Sunday, October 31, 2010
On the last evening of No Jeans October, I have to say we rocked it pretty hard! The hardest weeks for me were the first and last. During our preparatory phase I really had no idea how to focus on the challenge. I bought a couple pairs of leggings and some long shirts (the basic London uniform) but was really unsure about how to branch out from there. Were I to do the shopping trip again I would get a couple pairs of non-jean pants to round out the wardrobe. Because I had such a limited supply of leg coverings I felt as if I was wearing the same thing over and over for a while. Adding a simple pair of black pants made a huge difference. The first week frustrations also revolved around getting more comfortable with my body and with having it on public display. One can just hide soooo much with jeans! Now, I have to say, I feel much more confident in much more form-fitting outfits and am more confident in my ability to successfully branch out into new fashion territory (I'll probably never get as out there and funky as I would like to think I could but it's all about baby steps, right?) The only real struggle the last week was in the lack of variety again. I am really glad I did the challenge. I now see myself as more fashionably flexible and less jean-centric. Jeans will definitely no longer be part of my outfit every day (skirts and leggings are far too comfortable for that!!!)
Saturday, October 30, 2010
When I was wandering around Rome last week (I know I should be literary and say roaming around Rome but that's too predictable), I came across the book Tony Cragg: Nothing But Material. The main reason it caught my eye was that it was the only English title in a sea of Italian. He's a native of Liverpool so I was accidentally getting some British culture while abroad. Being an especially tactile person (I have an egg of silly putty in my bag all the time these days) I appreciate the concept of sculpture that begs to be touched. At the back of the book was an interview with the artist. Here's a part I thought was interesting:
Q: Do you believe that the material also has a spiritual dimension?
A: In a certain sense. Although man tends to consider it only in its utilitarian dimension. Utilitarianism is the greatest censor of our reality because only useful things survive. Only science and art can test new materials without submitting to the tyranny of function and consider them what they are, aside from their possible functions. (Italics added by me. I liked the way he put that and the notion of experimenting with material strictly for the purpose of experimentation, not to try and discover a possible use. The underlining also added by me, I liked the phrase a lot. To me it emphasized the fact that every artist faces a potential trap when they begin with a material because it is already associated with a certain function; potentially with a preconceived form. Tyranny just felt like a great way to emphasize that. Hey, I like words and get excited about small things such as this. I warned you from the beginning!)
In another section he says: "I consider the material to be an extension of ourselves, something surrounding us and taking form through the function given it by man: furniture, clothes, cars."
Check out some of these pics and tell me if you would be able to resist the urge to touch the sculptures. I certainly wouldn't be able to. (Click on the pics for bigger images)
(As a weird and interesting side-note, likely of little interest to you but quite exciting to me...he moved to Wuppertal, Germany at one point, a place I wouldn't know except that it was used in the filming of the Princess and the Warrior - a German film I love. The train they ride in it is an overground but one that hangs from a beam rather than rides on rails and I was so fascinated by it in the movie. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where that train was. That was years ago! I was really happy to see Wuppertal in this artist's biography. Now I have a renewed interset in visiting that city as his sculptures are all over the place there!)
Monday, October 25, 2010
And back streets I did take (thanks Smashmouth). I am full of tales to tell from my week and a half in Spain and Italy. I think you may have a lot of posts to wade through between now and Wednesday (tomorrow probably not so much as I am busy from 6am to 10pm. yeah, it'll be a long one). The biggest problem I have is trying to figure out how to get everything organized. I kept my cupcake book with me at all times and wrote down pretty much anything that seemed remotely interesting or that I wanted to look into when I returned. Needless to say there are quite a few pages. Ok ok, the pages are only about 10 square inches but still.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Please be advised that the lack of posts is not due to me neglecting my commitment but due to lack of internet access. I took my final final on Wednesday and from there went straight to Gatwick airport to catch my flight to Barcelona. Yesterday my parents and I wandered around the city-a HUGE city, might I add. We were here in 2001 but only for an afternoon/evening. That short span of time was full of excitement though. As it was December we came upon dozens of Christmas markets selling every style of nativity set you can imagine and witnessed the strange tradition of kids hitting a log with a stick. That fateful night was also the one during which my mom's purse was stolen at an internet cafe. Don't worry though, I stole it back from the perpetrator before he knew what had happened. One of my prouder moments.
As promised, here are the posts I haven't been able to get online until now:
~We Specialized in Pencils~
My parents arrived in London on Monday. Being fed up with studies, I decided to meet them at the airport. The ride isn't exactly riveting but it was nice to turn my brain off for a bit and just kick back doing absolutely nothing. Once they arrived we dropped their bags off at a friend's house (thanks L!) and caught the train up north to Highgate Cemetery (link). The two sides -east and west- are separated by a narrow, steep road. On the west is the more overgrown, dark, gothic-foresty area which boasts a lot of creative headstones as well as some famous people; Karl Marx likely being the most well-known. Wandering around is not allowed on the west side, visitors must go on guided tours (I guess it might be to prevent tourists from stealing bits of things? Who knows). The east side, however, is open to meander through. We spent an hour or so enjoying a stroll through the forest. The cemetery is absolutely massive! Many of the graves were really not that old (I expected some ancient relics for some reason) but the vines had overgrown the majority of the markers which gave it a warm, earthy feel. Recently I have grown to enjoy cemeteries a lot. They used to really freak me out when I was young. The thought of treading the ground over someone's body seemed incredibly disrespectful and, well, just plain rude. I don't know what changed my feelings about it but I find them really peaceful now. That doesn't change the fact that I refuse (as much as any dead person can) to ever be buried in one. I don't want my remains to be stuck in one place. I want them to be scattered to the earth and seas so they are in thousands of places at once. I want my ashes to become part of growing plants and animals. I want to be in the flowers in the mountains and in an octopus in the sea. Being at this cemetery though I can see why some people would want their bodies there for eternity. It really is gorgeous.
During one of our train rides my dad and I were discussing pickpockets. We both admitted that we really wish we could be a good pickpocket. It seems not only cool but also pretty handy. A recession-proof skill. Apparently my dad went one step farther than I in his career. He and a friend actually attempted to become pickers of pockets during his school days. They “specialized in pencils” as he put it. Each week they would take as many pencils from people's pockets as possible and the person with the most at the end of the week was the winner. He didn't say what the reward would be, other than a huge pile of pencils, but he did say they were quite successful. That is, they were until his friend stole from the school bully and things got a little more dangerous.
Not much to write about as I studied most of the day. We did have a good drink though that is worth mentioning. Mom and Dad met me at school in the evening to get a tour and we ended up having dinner there in the bar downstairs. Yes, all you Utahns and state-school kids, I said bar. At school. Things are different in wonderful ways here in London! Dad ordered a Bad Habit shot which, though he didn't share, looked delicious. So whip out your double shot glass and give this a go. First pour in a shot of Peach Schnapps (if you know me AT ALL you know that I firmly believe this to be the best way to start any drink). Next, take a spoon and flip so the curve side is up and slowly pour a shot of vodka over that. The aim being to allow it to float on top of the schnapps. Ok. So now you have two shots of clear stuff and, while you can see a line where the two meet, it isn't very sexy. For the final touch put a tiny bit of a berry juice in the spoon -curved side down this time, of course (our bartender used black currant but that's a lot more prevalent here than at home so use whatever berry juice you can come up with). Really lightly, barely touch the spoon to the side of the glass above the vodka so that the juice makes contact and seeps down between the layers. The result is a beautiful shot; clear all the way through with a magical hint of color in the middle. Well, what are you doing still reading? Off to the liquor closet with you!
The sun can never be far from the nearest palm tree and Barcelona is full of them. It is also full of tall, dark, handsome Spanish men so that's an extra bonus. I decided I am going to contribute to the hot guys reading books blog so I am always on the prowl for a suitable subject. While we were on our tour bus yesterday I also resolved to create a Hot Guys Riding Bikes blog. Dad and I began discussing the possibilities of new sites and came up with: “Trashy Chicks Throwing Up” and “Get a Room” (dedicated to pictures of unabashed and socially inappropriate PDA; inspired by a couple in the park that were going at it so fiercely we were worried someone might get hurt).
Also of note is my habit of now looking right when I cross streets instead of left. I did not anticipate getting programmed so quickly for the backwards-driving ways of the Brits but I have almost stepped in front of several cars here in Spain and am trying to rewire my mind again. Oh! And I saw a t-shirt I really liked. The essence of it is this: the usual evolution tee with various stages of man's existence. First, the chimp, predictably. Second, a man standing upright. Third, a man bent over with the weight of carrying a cross. Fourth, a man standing upright with the Pi symbol above his head. I'm not sure how to google that to find a picture but I will give it a shot.
Funny line of the day: Mom offered Dad a bite of her sandwich and when he took it from her he asked,”Can I pick my zone?” I laughed so hard! I mean everyone does that when they are offered a taste of someone else's food, right? If someone hands me Ben & Jerry's I always scout out the chunkiest bite or if it's, say, a pizza I look for the most satisfying section. It just made me laugh that Dad actually put words to it.
Things Barcelona does better than London: Sun. Sangria. Spanish. Strollers. Nachos!!!
No L s
As I type, I am sitting on a train to our next destination. I can't get inspired to read a book or even take a nap. What I want to do is run around. My body was dedicated to studying for so many days that it is craving a good hearty burst of exercise. I want to hike a mountain, or ride a bike for hours, or go swimming, or run. Not even yoga sounds enticing. I want something that exhausts my entire body so much that I can't move my arms for the next two days. Perhaps if the doors didn't prevent me from doing so, I might exercise up and down the cabin. That may seem odd to the other passengers but at this point I am not sure that I care.
Things I Miss from Utah (besides all my lovely friends :)
Decaf Chai Tea from the Tea Grotto
Nachos from D'Edge
Brewvies with Kristen
Briewvies with Kristen & Alex
Parties at the condo
The way it smells when it rains in Utah
Walks at Liberty Park
Andrea, the girl who cuts my hair
Being excited when it rains because it has been soooo long
24-hour Smith's right across the street
Tank top weather
Ruth's Diner Biscuits
Saturday, October 9, 2010
I must confess I like to be purposefully vague and cryptic in my blog posts and facebook updates. As it turns out that leaves a lot of room for questions and interpretation (kind of the point I suppose). Here's clarification about this post as it has been questioned...I spent far too much time this day looking at far too many blogs and time-suck websites. These are the things I liked best :)
|Let us dissect: On a train in a remote place: check. Reading in a language foreign to mine: check. Perfect dark hair, dark stubble, and dark-framed glasses: check, check, and check.|
|Yeah, this puppy loves him hard and there's just no way a puppy would love a person who isn't awesome. Plus again, the hot and the reading just make this fantastic.|
You know when you LOVE a song? As in REALLY LOVE a song? You play it over and over and over and over and over hoping to absorb every last drop, every note, every fluctuation? This is my new one of those songs...Who Says by John Mayer (I never promised it would be a respectable song, musically, or lyrically, or even this-guy-has-got-to-be-the-biggest-asshole-ely speaking but I love it). Also, you may get in a bad habit of watching the video over and over and over because he is BEEEEautiful! (see minute 2:45 in the video as proof of this statement. As I explained to a friend, you will want to rip off his wife beater, clasp his tattooed bicep and jump in the pool. Seek help immediately if you do not feel this way)
"Are not our lives too short for that full utterance which through all our stammerings is of course our only abiding intention?" Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
Question: Does the book make them hotter than they would normally be? Either way, possibly the best blog ever :)
Challenge: Use this in a conversation (I'm assuming it might be best suited to a verbal altercation) "He was not nurtured with the delicate milk of a woman but the blood of tigers and the furies of hell. He was the wrath of heaven which hurled its lightning against the patria, a demon in human flesh which drowned Venezuela in blood."
Observation: A backwards ladybug landed on my arm yesterday; all black with red spots. He left too fast to snap a photo but here's someone else's.
Note to self: Go here.
Doppelgangers seen since arriving: Erin, Alex, Cute Brett, Bjet, Chris, Dan.
Doppelgangers of the day (Oct 8th): Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter
British Library muffin of the day: Blueberry Raspberry Coconut (I personally challenge Ms. Mallon to make this straight away).
UN moment: Eating dinner with girls from South Africa, Australia, France/Senegal, Israel, Belgium and the US.
Personal Victory: Using my brain to beat the guy with the iPhone :)
One of these things is not like the other: Cisco, Emilio, Cesar, Jose, Ed.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Not much exciting news to share today. I went to my first studio class at the school gym. Today was pilates. Starting the day with lots of stretches just makes a gal feel good. My abs are starting to feel the workout now which is awesome. :) Presented my case study on Costa Rica today in class so that's out the way, now just studying for the final which is a week from today. I can't wait to be done but I feel that there is just so much to do. I also have to find a way to get about 8 hours of work in at the school for my scholarship requirement. Blah. Too many things. Hopefully next semester won't be as busy right up front so I can get the 20 hours out of the way from the beginning. After school I went with Lindsey to get some delicious nachos for dinner and fabulous flan for dessert. We had an entertaining and enlightening conversation about many things that won't be repeated here but needless to say it was a great way to unwind after a long couple of days. Lastly, for your entertainment, here's a link to the new OK go video. I happened to like this line in particular...Nothing ever doesn't change but nothing changes much.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
A quickie post that is. Sorry to disappoint if you were expecting a good juicy story of a romp in London. I have approximately two minutes before I have to get back to reading today's 50 remaining pages of The History of Latin America by Marshall Eakin. The plan, of course, was to read this book throughout the course of our term and finish it a week ago so that I could digest it and focus on my final. As with all good procrastination, however, I found all kinds of reasons not to read (namely everything). The book is great, mind you, well written and easy to follow. The stories are interesting and, after having discussed the events of Latin American history for the past seven weeks, it provides a really good review of the key points, players, and countries involved in the continent's past and present. I may buy it to read again in the future when I am not working on five million other things. And by five million I, of course, mean one. Tomorrow we present our case study on a Latin American country of our choosing. I picked Costa Rica A) because it is beautiful and I had an amazing trip there in 2006 with my awesome friend during which I may or may not have gone skinny dipping with a beautiful English boy in the incredibly warm ocean under the full moon which, if it happened, would be one of the better stories of my life so far and B) it has a really unique history when it comes to politics compared to many Latin American nations. I spent nearly seven hours today preparing the slideshow (after about nine hours yesterday reading the material and three or four hours on Sunday doing research). I think I have it together now but its one of those situations where I could always feel more prepared. Our class only has four students and three of us have another class together so the public speaking part isn't too bad. The fear comes from being informed enough to back up my thoughts and also to survive any questions my teacher has about it. She is incredibly smart, well read and educated about this topic (sounds basic as she is teaching it but I have had many professors who did not meet this expectation) and she is also really kind but discerning, honest, and straightforward. As a result I am scared of sounding like a complete idiot when she sees something in my presentation that makes my whole argument crumble. Oh well, can't do much more at this point.
And now for your daily cupcake:
- More on yesterday's theme of Harry Potter. My school is Hogwarts. No, it wasn't filmed there but it has to be based on it. There are staircases going nowhere; doors that look like they would take you to the right place but somehow open to a completely different wing; buildings that are linked and yet through which you can find no passage (clearly this is hiding a room of requirement), and I am pretty sure these things all move around on a regular basis.
- No Jeans October is now completing its fifth day. So far so good. I was going to rock a dress today but didn't quite get there. I think tomorrow might work but we'll see how things feel in the morning. As I sat in class today I chose to brainstorm about the next monthly challenge instead of taking notes on war, crisis and revolution. I came to the conclusion that it would have been more fitting, name-wise, to do No Jeans November and maybe something like Yogtober where I do yoga every day in October but I guess it's too late now (this is how boring my class was). I am enjoying the thought of having a theme from month to month so I made a list of things that I want to change, work on, learn about, etc. November will be here really soon (especially since I will be on break for almost two weeks of it!!!). Here are some ideas I had for upcoming months. If you have any other suggestions or would like to participate with me that would rock!!! Ok, ideas of things to do every day for a month:
- No eating out at restaurants
- Write a letter/postcard
- Keep my room completely clean every single day for a whole month (probably the hardest challenge ever)
- Take and post a new picture
- Walk 3-5 miles
- Two cultural notes on London:
- The word "jaywalking" does not exist here. I do not say this sarcastically but with true sincerity. Everyone does it every day at every intersection but there isn't a word to describe it. It's just crossing the street. I heard an American try to explain to an English person that there is a word for crossing the street "illegally," but as it's not illegal here there is really no need for the verb.
- Also interesting, in the UK there is no law that says you have to be able to furnish identification at any given moment. It's your right to remain anonymous. If you are pulled over without a license you have to provide proof to the court within five days but you don't have to have it on you. These two facts combined are what lead to people having their peppermints confiscated when the visit places like the US.
- If you hop on a bus or train here and someone has their bag on empty chair, it is perfectly acceptable to pick it up and hand it to them politely as you take the seat (If they don't move it first that is. They are really quite aware of these things). This eliminates the need to stand up for the duration of your journey, angrily sneering at the offender and lusting after the seat while simultaneously texting your friends about how much it pisses you off when people take up a chair with their bag (you know who you are).
Monday, October 4, 2010
For the last three weeks I have been carrying around an adorable, cupcake-themed notebook to record any funny/interesting/ridiculous things that may cross my path. I used to do this at home to remind myself about the little things that made me laugh/think/smirk respectively. As with the blog, I haven't been very good at documenting these things because, well I really can't give a good excuse. In the vein of my renewed dedication to y'all, however, I kept it handy today. I will share what I have so far:
- "If you are going to visit London, do it in September" (obviously this note was written before today...). The weather in August, while lovely, was temperamental and in it we experienced a week as cold and wet as would be expected in January (London January, not Utah January but still). As with all British systems, the weather is highly regulated and works in strict accordance to the established rules, most specifically the calendar. The moment I flipped the page from August to September, the clouds lifted and the temperatures rose. Throughout the month we had gorgeous sunny days and very limited rain. As planned, this all changed on October 1st. Grey skies and rain have dominated the agenda. The sun is still popping out now and again to remind us that it can and to make us appreciate it more (falling in line with another established English norm...passive aggressivity - Ok, being fair, that really is a stereotype. All things considered, they are much less passive aggressive than Americans. You will know if you have upset an English person. They will tell you. Directly. And using smart vocabulary. I highly recommend it just for the experience).
- Enroll is spelled Enrol. That's just wrong.
- You must try Summer Pudding. I ate this at my relative's house a couple of weekends ago and my life hasn't been the same since. Perhaps it is due to my mild obsession with berries and perhaps it was the atmosphere but I could not get enough of this. Apparently it is really easy to make too. Take some bread and line a pan, overload the middle with tons of berries (blue, black, rasp, straw, whatever you fancy), put in a little sugar water, put something heavy on top to smush down all the berries and make them get all juicy, then cook it for a bit on a low temperature. Simple enough. I can't seem to load a picture but here's two links for you to check out.
- Harry Potter- The more time I spend in the city the more I realize JK is a keen observer of its people, its habits, its annoyances, and its charm. I thought about her while I was waiting for the bus this morning...cue the Wayne's World flashback segue. On Saturday I worked my first shift for my new job (and earned my first hay pennies!). I had to take the bus from my house to the home of a chef who was throwing a dinner party for some friends. Not only did I wait ages for the bus but when it did come we moved all of ten feet before stopping for another three minutes. It took FOREVER to get just a mile or so down the street. On the way home, however, it was close to midnight and we flew past all the stops, unhindered by pesky patrons slowing down our progress and unimpeded by loads of cars blocking our path. It was beautiful! This morning I waited patiently for my bus but as it came into view I realized it would still be a good five minutes before I would be free to sit down and enjoy the slow ride. This feeling of being so close and yet so far made me appreciate the true magic of the Knight Bus. It gets you places!!! And FAST!!! It weaves in and out of traffic, forcing itself through nooks and crannies, with the sole purpose of seeing you to your destination as quickly as possible. That is beyond magical. That is miraculous!
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Today I am at the British Library. As I type, I am sitting in an atrium, the center of which is filled with four stories of books. These are not the books any of us (apart from bjet perhaps) have on our shelves at home. They are leather bound (red, green, brown, white, black) with gold writing, each sporting a delicate ribbon to hold your place while you fetch your next cup of tea. This explains the quote outside the front gates: "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me" C.S. Lewis. Within the first minutes of being here I had tears in my eyes (and that's without even being able to go into the stacks). This place exudes freedom and enlightenment. It makes you know you that anyone can sit down, read a book, and find themselves more connected to the world, more aware of the beautiful simplicity and astounding complexity of it all. The power of the written word is undeniable and to be surrounded by such a wealth of knowledge is exhilarating and overwhelming. I love the way my brain feels when I read a book that alters my reality. It's not always the same sensation; sometimes its a loud click that reverberates through my body giving me goosebumps, sometimes it a gentle shift as the world I know rotates slightly to align with the new truths I discovered. No matter how it occurs, this feeling is inevitably rewarding and incredibly addictive. I feel lucky to have such a haven half an hour from my door.
A sad and wonderful fact of my life is that I don't post frequently because I have soooo much going on. That's the wonderful part (streets to wander, cafes to discover, homework to do, "celebrity" events to attend...) I get home and fall into bed every night with no energy to type a few words on the day. The sad part is that there is soooo much I want to tell you all about and I keep not doing it. This place is incredibly amazing and makes me smile on a daily basis. The hard part for me is figuring out a way to actually get that across to you on this blog. I know there are a couple of you who actually read this and I feel that I am letting you down. Therefore, I hereby decree that I am determined to write something, anything, at least five days a week. You are all now getting a slot in my schedule daily that I will not put off. The posts may be short and I can't promise they will be exciting but I am hoping that if i write more regularly you will start to get a feel for the city and its charm. Here we go...