Friday, July 19, 2013

what being in London is like during the summer

you think it would be all fun and shopping and gelato and nice summer days. it was.

but then it turned waking up drenched in sweat and being so hot every day all day. with no swimming pools and no air conditioning anywhere. and the very first day of this unbearable wave of heat we had no water in our flat for five hours! :(

I may have wished to go back to the U.S. with air conditioning this week. it's that miserable. I didn't feel as guilty for wishing this after reading this article:

well, that's it for today!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

highlights from week 2 in London

How has it been two weeks already? but what a wonderful two weeks they have been! I am so grateful for the friends that I have made while I am here and how kind they are!

On July 2nd, we went to Hampton Court Palace. We only toured a small part of it because we had to leave and go do homework, but it was amazing. I can’t believe people actually lived in such a huge place. The gardens were huge and so gorgeous and I would have loved to live there just for them. The funniest part is that one of the main exhibits was called “secrets of the royal bedchamber” and the film they showed listed all the things they used the royal bedchamber for and it was a little awkward if you get my drift. But Henry VIII really had some lavish beds and rooms… complete with silk bedspreads and silver basins. It was cool to look at. Once again I have no pictures inside for the most part since pictures weren’t really allowed. I also really liked the chapel inside the palace, and it was cool to see Henry VIII’s crown which had tons of jewels. Some of our friends also did the maze in the gardens and Michela and I tried to lock them in, but we ended up locking someone else in which was super embarrassing and we ran away. So mature.

gardens at Hampton Court Palaca

can you tell I love the gardens at Hampton Court?
Here’s a good story… we don’t get as much sleep here because we have so much going on. After I sent in my history paper, my teacher sent me an email titled ‘blank email’ and instead of reading it, I thought “oh, it’s a blank email so I can just delete this because there is nothing in it.” But really it said that the email I sent her was blank and didn’t have the attachments. It was just silly when I thought about it later that I did it because I was just so tired then. actually it's not too great of a story, but it seemed really funny to me.

The next day we went to the Tower of London. We got to see the crown jewels which was super cool, but the rest wasn’t that cool and it was super crowded. The creepiest part was going in the torture chamber and seeing all the things they used on the prisoners. It kinda grossed me out. my camera was also dead so I didn't get any pictures!

I didn’t get to do anything too American on the 4th of July, but all my friends painted their faces with red, white, and blue and we did go out to lunch for cheeseburgers. But I did go see Phantom of the Opera. It was AMAZING. I LOVED the music and the sets were so cool. And the costumes as well. Everything about it was so phenomenal and I almost wanted to go see it again. I know now that I definitely have to go see Les Miserables and Wicked because I am just loving the musicals.

the beginning of Portabello Road market
On our second free day, a group of us went shopping at Portabello Road. It is full of blocks and blocks of awesome stalls selling jewelry, antique books, clothes, souvenirs, food, and more! I bought some cool things for my family and a cute tanktop to wear and we had a lot of fun. I tried on this bracelet I really loved but the guy operating the stall told me it was 69 pounds (about 105 dollars) and I was like “no way, dude.” But it was so cute. 

Anne Hathaway's cottage garden

Our day trip yesterday was to Anne Hathaway’s (Shakespeare's wife, not the actress) cottage and Stratford-upon-Avon. I loved the Hathaway cottage because the gardens were so cute and it was fun to see how they lived. Can you tell I really love all the gardens these houses have? I guess I am going to need to have a house with a garden. We then went to this other place associated with William Shakespeare’s life, but it was dumb because the guy that owned it tore the down the house because they were tired of showing it to tourists. He also chopped down the tree Shakespeare owned and made things out of it and sold them. Ingenious man. I think I might have done the same thing. But I don’t see the draw in going there is there is not even an actual house. Then we went to go see Hamlet at the theatre there. It was the WORST play ever. At least in my opinion. Some people in our play liked it. But it had one too many sexual innuendoes (our professor was a little embarrassed about that) and Hamlet was not at all like I imagined he would be. He seemed crazy from the beginning of the play and not like the introspective, self-motivated Hamlet I imagined. So I may have taken a little nap during the play. but nonetheless it was a good day trip.

 Well, that’s pretty much it. Look for more exciting installments in a couple weeks hopefully!

highlights from week one in London.

Our first couple days were just spent getting to know the city and getting over jet lag. Though we did make a trip to Speedy’s and I was able to indulge my wildest dreams about Sherlock Holmes of walking where Benedict Cumberbatch once did. And we did make a trip to Harrod’s to tour the biggest department store I have seen and get some delicious food. We barely even saw anyone of it it was so huge and I want to go back.

in front of Westminster abbey
Our first big trip was to Westminster Abbey. And it was fabulous. You can’t take pictures inside, so I hope the description will do it justice. First off, the ceiling is huge. And covered in lovely arches. There are lots of old English kings and queens, but it is just gorgeous. The walls and everything. Especially the stained glass. I am sad as I am writing this because I realize I have already forgotten a lot of what it looks like. I am seeing so many new things that it is hard to remember them all. Anyways… they also have a huge courtyard that looked so green and inviting. The coolest part was that we were there during a prayer service and we got to go up in the shrine of Edward the Confessor. The priest said a couple recited prayers and then offered a very eloquent prayer. I definitely felt the Spirit while I was there, which was cool because it reminded me that other religions are still admirable because they help people come to know God. I love the gospel, but I love all religious people and I feel the Spirit in many churches. 

the view from the top of the Tor. so gorgeous.

The next exciting thing that happened was our first day trip. We left at 7:15 am and headed first to Stonehenge. Not as cool as I was expecting at all. It’s roped off so you can’t get near it and the rocks aren’t nearly as big as I thought. But now I can say that I have seen it.
We then drove to Glastonbury Abbey, which was awesome. Our tour guide treated us as though we actually lived in the 15th century and taught us all about what it would have looked like if it was not in ruins. The best part was hiking up Glastonbury Tor, which was rumored to be the Isle of Avalon in Arthur’s time. The view up there was gorgeous and you could see miles and miles of green countryside and cute little towns. I never wanted to leave.

After Glastonbury, we headed to Bath to see the Roman baths. They were really cool and we even got to try the bath water, which a lot of people drank because they believed in would heal them. It just tasted too warm and salt. But hey! Maybe it healed me of some strange malady. We then explored the city of Bath but we only had an hour to do it which was not enough time because there were so many cute shops and such! It took forever to get home from the day trip, so Lisa and I ended the night by watching Les Mis while I worked on homework.

me at the Roman baths

On my first free day, I woke up early to go to Borough market with Krista and Jared. It is entirely good, so we got some peaches (which weren’t even good) and some sourdough bread to take home for lunches and snacks. I was shocked because a lot of the stands were selling sandwiches with just sausage and bacon on them and so many people were eating these sandwiches at like 9 in the morning and it made me sick. I guess that’s just what the British do! I did get some fresh squeezed orange pineapple juice which was delicious. I then got to do more homework… yay! I went to the British museum to get some info for the report I did for my history class on the Roman army. They have so many cool artifacts at the British museum and I really enjoyed learning about it. Though the paper I wrote wasn’t that good I think. After we came back we were starving and so we went to get good Italian pizza at this place by our apartment. Later that night, we took a trip to Snog ice cream with the boys. What a wonderful name for an ice cream place. The funny part is that the place was in the middle of Soho, where a gay pride festival was going on. So we were enjoying some good Snogs while many people were around us snogging. And it was a little gross. And there was lots of smoking and drinking and general grossness. We then went back to play Crowns with the boys from our study abroad for awhile. I lost badly every round, but it was a great day.

what life is like in London, or at least my perception of it

Our apartments: Our apartments are disgusting. They were so filthy when we moved in. The couches are so old and fraying. The bathroom smells like mold. They get really hot because there is no air conditioning. Luckily we are not home a lot except when we are doing homework because we spend most days in class or exploring London and we go out to eat pretty frequently. We also have limited internet access which is sort of annoying. No youtube for me, but it is nice to have a break from TV and video.

What they don’t tell you about London: everyone smokes. You can’t walk anywhere without someone smoking right in your face. So if I get cancer, it’s from all the secondhand smoke here. There’s no ice water in the drinks. You don’t have to tip at restaurants. Dinner is eaten later around here, usually starting at 7:30. And 9:00 is like prime dinner hour. It doesn’t get dark til 10:30 and it is so weird. I always think it is 6:00 when it is 9:00 because of how dark it is. Drinking is also quite popular. The tube is expensive. I spend about 20-30 pounds a week on the tube. Which is about 30 to 45 dollars. 

Church: church is the weirdest thing. I counted today and there were about 35 members in our ward not including us. I love working in the primary though. The two girls that I taught in the Valiant class today (Rachel and Katherine) were telling me all about the trips they go on in school and teaching me British vocabulary. They don’t get out of school until July 24th for summer vacation, which is crazy. I also had a hard time believing they were Bennett’s age because they are really mature. Not that my brother isn’t, but they just seem so much more grown up and I was shocked. Our bishop is from Zimbabwe and most of our ward members are from Africa somewhere. We have church in a little Catholic primary school and it always cracks me up in primary because we are teaching the children about the Savior while they are looking at emblems of him on the cross and Catholic paintings of him.

My roommates: I think I got mega lucky with them because they are pretty darn great. There’s Olivia, she is super clean, dresses really cute, and we don’t see her a lot. Lisa, the other girl I share a room with who always speaks her mind and is bomb at navigating the tube. Thanks to her and her GPS on her iPhone, we have avoided getting lost many a time. Then there’s Brooke and Jessica and yes they are pretty much a package deal so you have to say it like that! It is Brooke and Olivia’s first time living away from home and they are doing pretty great. Brooke is sweet, fashionable, and oh so innocent and charming. And she loves to have fun. And is kind to everyone. Jessica is a party animal, dresses cute, and her and Brooke are always making me laugh. 

The people that I hang out with (besides my roommates): Heather, the girl I met at the Colony who is really sweet and lets me use her adapter to charge my laptop. Then there’s Michela, the pretty girl who always looks classy and yet is a lover of all the nerdy things I enjoy. So I don’t look at her weird when she starts singing “secret tunnel, secret tunnel…” anytime we walk into a tunnel. It’s great. And there’s Krista, the girl who loves birds. It’s so great because she can identify almost any bird and bird call. She also takes really good photos. That about sums it up. Oh and the boys that come along quite frequently… Preston, who is Brooke's brother, Jake, I don’t really know anything about him except he likes to eat, Jared, who is also our English TA… I hang out with my TA… it’s a little weird, and Bradford, who I also don’t know anything about except he it always making up ridiculous stories… like how he goes clubbing all the time. Anyways we have a good time. 

Getting around London: yes mom, I really do have no sense of direction. I can look at a map and have no idea where to go because I have no idea which way I am facing. But I am slowly learning my way around after many wrong turns and extra miles of walking and I am really good at remembering landmarks and which way we got somewhere, which helps a lot.  

Class: Class is four hours twice a week. It’s a little bit of a long stretch and most the time it is straight lecturing for four hours. I die a little inside during class. We just all bring a lot of snacks to survive! Our English class is also super demanding. I just turned in my rough draft of my essay and my teacher told me that I didn’t write about the right prompt and that I had to rewrite the whole thing. I got the rough draft back Saturday and she wants it Monday. And since I don’t do homework Sundays, that’s kinda a problem. Basically everyone wanted to cry (it's really true, I asked some people) after they got their essays back because we all got ours ripped to shreds. And I thought mine was really well done and I thought they would be a little lenient on us since we are in London. I think I am just a little stressed right now because our English teacher is giving us so much to do when we have no time since we are leaving on a huge 5 day trip this coming Tuesday. My history class is great though. I love learning about it and it’s not too demanding.

The food: We don’t really cook at all. I eat cereal for breakfast, quesadillas or sandwiches for one meal, and I usually go out with people on our study abroad about once a day. But it’s totally possible because they gave us 190 pounds to feed us for two weeks, telling us that food in London is expensive. I have gotten enough groceries and eaten out once a day on that. 190 pounds is about 300 dollars, which is what I spend on about 2 months of groceries in Provo. That is crazy. But I am not complaining, I don’t mind being able to eat out more and buy chocolate every time I go to the store, since it is so delicious anyways. I feel like I am hungry all the time. But we also walk around all the time and I feel tired all the time, so I hope it equals out. Did I mention I eat dessert at least once a day? It's wonderful.

well, now you know what life is like here. regardless of all the crazy things about life in London, I LOVE IT!