and got settled. Then Elizabeth came to tell us it was dinner time.
I can not even explain to you this dinner. To be honest, I don't even remember what all I ate. All I know is by the end I was completely full- I didn't even think I could have dessert, but then I tried one bite and it was like 10,000 Lindoor truffles in this delicious cold cake and - mmmm. After dinner, but before dessert there was cheese and wine... and dinner itself was-- perfect. I'm not sure how long we were there eating, but as I found out from Amy, dinner usually last about 2 hours. She told me her one friend had stayed in France over Christmas and for the holiday the family ate for 6 hours. The greatest part about eating at Amy's house was the conversation. It was, obviously, in french, and Amy translated for me when it got complex, but it was lovely to listen to. Both Michel and Elizabeth have wonderful syntax so they just sound nice when they talk- completely different from each other, but equally nice. Plus it's nice to consistently be engaged. As soon as I start zoning I am completely out of the conversation, which is usually interesting so you don't want to zone anyways. I can't just half-listen. I love it. We talked for a bit more and then Amy and I retired to her room, catching up more and eventually sleeping.
Oh. I can't remember when we went running. I think it was that afternoon. We ran along this canal that was everything that you would want France to look like- stunning. We ran back along these fields. I had to walk a bit just to appreciate the beauty. I didn't have my camera so we took plenty of mental pictures.

The next morning Elizabeth and Michel had put out breakfast for us- bread, 4 different, delicious fruit jams, nutella, cereal, milk, tea, coffee... Basically I was completely spoiled for 3 days. Amy had class so we went to school and got lunch. Then I went to the library and studied while she went to class. While sitting in the library I met a nice boy named Damien who was from Rennes and looked more like a -- well, not a Damien. He borrowed my pen. After classes Amy and I explored new parts of Rennes and I had my first french crepe... nutella, of course. Loved it.
At night we returned home to another amazing dinner. After dinner we watched Lancelot. Amy had a phone interview with a summer camp so for about a half hour just Michel, Elizabeth and I watched Lancelot in french. I understood most of it, and what I didn't, I made up... so occasionally I laughed when they didn't, but overall we were on the same page.

The title of the photo album on facebook comes from one of Michel's comments during the movie. He's hilarious and likes to occasionally throw an english phrase in conversation. Sometimes he'll say bye to you in english or -- just all sorts of times. Sometimes I would get thrown, and respond in french and then realize the world was backwards, haha. Well, during Lancelot he was occasionally dropping them in and at one point Lancelot threw Quenivere (sp?) on his horse and said, "C'mon baby... Twist and Shout"... wait. What? Awesome. You have to meet this guy, essentially Amy lives with the greatest people in France...
And the thing is, Amy deserves to live with the greatest people in France. She's someone who will actually appreciate them and get the most out of the experience. I, am just blessed that I was able, for a few days, step into this family. It's sort of hard to explain. London is great. There is so much for me to learn from the city, but I live in a tiny room in an 12? story dorm building... I'm not even sure. I'm on the 6th, which is actually the 7th floor and after that I don't really count. There are lovely people, but when I go back to Ohio, we'll only keep in casual contact, and only a couple of us at that. I guess, now that I think of it, there is enormous benefit to not becoming a part of a family- you never have to leave it.

On day 3 Amy skipped grammar and we took a train to St. Malo, a beautiful walled-town on the sea. It was completely destroyed in the war because of how important the port was, but it had been rebuilt. Amy's host parents told us how it had been chilly in Rennes that afternoon, but on the ocean we were able to take off our coats as we looked at sea shells. We picked out our favorite ones and even found some beach glass which reminded us of our good friend, Faith. I don't know if it was the beauty of the day or the smell of the sea, but I just couldn't imagine wanting to be anywhere else. Since being overseas there have been quite a few times I have had a bit of trouble being as comfortable with people as I would like. Sitting with Amy on the sea, I felt true to myself and true to my surroundings, but I wasn't zoning Amy out, or needing to zone out. Rather, I was truly enjoying her company. After a bit we decided we were hungry and ate the best sandwiches I have ever had. It's not even an exagerration. There was sausage and chicken and "salade" and... I don't know. I don't know what it was made of, but if I could only have one sandwich for the rest of my life, I think it might be this one... If I had to make it every time, then it'd be PB&J, but if this woman made it... I just wish I remembered the name. We wondered a bit, saw a lot of oysters and watched the tide come in.

When we arrived home Elizabeth and Michel were at a friend's home and had made a huge, delicious stack of crepes for us. Did I mention how awesome these people were? Amy and I ate until I could hardly move. Then we took the dogs for a short walk and returned for more conversation. We planned the rest of our life. We're making a band. We comprised the guest list for the first concert, made mostly of runners or ex-runners, but with a few exceptions. The funny thing about listing people with someone who actually knows the people is that sometimes you're actually left missing them less. It's as if because you're with someone else you're able to conjure up more of them than when you're by yourself... or maybe I'm just crazy. Either way, we like Hope people :)

The next morning Michel and Elizabeth went to Michel's mom's and Amy and I went for a run. We went to the grocery store and I bought delicious French chocolate that didn't even make it through Monday. Amy took me to the train station and I returned to Paris.

While in Paris I visited the Sacre Coeur and nearly cried. I watched the people outside and felt wonderfully calm. I walked through France's red light district and took a picture of The Moulin Rouge, which had a long line of well-dressed people in front of it. I returned to the hostel, checked some emails, wrote a bit and then went to bed. The next morning I woke up earlier than I should've and made my way to the airport....

The entire time, I kept 2 seashells in my coat pocket. I think they'll stay there for a bit.

Efficiency and Travel don't share a lot of letters

Written while waiting for my plane to return to London.

"The confusion which managed to upset me the most was complicated when talking in English. I find this amusing. It wasn't really a big deal. I just thought I needed to find a new line (which didn't exist) to check-in after waiting 25 minutes. I was prone to being confused. I'd already misread my plane schedule and got to the aeroport way, way early (which I suppose is better than way, way late) and thus was tired of being in aeroports. After I talked to another woman and she told me to return to my original line I just began to cry (and maybe mutter a few things to myself about being tired and wanting to just get to London) and the people around me looked extremely worried. I think it was because I was crying and I didn't have anyone with me. I think there was this concern that they were supposed to do something since there was no one else, but it's just harder in the city... plus, a lot of them didn't speak English and that was the language I was muttering in. Either way, the guy who had originally sent me away left his little booth and found me and brought me to the front of the line. He retried to explain- he just did check-in luggage, but the line divided. He had neglected the mention that the first time he sent me away. All was well in the end.
There is something about waiting in airports (the overhead announcements, crying children, lines, beeping security gates, the inability to sleep...) that makes a large percent of people unhappy. I should minimize my time in them. Train stations are-- well, *usually- better.

There was some confusion with my train ticket and I had to order another.
Also I've discovered that on many trains, assigned seats don't really mean assigned to the regulars, but more like-- recommended.

A little advice: If you are in a train, looking for your seat and someone seems to be in your seat, just ask, he/she probably is. I wasted a lot of time checking my ticket, the car, the train, the seat. Then, if they ask if they can trade you seats to sit next to his/her loved one, of course- say yes, but if the car is 8+ cars down and it's almost time for the train to depart, don't exit the train, running down to the car, sprinting as your over stuffed backpack bounces and your bag leaves red marks on your neck, and you just pray the train doesn't leave. Rather, figure out how those doors work. Press the top of the handle to the side and calmly walk car-to-car, like the rest of the intelligent world.
You'll be less sweaty.

Like one of those ancient greek myths...

Written on my way to Rennes from Paris after a few too many grumpy people on M5.

"I hate that in the city I have to avoid eye contact with people because otherwise (or sometimes despite) they will either ask for money, take something, try to sell me something, or worse...
As a result people don't look at each other s often- or at all. If someone things we are looking at them they shoot us evil glares. After spending time in the city you have to take care that your evil glances are only shot at deserving recipients. Sometimes you aren't even looking at the person and they just scowl. Or perhaps what I would- and perhaps should say is "Yes, woman on the subway, I was looking at you. I was admiring the contours of your jacket- perfect for your body type. Most of us can't find them or wouldn't know them if they were on the rack directly in front of us". Or "No, sir, I was not looking at you. There is a subway map to your left I was counting my stops"... "Yes, ma'am, I was looking at you- and even though you couldn't tell- I was laughing inside... and you would've laughed too if you could see how silly you look- the puffy part of your brown jacket that you have wrapped around you, is right above your mouth and so it looks like you have a giant mustache. Hilarious."

Here's the deal, 2/5 of you scowl at me, 2/5 of you continue to not acknowledge that anyone exists and the other 1/5 acknowledge the world, be kind to it and possibly even hold a conversation... and I'll keep trying to fit into that last fifth.... and hope the others in the fifth aren't just "out to get me/you/us"

If I ever have a surplus of money I will buy up property in a major city and open up a park. The park will have signs at every entrance that read (in many languages)
People watching allowed- even encouraged.

And then

Schedule of Events While In Paris:

Day 1. Monday
2A Leave Residence Hall
2:30 Take Bus N11
3A Coach Departs
4A Arrive at airport. Sleep on and off and buy gross expensive juice that looked like it'd be delicious
6:15 Check in for Flight
7:45 Start conversation with man next to me about theatre in London hoping to get material for my report
8:00 Realize plane is delayed
8:30 Board flight. Fly to France. Be Overwhelmed. Find Grocery Store. Buy Pain Au Chocolate. Find Hostel
2:00 Move Into Room in Hostel
2:30 Go to Louvre
Leave Overwhelmed by the Art and the building and the general experience
Explore random streets of Paris for awhile
7:30 Eat a Croque-Poulet for Dinner, pay too much, but enjoy the deliciousness
9:00 Continue Exploring Paris... eventually enough to have to get out map to try and find Eiffel Tower. Meet Jacques. Decline Jacque's offer for a ride on his motorcycle to the Arc de Triomphe. Follow his directions. Wave as he honks as he passes you on the street. Find the Arc. Find the Tower. Call Mom. Go up in the tower. Try your best to get your 12 euros worth.
Climb down
Watch the tower light up
Explore a few more places on the map.
Take the Metra back to the hostel.
Try to organize semi-quietly
Fall asleep.

Day 2. Tuesday
Wake up at some unknown time to girls in the hostel
Leisurely eat a delicious free breakfast in the hostel: cereal, orange juice, off-brand nutella, bread... lots of bread
Lose 30 euros sometime during this day because you put it in your pocket. dumb.
Get on Metro to go to tour. Miss stop because you are having a conversation with the woman next to you about political parties, Obama and everything else... in French. Have her write things down when you're not sure what she's saying.
Go on free (well, 5E, it was by donation) 2.5 hour walking tour of Paris. Learn lots of interesting stuff and take more pictures- including some repeats of yesterday.
Go to the Musee D'Orsay. Be overwhelmed again... and slightly disappointed... too much art- not enough energy in one's self to truly appreciate it all.
Constantly avoid people trying to sell things or begging or whatever..
Eat pizza and some other deliciousness for dinner.
6:00 Consider waiting an hour to try and buy 5E rush tickets for a 7:30 french theatre show you've never read, but is probably good.. Realize you are too tired and get on the Metro.
7:00 Fall asleep at the hostel. When you need a nap, you need a nap. Paris can wait.
10:00 Wake up. Try to plan tomorrow's Paris time before leaving for Rennes. Realize you can't fit everything in and throw up hands, oh well. You saw a lot.
10:30 Write a bit. Go to the basement, try to make friends. Fail.
Realize that if you're ever going to get back to bed, you're going to need to burn some energy.
Realize it's dark outside and change your mind. Buy some wine. Write some more. Sit downstairs with all the people, but make no friends. Use your free internet minutes to check your email. Realize "SARK" commented on your blog and be super excited. Write more (on paper, your internet time is up). Go downstairs again. Drink wine. Finally stop writing and someone comes over to talk. Make friends.
1:00 A. Talking with new friends, one Canadian decides he's hungry and wants to find food. One of the Aussies agrees to go with him despite the discouragement of the group. Tag-a-long since they're fun and you finally have an opportunity to explore with people. Find a random little place down the street. Order a croque-monsieur, "impress" the guys working there by your slight ability to communicate in French... so much so the one cooking stops paying attention and burns your sandwich. Eat it anyways. It's still delicious.
On full tummy, realize you're sleepy and go to bed.

Day 3. Wednesday
7:30A Wake up way too early to girls pseudo-quietly (you know, where they think they're whispering, but it's more of a stage whisper) getting ready. Sit in bed for awhile trying to fall asleep. Get up. Eat breakfast.
9A Go to Rodin's Garden. Get there at 940 and realize you have little to no time there, but go in anyways. Realize it's probably the most peaceful place in Paris and the best Euro you will probably ever spend. Relax. Breathe deep.
10:20 Return to hostel. Pick up belongings. Rush to the train station which is much further than originally believed. Have ticket issues. Have to charge another to your credit card. Finally get on train, only to discover that there is someone already sitting in your seat. Eventually gather up the confidence to decide you're right and that is your seat. Discover that your original seat partner was her mother and she'd like to trade you seats. Say okay and rush 8 cars and 40 seats further down... and of course, do so on the outside of the train because you weren't sure how to work the handles. Sit down, exhausted and sweaty, relieved that at least the train didn't leave. Have the woman next to you offer the window seat since apparently that was the seat the girl was supposed to have. Nicely decline. All that matters is that you're on the train.
Be amused by a good mother with two kids including a wiggly daughter and a wonderfully talkative son who wants a "banane".
Double check that the Rennes stop is the Rennes stop (french is easier to understand if you can see someone's mouth moving and their facial expression).
Get a sandwich and begin walking to the "sortie" where Amy said she'd meet you.
See Amy and feel a giant burden off your shoulders. You're in Rennes and with a true friend.

Paris: All By Myself

Traveling Alone...

  • You don't have anyone at the airport to watch your bags if you have to pee
  • If you neglect to plan you have no one to encourage you to plan
  • If you did want to drink, there's no one to do so safely with. This may limit (or completely take away) your exposure to the city's night life
  • If your phone is your alarm and you don't have an England/Main Europe converter you run the risk of oversleeping if your phone dies
  • You have no one to bounce excitement or frustrations off of
  • You can decide where you want to go and when
  • You are the only one discouraged by your lack of planning
  • You don't have to accommodate anyone else's drinking, eating, sleeping or bathroom needs
  • You can get lost and no one else stresses
  • People are more likely to talk to you (I did have three conversations with Parisians)
  • If you are in a foreign country and you speak "un peu" of their language, you will get more into the speaking mode and I can't guarentee it, but I think I got more out of the experience
  • No one, as long as you smell okay, will notice how many times you've worn an outfit

Note: I did have some times when I really wished someone was with me, but I think going to Paris (and going before Rennes) by myself was a really good choice. And when I wanted someone to share the Eiffel Tower with me, I just ignored the reality of how much the phone call cost and called my parents. I had been quietly excited all day, but my Mom, thrilled by my phone call, once she realized it was me, vocalized the wonderfullness of my trip. Thank God for Moms.

Misc. Conclusions while in Paris on a Tuesday Night

  • Everyone in the world is the same
  • Wine really is better in Paris. The stuff is often about the same price, or cheaper than water. If I was spending real time here, I'd probably become a wine-o
  • Laid back American girls can be terribly difficult to find. The reputation American girls have for beings stupid around accents is totally justified. This conclusion was brought on by the girls in the hostel basement the second night. The girl closest to being laidback was engaged. It probably had something to do with it.

France: On My Way

There is so much to tell you about my trip to France. I wrote bits of things down as I went so I will post those and intermix them with other thoughts of mine from the trip which I remember, have now or make up.

I didn't have midterm exams (just test) so I left for France on Monday and returned on Sunday. I finished my midterm Sunday night and gave it to my good friend Bristol to turn in for me. My flight was supposed to depart at 8:15A on Monday morning, meaning I needed to be there at 6:15A. If buses went at the right time I would have left around 5 or 4:30 to be safe. Buses and coaches, especially around 4A never leave when I want them to... and if one leaves not too, too early, it will be full so I will have to take the earlier bus.
It's in quotes because I wrote it then

"Day 1- "Monday" 0200
I go out to the bus station and I am convinced I forgot my phone. I return to the bus station, my phone was just in a different pocket. I wait for about 20 minutes because London's transport system website isn't always correct. While waiting I read 2 pages of "Empty Space" and realize I am too tired to read.
Two older gentlemen nod to me and wish me a good morning. It's 0220 now. I say thank you and return the greeting... wondering what time zone they are in. They ask me if I live here, I say yes. They ask "why are there so many women shops.... two for over hundreds of shops for women..." The conversation continues to the need for sugar daddies. They leisurely stroll down the sidewalk. I'm not sure what world these two men lived in, but I have a theory it isn't too far from "The Big Rock Candy Mountains"

Monday 0255
So I get off the N11 Bus at the Victoria Coach Station stop and begin to follow the two boys in front of me who have suitcases, only to realize they are disagreeing on whether to go straight or to continue following the man in front of them. I cross the walkway and realize this part of the stations has a large gate over it. I turn around and hear, "Sara! Sara!". On N11 I met an Italian, Stefano (think Tempest) and an Irishman named Tim. I had been sitting quietly, playing a bit of the I-dont'speak-English game when Stefano ask me something. I'm not sure, but I don't think it was english so I must have been playing the game well. I was reluctant to talk because the three guys in the back either had fags or opened alcohol. Neither of these things are allowed on the bus and usually signal trouble. All the same I ended up talking just a bit, but the ride was short. So as it turned out, they had gotten off the bus to smoke and they attempted to show me where to go, but they didn't knwo exactly where I was supposed to be either. After asking two workers I departed from Tim, and Irishmen who identified with the english and Stefano, the friendliest guy from Naples. I found my bus with about five minutes to spare and that's where I am now.
Oh-- and Tim offerred me this amazing Strawberry Shortcake umbrella he found on the bus, but I declined it since I didn't want to more luggage. I should've taken him up on it. It'll probably rain in Paris now-- the whole time.
Note: There are only about 8 other people on the coach to the airport with me and they are all by themselves. I find this strange, but oddly nice.

Monday 0640
I fell asleep pretty quickly on the bus and awoke once to find I had no feeling in my leg. This has become fairly common lately and I am wondering the cause.... It's obnoxious and ocassionally painful to wake up to tingling. Sometimes I don't realize until I go to get out of bed and I either can't move the leg because it's heavy or I roll out of bed and fall over when I try to stand"

I ended up sleeping on and off while in the airport, but I was very nervous that somehow, beneath all my layers, my passport would get stolen so I didn't sleep very deeply. My plane was delayed, but luckily only about 20 minutes, much less than what they thought it would be. I slept on the plane and when I arrive in the Charles De Gaul Paris Aeroport I was amazed. Here I am, in France. It was a bit overwhelming, but the good kind. I had a lot of emotions in my insides and felt stingy behind my eyes like I might cry. I didn't though. I didn't do anything. I just kept walking... I bought a little magazine recommended by my mom's guidebook, which I never used. However, it was a good first experience because I had difficulty finding it and the transaction was all in French- just a reminder of where I was.

My hostel gave great directions and I followed all the right signs. My hostel was a bit out of the city, but it was still very nice. After getting off my metro station I found a grocery store and bought a bag of pain au chocolate. They were delicious and a true foreshadowing of the rest of my trip.

(Taken directly outside my hostel on Day 1)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Smell of the Ocean

I don't want to wash my jeans because they smell like the air by the Sea.

After spending 6 days switching between chaos and peacefulness, I must return to the world of academics. But I don't want to break from my computer with both of the last two entries being about food. Rather, I will tell you one of the many things I realized from my 6-day adventure.

I miss the earth.

I enjoy the city. I know I will probably spend more and more time in cities, especially given that is where the majority of theatre work is. However, for the past couple of years I have felt further from God. It's not a constant distance, but there is a struggle.
On Friday Amy took me to a sea-side town and we sat by the ocean and looked at shells and stones and beach glass. During my time in Rennes we talked about little things and big things and sacred things.... and after leaving St. Malo, I realized what I had said on the beach was true: I could've sat there all day admiring the shells... That day- and the next.

I need to simplify.
I also need to do more.
It's a paradox. I'm a hypocrite. I am confused.

I am going to try and keep this need for the Earth in mind when I am deciding what to do after London. Perhaps my whole summer won't be able to revolve around this particular need, but at least part of it will for sure.

I wish you the best and I hope you are able to find the calmness I felt on that shore during some point of your day, every day.


In Rennes I ate some of the best food ever. Whoever said French know how to do food right... was correct. In Paris the food was super expensive, so I ate a lot of pastries. Amy's host parents had a girl live with them once who tried a different cake every day and gained about 20 pounds in a semester. Last night I met a girl in my hostel, studying in Madrid who gained 20 pounds eating in Paris. France has the best chocolate I have ever tasted. I am living in London. I am not going to gain 20 pounds without the excuse of the best chocolate ever. Today I decided to eat right... well post-breakfast... Altogether I had:

2 apples
2 chocolate/bread twist-things
An egg and bacon sandwich
A chicken ceasar sandwich
The rest of the French chocolate :)
2 cookies
2 pieces of chicken

All of the chocolate things were in France, hahaha.

More exciting bits on France soon... possibly in the next few minutes :)