Forgotten Bits

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Edinburgh Castle at sunset, so pretty!

So, apparently there was an earthquake here last night. The funny thing was I woke up in the middle of the night and was just sure there was an earthquake, but I’m also a little sick, had a headache and convinced myself it was just a dream and went back to sleep. But then I got up this morning and the homepage on the internet said there a 5.2 earthquake felt widely across parts of England and Wales. Ha! I didn’t completely make it up in my sleep!! Random!

Thought I’d write something again, because I was in a bit of a hurry last time and realized I’d forgotten some events, not to mention some words in sentences, sorry for the poor writing!

Dinner with Liz was great, and I realized she’s just one of many people I’ve seen from home since I’ve been here. Like I mentioned before, sometimes I sit there and forget where I am. I walk out of the coffee shop or restaurant and, oh yeah, I’m still in London!! But it makes me think that perhaps home isn’t about WHERE you are, but about WHO you’re with.

Forgot to mention that I have done some running around London in between classes and trips elsewhere. One of my favorite stops so far was Windsor Castle. SO cool! My mouth dropped every time I went into a new room (especially the Great Hall!! what a place for a party!) and some form of exclamation came out of my mouth. Unbelievable… I wouldn’t mind a room there. Also walked over to Eton College the ‘public’ (which means private here) school where many famous Englishmen have gone, not to mention my personal favorite, Bridget Jones’s Mr. Darcy. 🙂 When asked about Colin Firth in any role, but especially as Mr. Darcy, my host mom, Jan, says (insert British accent here) ‘Ohhh, isn’t he LOVELY? We wouldn’t mind him knocking on the door would we?’ Ha… oh I love it!

Also managed to find my way to Covent Garden the other weekend. Big market there, tons of street performers, loads of people wandering around. Unfortunately, things cost money there… darn, but my friends and I did splurge and get a Belgain waffle that was glazed with some sort of intense sugar and covered in chocolate sauce. It was incredible and three bites from the end I thought I might cry, 1-because it was almost gone and 2- all the sugar just sat there in my stomach and it hurt, but I wanted the rest so badly!

Made it to another show last night. I keep getting free tickets from school. Though I enjoy going to plays and the theater at home, I don’t make a huge point of going. So, I’m totally taking advantage of it now! I saw “The Vertical Hour” last night, a contemporary play that discussed political issues such as the Iraq war but also examined personal philosophies and interpersonal relationships and their affect on our view of the world, etc. It was interesting and definitely worthwhile. Last week I made the trek out to Greenwich (on the complete opposite side of London from where I live) to see “The Merchant of Venice” in the upstairs of a pub. Shakespeare in a pub, great! It actually wasn’t a very compelling production, but that puts the amount of shows I’ve been to at 5, with “Much Ado About Nothing” on for next week.

So, I’m feeling a little more caught up now. Those are most of the things I managed to forget the other day. I’ve caught a little cold and don’t have class today, so I’m using it as my recovery day before heading off to Prague on Friday and running around for the next several weeks. Also, much like a normal semester at school, all my papers are due in the same week, so taking a few steps now to make that week less painful is a good idea! Next week I have another visitor to London, Lucas from school is coming to visit from Florence with another classmate. I’m so excited to see him and run around London showing him a few things. Also booked my ticket for spring break in Italy, first Rome for Easter (ha, that’s going to be ridiculous), then on to Florence and some surrounding areas. Hard to believe I’ve been gone a month already, I knew it would go fast!! Much love to everyone!

More from Abroad

Perhaps you’ve heard people say “TMI” when someone shares “Too Much Information,” but the other day while on the train, my friend tried to say “TMI” and ended up saying “TMA,” which I immediately said stood for “Too Much American.” Because, let’s be honest, we were loud and obnoxious on the train. So… as I’ve now been out of the U.S. a month, I’ve found a somewhat subtle way to refer to instances when my friends and I sound utterly annoying and, well,… American.

This weekend was a bit of a “TMA” experience when I, along with my thirty classmates, headed up to Edinburgh, Scotland. Traveling with a large group of Americans made me appreciate my time in France by myself where I could do what I pleased, when I pleased and didn’t have to display my ignorant American-ness so obviously (only when people spoke to me in French, and then there was a problem!) I’ve been to Edinburgh before and loved it, but this time on an “educational” trip it was a bit different than my past experiences. We managed to pack a lot into the 2 days we were there with class (here we go, laundry list time): Edinburgh Castle, Royal Mile, St. Giles, Holyrood House, Scottish Parliament, Scottish National Musuem, Scottish National Gallery…) Of course, there was the classic drama the accompanied the trip now that our school group has been together for three weeks. I could have done without that, but was happy to leave them on Saturday afternoon when I could go and see some friends who are in Edinburgh. I bought a train ticket back to London on Sunday so I could visit. For those who may know them, I managed to see Nicola Stephen, Katie Shaiman, Stephen, Katherine Staples, Meg and Calum. It was fun to run around (using the train station as a meeting point for all my socializing, of course) Edinburgh with some old friends and catch up. At one point I felt like I could have been sitting at U-Village Starbucks just chatting it up on any old weekend. It’s nice to find little bits of home while abroad. And just for the record, I’ve only been to Starbucks twice since I have been away from home, and the second time was only because Calum and Meg suggested it as a convenient location!!

Discussing with some other Americans the differences we’ve encountered here was of course helpful. It may seem as though there aren’t any, but it’s when you live here and spend time living a daily routine that I think you begin to encounter subtle differences. For instance, Katie Shaiman (and I was so glad to hear her say this) said there is a certain amount of “translating” that she has to do while in school. Yes, people speak English in the UK, but… for instance, Jan (my host mom, or should I say “mum”?) kept talking about how she had a “rou” (I don’t even know to how spell it! pronounced like “ow” with an r in front) with some people at work. A rou?? Ohh… it’s like a fight, or disagreement. But she kept saying it, and while I was trying to figure out what it was, she kept talking, so I kept trying to listen and then had to have the awkward pause when she was done in order for there to be time for me to comprehend all she had said. So, no, it’s not a foreign language, but sometimes I wonder.

So the trip was successful, I managed to make it back on my own last night to London. Only two girls from our group missed the train in Scotland for the trip back to London with school… unbelievable!! (Those are the situations I’m happy enough not have to have to deal with.)  🙂 It did occur to me though, why isn’t train travel bigger in the U.S? It just makes so much sense! And if there were a better/more popular system it would be a nice alternative to getting back and forth from Seattle to Spokane every once in a while (though I do love Southwest!) I enjoyed being able to look out the window though, and when we came along the coast, it was beautiful!! COLD and WINDY, but beautiful. I didn’t realize how much I had missed seeing open spaces these last couple weeks in London, but a breath of fresh sea air was great! So, I didn’t get much work done on the ride up to Scotland because I was too busy soaking in all that was around me. While others pulled out their books and let their mouths hang open while sleeping, I was wide-eyed at the window and appreciating that it was a “typical” Thursday and I was headed to Scotland and somehow getting college credit for it!

So, Scotland was great. I was very happy to visit it once again, the magic never seems to fade! Otherwise I’ve been convincing myself that schoolwork is somewhat of a necessity when in school, so last week was pretty standard.

Two other quick reflections about my time here before I have to go and meet Liz Brown for dinner (she’s studying in Rome and is in London at the moment for her spring break – I’m very spoiled with all the people I’m able to see!). The first thought is that as soon as people find that I’m American they think I must have some deep political insight into the current election. They ALWAYS ask about Hillary and Obama, who I would rather have, is the U.S. ready for a black or woman president, what happens if they end up running against each other?! And so it goes… I tell them what little I can (like how Hillary and Obama can’t possibly be the two final candidates since they’re in the same party) and usually end up explaining the electoral college, but, honestly, I feel about the same here as I would at home… I care, but not that much. So I’ve talked more American politics since I’ve been here than I ever would have at home.

And lastly, upon my departure people told me over and over again that I should do things I wouldn’t normally do and try a ton of new things. So, just for the record, I have. Some of that includes trying a few of the British beers, getting a free a ticket to a play every chance I have and also going to Tesco (British Safeway) on the way to the tube station and grabbing a chocolate crossiant because sometimes that’s just what you need to make it home on the tube during rush hour without losing your mind. There are, of course, other things… I don’t consider my biggest adventure here going to the pastry aisle of the grocery store (though that is something I rarely do at home), but I can’t give away all the stories… there are more to come!

Prague this weekend with the girls from school – that will be an adventure for sure!! Must be off to meet Liz. There are a few more pictures posted on flickr that you can check out. Love and miss you all, thanks for all the emails, so good to hear from all of you!! Until next time…

“Londony” Things

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Well, I haven’t skied any 12-mile-long glaciers this week—or even seen any snow—but life is still full of adventure, just having to do more with big city life rather than the outdoors like my time in France. I’ve been in London a week and a half now and have been keeping busy with all that the city has to offer, and then I was reminded this week that I will also have schoolwork to do! A laundry list of things I’ve seen so far: Hampstead Heath (a giant park, reminded me of Discovery Park a little), been to three shows already (more on that in a minute), hit up Portobello Road Market, Hyde Park, Harrod’s (WOW!), church at St. Paul’s, the Tate Modern Museum and, of course, some of the good ol’ British pubs, essential to the London experience.

I’ve pretty much gotten the tube routes and ride under control, but of course there are the unexpected delays that test my knowledge of the alternate connections to make (we barely made it to the theater on time tonight) and to see how little personal space it is possible to have. One thing I think I forgot to mention in Chamonix was how they just pack people in the trams to the top of the mountain. Basically, don’t come to Europe if you’re claustrophobic. So, of course I’ve had to come up with an analogy to relate the two experiences: Riding on the tube at rush hour is a lot like skiing. I know what you’re thinking… “Liz, you’re crazy.” Yes… but hear me out, it’ll make sense. It’s all about shifting your weight at the right times, and poles, though not essential, really make it a lot easier to maintain balance and have a successful run. See what I mean? The escalators up from the underground lines also require confident, fluid movement, much like a chairlift demands… ok that’s a little bit of a stretch, but I thought I’d go for it anyway 🙂

Anyway, the Tate Modern was interesting, some stuff weird, some really interesting, sometimes it was hard to know the difference. St. Paul’s = amazing. I’d been to church there once before and it was just as incredible as the first time. Stunning is an understatement of how beautiful it is, and when those little choir boys are singing and you’re looking up at the dome it’s powerful. If I ever live in London (besides right now) and if I ever have a little boy while I’m living in London, my son will be a choir boy at St. Paul’s and wear the ridiculously cute robe and collar. You may think I’m cruel, but I just think I’d have a good excuse to listen to every performance they ever had. Harrod’s was perhaps the most incredible/ridiculous store I’ve ever been in. The best part was looking at the prices and laughing, because if you don’t just laugh at how absurd they are then you have to actually think about how outrageous it is that someone would pay that much for a pair of shoes, or dress… or whatever the brand name item is. Especially with the horrible exchange rate the thought of buying something there was highly entertaining. The food halls were amazing—who knew a department store would have a fancy grocery store in it? Perhaps the most intriguing part of Harrod’s was when, after walking through the department of purses that cost somewhere around 500-2500 pounds, I found a small stand of tote bags in the corner pushed out the way, with a little sign explaining how the profits went to some AIDS fund in Africa. I hope I need not explain the sad irony of that situation…

I’ve managed to get free tickets to two shows that classes at school (which I’m not taking) were going to see and had extras of. The first was last week, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” I knew virtually nothing about G & S but went anyway and was entertained. My school is offering a whole course on their different operas, but I was happy enough to see one and be entertained for a few hours without studying the music in depth. Last night I managed to get a ticket for “The Homecoming,” which is one of London’s hottest shows right now. I was totally engaged the whole time, but left perplexed. I understood it right up until the point when the main character’s brothers start making out with his wife in front of him and he just watches without interfering. Huh. If anyone knows anything about that play, I’d be happy to entertain comments/thoughts on it. My friend and I tried to debrief after it, but both of us were… confused, and she’s a theater major, too! Tonight I went to the greatest Shakespeare show I’ve ever seen: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in an abandoned office building that’s in the process of being remodeled. Truly amazing performance, the play began while we were all standing around and the actors just acted around us until they led us into the “forest” where we were seated. It was somewhat interactive, one of the fairies touched my butt when she walked past me… awkward. The show was incredibly sexual and I wondered what drugs all the actors had taken prior to the performance, but they pulled it off and it was really well done. Many more shows to come, “The Merchant of Venice” next week and who knows what else.

Otherwise I’ve just been getting in the flow of being in school again (wow I forgot how much reading an English major has to do!), but I really only sit in class on Mondays and Tuesdays and then have “excursions” for classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays, with every Friday off. Not too shabby! Host fam is still great, I’ve gotten Jan addicted to LOST. Well, she’s missed the first three seasons, but she makes a point to sit and watch it with me on Sundays, ha! This Friday some friends and I are headed to Windsor, with other “Londony” things this weekend. Next weekend a trip to Edinburgh with school, and I’m staying an extra day to see some friends there. Then my friends and I have managed to book a couple trips, one to Prague, another to Dublin in the next month or so, hoping to get Paris with Devan and spring break book soon as well. I’m getting the hang of London, but there will be more European travel adventures very soon! Obviously there will be pictures and updates along the way!

A couple of notable quotes from the semester so far:

Discussing with my friend Rachel and her roommate, Lauren, about their host “mom,” who is a single woman living in London, but seems to have lots of social engagements. Note: Probably only funny to those who like Bridget Jones.

Me: “Huh, she sounds like Bridget Jones.”
Rachel: “Eh… not really.”
Lauren: “Yeah, she does… if Bridget Jones had exchange students!”

Discussing how huge and busy London is Rachel says, “London is like New York on crack!”

My British Novel professor: “I worship at the shrine of Jane Austen.” ha, YES!!

Thanks to all who are reading and keeping in contact, very much appreciated! Hope all are well!

Pictures Finally!

Ok I got the adapter and my laptop is working. I think there is a much easier way to upload photos, but for now I’m ignorant as to how to do that, so if you want to check out a few pictures of Chamonix you can go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/lizpurdy and hopefully it will work! More to come soon, but now my battery is dying!

With the help of Ferg I’ve gotten some pictures on the actual blog. Here are just a few to get a taste. I’ll be able to put more up on Flickr on Monday. Enjoy!

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London Life

Day two completed with only occasional trips down the wrong streets and a few moments of confusion. Not too bad so far in London, which, may I say, is a HUGE city! Thanks to the diagram of the tube, which I’m sure most everyone has seen before, it’s really pretty easy to get around on the underground. I even made two transfers on the way to school today and the trip was flawless. The surface streets are what confuse the heck out of me, but I managed to make it to school yestreday (and today on a different, faster route) which is basically an old house that has been converted into classrooms for our use. I met the others in the program, about 7 of us from Gonzaga and then others from PLU, UPS, Willamette and U of Portland. The GU girls and I are bonding well and getting to know some of the others. With everyone somewhat confused we’re all relying on each other for help and consequently getting to know each other quickly.

We got an overview of the program yesterday, lots of new information being thrown at us. It sounds like they’ll keep us busy and entertained for sure! Today we took a boat down the Thames to The Tower of London where we toured around for a bit. I saw a heck of a lot of old armor and artillery and even the Crown Jewels. It was good to make it to The Tower since on my last trip to London that’s where we were headed when the bombs went off on the underground (July 7, 2005), so of course we didn’t make it there. Tomorrow is the British Musuem, but don’t worry there are some academics involved and we have normal classes starting on Thursday.

We got a quick overview of our courses this morning. I think I will love my British novel class, be intimidated by my Shakespeare professor (which usually pays off in the end), enjoy British history and of course I’ll love my ‘Britain Today’ class which is ‘excursion based’ In fact we’re headed to Edinburgh for a group trip in a couple weeks!

After orientation yesterday I managed to find my way to Devan, Craig, and Pete Chalmers in Russell Square. It was great to see Craig and Pete, though it was brief, and I was grateful to retrieve my much needed luggage from Devan. Hard to believe, but my ski clothes from France just didn’t fit in too well in London.

I can see a pattern of life here beginning to emerge and think after a few more days I’ll feel pretty settled. Not necessarily ‘at home,’ but settled, and that’s pretty good for the first week, I think.

Really sorry pictures still aren’t up, I have the wrong adapter for my computer so a few more days… but I promise the pictures of the Alps will be worth the wait! I’ve actually been given some reading assignments so I guess I’m officially back in school. I better get started!

Goodbye Chamonix, Quick Stop in Geneva, Arrival in UK #2

Hello!

I’ll start backwards and tell you I’ve just arrived at my host family’s house outside London this morning. Ken and Jan Keen are my host parents and they’re wonderful!! I walked out of the arrivals area and Ken was standing there with my name on a sign and a smile of his face. They’re so friendly and already I’m feeling quite at home. It’s been a relaxed Sunday (which I really appreciate) to get settled and rested before orientation starts in the morning at 10am. I live in a place in northwest London called Ruislip (pronounced Rise-lip, unlike Ru-slip which is how I said it before I arrived). It’ll be a long tube ride into school everyday, but it’s a nice quiet area here (reminds me a bit of Queen Anne so far, though I still have some exploring to do!), and I think it will be a great place to call home for a few months. This last week has flown by, though at times I was skeptical, and already it’s February and I’m imaging how fast this semester will go. Trying to remember how things are today, because come May it’ll seem like this was just a week ago when I arrived here.

I’ve taken a nap and gotten settled in a bit. I sat around and talked with Ken and Jan, heard about all their travels, they’re so fun, laughing and telling stories. They call me ‘love’ and ‘lovey’ all the time which I think is so incredibly British and cute, haha. Their son, Matthew, is coming for dinner tonight and then Jan and I have big plans to watch the LOST premiere tonight. (The UK finally caught up on episodes, so I can keep up while I’m here. It’s the only show I ever watch, so I’m allowed this one!!). Jan hasn’t watched it before, but I have high hopes of getting her addicted so it can be a weekly event 🙂

Anyway, I left Chamonix without much trouble on Friday. Had a really fun dinner with the 3 Aussies on Wednesday night and got in one last day of skiing at the Brevent/Flegere ski area on Thursday. On the way up the gondola met three Scottish guys from Aberdeen. They were impressed I knew the area and had friends in Banchory, so we talked the whole way up and then they invited me to ski with them for the day. They were all snowboarders and I asked if they were really good and would I slow them down. Looking back that was an incredibly stupid question… they’re from SCOTLAND, where the highlands are, not where the mountains are!! So I was quite a bit better than they, but since the snow wasn’t that great, I wasn’t missing any incredible skiing by staying with them. They were super friendly and made my last day of skiing really enjoyable.

Got into Geneva on Friday afternoon and was met at the train station by Emma, the daughter in the family who used to live on Queen Anne but who has moved just outside Geneva for Kim’s, Emma’s mom, work. A big thank you to Kim, Dan and Emma for allowing me to stay with them for a couple of nights. They live just outside Geneva across the border in France, but we talked Queen Anne and Seattle and about colleges for Emma. It was really nice to be with a great family and I felt very welcomed. So far, since I’ve been away, I’ve been incredibly blessed to always have been surrounded by a lot of really caring and welcoming people.

Yesterday afternoon I met up with Lisbee, who is studying in Geneva this semester. We walked a good portion of the city and saw basically all there was to see. Rick Steves has dubbed Geneva the most boring city and when I came in on the bus it seemed like there was a lot going on, so I was skeptical of its lack of entertainment. But after walking around for the day, I confirmed that in fact Rick does know what he’s talking about. We walked around the old town, saw a church John Calvin was at, saw a bizillion banks and watches and that was about it! We didn’t make it to the Red Cross museum, which I’ve heard is good, but I still feel content with the visit. Geneva gives the impression of being a big city because it’s incredibly diverse. With the UN there (we drove by a couple times, so I’ve seen it) something like 40% of the people in the city aren’t citizens of Switzerland (that’s what I was told, could be a bit different number, but you get the idea). It was fun to see Lisbee and hear about her program. I’m looking forward to a few more visits in the next few months with other friends who are also studying in Europe!

On to school tomorrow, I suppose that’s the whole reason I’m really here. Orientation and meeting all the other students starts in the morning. Should be great. Believe it or not, I think I’m ready for school again. Sorry I don’t have pictures up yet of Chamonix! I’ll get my computer and luggage from Devan tomorrow and get pictures up as soon after that as possible! Thanks to everyone I have heard from, hope everyone is well!