Tuesday, December 15, 2009

P.S.

How do you embed videos in a blog post? Many of you friends of mine often do that, and I want to know how to do it too. Help?

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

I've had a lot of absence and un-absencing in my life lately. I was absent from this blog for so long because about two days after my last post, my computer decided to be absent (figuratively--I still have it) from my life and hasn't been working. Which was a big barrel of fun during finals and the end of the semester, but I learned how not to be as dependent on my computer, so it was good. It's still not working, but I came home. So computers are no longer absent from my life. Therefore, I can blog again.

I was absent from the U.S. for four months. (Almost four, anyway.) And I'm not absent anymore. I am returned and accounted for, with all my limbs intact, even. And I love England. But I'm still glad to be back. It's nice to realize how much I really do love my home as well.

Oscar my camera was absent too, but because I flew through Dublin, I got him and all his pictures back. I'm so, so happy about that too.

I've been absent from a lot of people's lives lately too--people that I really care about. And now I'm trying to fix that absence and make myself present again. Some of that was because I was across the world, but some of it is just my own silly fault. But I'll just try again.

I'm glad that finals and tests and papers are now absent--for a few weeks anyway.

I learned that I actually really like the traveling process. People traveling are absent from things and people that they know and love. They're absent from the real world. And that absence causes some upheaval and insecurity and a desire to feel grounded somehow. So a lot of times, travelers are willing to open up and reach out to their fellow real-world-absentees in the absence of the familiarity they know. All you have to do is show an interest in the life your fellow travelers are absent from, and you make new friends. I made ten new friends on my trip back to the U.S. just because we were all absent together. And I learned a lot about all those people, from the little two-year-old Irish girl making faces at me all the way across the Atlantic to the Bostonian man on my flight to Salt Lake, who just wanted to talk non-stop about how much he missed his wife and three kids.

Though traveling made me absent, I think I was more present with other people than I have been in a long time.




It's so good to be home.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Paris is always a good idea."


For those of you who don't know, the title of this is from the movie Sabrina. About a week and a half ago, our study abroad program went to Paris for a few days. I thought that pictures could describe my experiences there better than I could, so this post will mostly just be pictures. Also, since a picture is worth a thousand words, the pictures here should save me some time and talking...and then maybe I can go spend those thousands of words on the final Shakespeare paper that I'm in the middle of right now. :) The above picture is just behind the Louvre, in the garden behind it called the Tuileries.

I thought this couple embracing behind a girder on the Eiffel Tower at sunset was entirely romantic and rather quintessentially Paris. So I didn't bother cropping them out of the frame when they showed up in my picture. :)
This picture is for Will. They had flags and such from countries around the world inside the top of the Eiffel Tower.
This is at Versailles, where I found out that Louis XIV really knows how to build a palace.Notre Dame is even more awe-inspiring and beautiful and cooler than everyone says it is. Make sure you go there before you die.

This is Emma, my friend currently in Paris on study abroad whom I met up with. She is beautiful. The gargoyle isn't Emma though. We'll call him Pierre.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Someone else's honesty changed my life.

Isn't that funny how that works? I realize that this title sounds a bit melodramatic, which I usually try very hard not to be. But, I'm writing this very late at night, and to be entirely truthful, the title is very accurate for how I feel both now and when it is perfectly sunny outside and I am thinking exactly clearly. I was reading a recent blog post by my beautiful friend Michele, when I realized that I've had a similar experience lately that I hadn't quite processed yet.

At the end of October, I had the incredible opportunity to go to Ireland and Scotland. Right before we boarded the plane from Dublin to Edinburgh, I put my camera in my coat pocket, since we were kind of in a hurry. The plane was over an hour and a half late, and even if it had been on time, we wouldn't have arrived until after midnight. Before we boarded, I'd had a number of my things out next to me in the waiting area. I gathered them all up, but because my backpack was very full and because we were in a hurry and because I get sometimes get nervous when I'm tired and don't know exactly how things will work out, in a moment of foolishness, I put my camera in my coat pocket. Both my coat pockets have very large holes in them, which I didn't know then. Sure enough, I put my camera in it, and it fell out of my pocket as I gathered my things and waddled and bustled up and down the sixty-something stairs and steps to get up, down, and up again into the plane. I didn't use the camera for the rest of the night, and by the time I woke up the next morning in Edinburgh, it was long gone.

Now, this would have been terribly heartbreaking no matter what, but it was especially so then, because I had over 400 pictures on it, full of beautiful memories from Stonehenge, Stourhead, Bath, and our two days in Ireland. I'd been looking forward to visiting and taking picture of Stourhead since I was eleven years old. I had been searching for pictures of gardens on our speedy dial-up internet, and I stumbled across one of Stourhead. I fell in love, and when I was there a few days before going to Ireland, I managed to get some truly breathtaking shots--none of which were anywhere in my possession...except on the memory card inside my lost camera.

Well, I frantically called the airline and the airport, filed two or three lost property forms in several different places, and waited to hear back from any of my sources. But as the days went by, I eventually gave up on Oscar, my red Nikon Coolpix camera. Allie and Sicong, two other girls in my program, are amateur photographers with two cameras they like to use. And both generously offered to let me borrow their spare cameras for the rest of my time here. So kind.

Then, about a week and a half ago (maybe two weeks?), I received an email from the Dublin Airport, saying that a match for my lost property had possibly been found, and would I please call them to verify it? I did. And after much difficulty interpreting Sharon's (the nice lady on the phone) rather thick Irish brogue through Skype's less-than-ideal phone connection, we determined that it is indeed my dear Oscar. And the best part of all is that I don't even have to pay the 60 or 70 pounds to have them ship it to me. I have a layover in Dublin when I go home in three weeks, and they said they'd be happy to hold it for me until I fly through and I can retrieve it in person. After I got off the phone, every person that I told the story to was shocked and amazed that it had actually been found. How sad, that our world has become like that. And yet, how wonderful, that it isn't all bad.

I don't know who that person was that picked up my camera in the Dublin Airport. I don't know why they turned it in, when it would have been so easy to just keep it themselves. But, they didn't. Or rather, they did. Turn it in, I mean. I'm so grateful. It's a very, very nice camera, as I discovered last summer, when I started experimenting with other cameras. They don't even know how happy they've made me, because having Oscar back means that I can keep all those pictures--all those memories from places I've dreamed of visiting nearly my whole life.

Thank you, nice person at the Dublin Airport. Thank you for giving me Stonehenge and Stourhead and Bath and Ireland back. Thank you for being honest.


P.S. Paris update and beautiful friend stories to come.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Token: I'm thankful for...

When I clicked on the "Blogger: Dashboard" link on my Favorites tab a few minutes ago, I had no intention of posting right now. But then I started scrolling through the short overviews of the many blogs I follow, and I noticed that almost every single one of these nice people I'm friends with have been listing things they're thankful for. And I thought, "My goodness! I am so thankful for these nice people who help me want to be nicer too." They all set the good example to be thankful for things, and I just thought, I'm thankful for them too. And I wanted to tell somebody about it. I've had a lot of people be especially nice to me lately, and I think they deserve some credit. Even if they never actually read this post, because to be honest, I'm not entirely sure who actually does read these.

So...

I'm thankful for the nice people whose blogs I follow who talked about things they're thankful for and made me want to to that too. (Rachel, Tracy, Michele, Julie, Natalie, and all the others too.)

I'm thankful for my nice roommate Julene who took notes for me in class today because I was too sick to go and checked on me later to make sure I was doing okay.

I'm thankful for my nice roommate Nicole who checked on me three times to see if I was doing okay and went to Tuk Tuk to bring me back some delicious Thai food so I wouldn't go hungry.

I'm thankful for my nice mother who actually considered sending me medicine overnight even though it would cost a ridiculous amount of money (I told her not to--I can get medicine here). :)

I'm thankful for my nice friend Mary-Celeste who made me some cranberry-vanilla-orange tea (or something delicious like that) this morning even though it was going to make her a little bit late for class.

With friends like these, being sick is not bad at all. What nice people I have. I felt a bit like this woman, grateful and calm, serenely sipping my tea.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Revived again.

I haven't posted in a while. At first, it was because our internet stopped working. And then it was because I was in Ireland and Scotland for a week. And then it was because I got back and things started happening and I realized that I was learning a lot and thinking a lot and needing to figure a lot of things out.

And when I need to figure things out, my response typically isn't to broadcast it to the blogging world. And I didn't know how to write about and process the things that needed figuring in a way that would make it bloggable...so I stuck to my journal instead. So, forgive my excessively lengthy absence, and know that I'm trying again. Disclaimer though: the internet on my computer still doesn't work, so I can only blog when I can access other computers in peace and quiet...so there may still be lengthy gaps on occasion. :) 

Now, as for what I’ve done this month, there are enough things that I think I’ll just write a list, because there are too many.
1.       Went to Stonehenge! And it rocked. :)
2.       Visited Stourhead gardens—one of the most famous and most beautiful gardens in the world.
3.       Went to Bath, home of many Jane Austen characters, and bought a Jane Austen book (Emma) in honor of it.
4.       Visited the War Cabinet Rooms and the Churchill Museum—all about WWII in London, and really moving.
5.       Went to Ireland and had an Irish man in a pub dedicate a song to me! (It’s a good story.)
6.       Unintentionally slept all night long under a huge underwear poster on the tile in the London Stansted Airport in order to fly to Dublin the next morning. We didn’t see the rather sensuous ad above us till we woke up. Oops. Oh well.
7.       Lost my camera on the way to Edinburgh, Scotland. (So sad.) But have just found out that the Dublin Airport has it! Unfortunately, over 400 pictures are on it, but at least it is found. :)

8.       Went to Scotland and hiked Arthur’s Seat, where Orson Pratt dedicated Scotland for the preaching of the gospel. It’s also (I think) where Eric Liddell and his sister talk about serving God on top of that mountain in Chariots of Fire. It was awesome, because a lot of my family comes from Scotland. I loved Scotland. 
9.       Went to Cardiff, Wales, and Herefordshire, where a lot of my other ancestors came from.
10.   Went to a Muslim mosque for the first time, which was SO cool. Learned a lot about their faith, which I loved. They’re really similar to Mormons, in even more ways than I thought.

11.   Went to the premiere of Disney’s The Christmas Carol two days ago, and stood three feet from Jim Carrey. It really wasn’t all that great, but it was fun to see what a movie premiere is like, I guess. Unfortunately, I left before Colin Firth got there, but my friend got his autograph.
12.   Also went to Les Miserabl├ęs, a concert with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and a play in a dark, dank, rather sketchy little pub. Think, The Hog’s Head from Harry Potter. It was great.  

Anywho, I'll post again soon. More thoughts to come--another girl needs this computer, so again, I've got to sign out.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

If you don't know what Stourhead is, you should find out real quick.

When I was twelve or thirteen, I was searching the internet for pictures of beautiful places I wanted to go someday. I stumbled across a picture of a beautiful garden, and I decided that although I had no idea what and where Stourhead Gardens were, I wanted to go there someday.

Today I did. :)

Pictures and more commentary to come.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Night Thames

The tide is out
and I can see the dryness
of the grimy river bed below.

Murky mashed potato clouds glimmer below
Leftovers from sunset's dazzling feast.
Cozy, delicious darkness swathes me
Oozing like melted chocolate under the bridge where I stand
over that perfect Wren-dome
between buildings and people
glittery lights dotting the cocoa-dark.

Voices gurgle through this chocolate night
Here to sample this feast of the city.

Like me.

And below them all, shadowy water lap-lap-laps
against concrete girders.

I devour this place
With crisp air that smells like Christmas
making my fingers and face shivery.

I get goosebumps
Inhale more Christmas-air
I swallow it whole.
It leaves me weak with wonder
And wanting more.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

York and Fountains Abbey

I haven't blogged in a very long time. However, this is primarily because our internet here has been so spotty that I haven't been able to get onto blogger. So these next few posts will attempt to catch up a bit.

We took a trip to the north of England for a week, and it was everything I'd hoped it would be. Since I first learned what the Lake District was as starry-eyed thirteen-year-old, I've wanted to go there. Isn't it funny how it feels when we start realizing our dreams? That week in the north was a fulfillment of a dream I've had for years, and now that I've accomplished it, I continue on, making and living more dreams.

While we were in the north, two of my favorite stops were Fountains Abbey, and Yorkminster Cathedral. I love going to these old Christian churches—it’s wonderful to see the kinds of things they did to worship back before the church was restored. While we were at Yorkminster, there was a choir there practicing, and after our tour, it was time for the Evensong service. So we went to it. I haven’t been to very many other Christian religious services—mostly just non-Christian ones. Yorkminster Cathedral is the largest cathedral north of the Alps, and it’s quite famous, apparently. I really loved touring it and learning about its history with the choir singing in the background. It made me want to sing again. I don’t get to do much of that here. Just hearing the choir sing transformed the whole experience from "just another church tour" to a kind of spiritual experience.




Fountains Abbey has become one of my favorite places I've ever been. Seeing that magnificent structure at its bare minimum was awe-inspiring, and thought-provoking too. I had lots of deep thoughts. You know, about the transience of humanity, the perpetuation of nature and life in spite of man’s impact on the earth, and our divine natures—our (I think) innate desire to learn of and draw closer to God or whatever people all over the world call Deity. However, they were deep thoughts that can't really be recaptured and constrained to a blog post, so you'll just have to believe me without knowing what the thoughts actually were. :) I was able to write down some of my thoughts, go exploring around the ruins and surrounding gardens, and spend some time with the other girls in the program. All in all, a fabulous day. I plan to go back there the next time I come to England.















Saturday, September 26, 2009

Schizophrenia

I'm experimenting with new blog titles. I don't love the one I had, so I'm trying on new ones for size. It's likely that my blog title will change many times in the next several days. I doubt that I'll want to keep this one, which I thought of because I was singing George Gershwin's "Summertime" in my head after midnight as I was getting ready for bed tonight. We'll see.

A real update coming tomorrow. Cheers!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Loving a half-done Post-it

I wrote this post on Monday, but the internet hasn't been working very well, so I couldn't get it up. We went to the New Globe Theatre to see Shakespeare's As You Like It, but I just wrote this about the journey over to the theatre. I was so impressed by how beautiful everything was, and I felt a bit like a sponge, soaking in the beauty of the evening and feeling so grateful to be here.

We started off by getting off the tube at the St. Paul’s Tube stop. I love getting off at St. Paul’s, because the station is just behind the cathedral. So, you walk up and around to get out of the station…and BOOM. There is St. Paul’s Cathedral, in all of Christopher Wren’s ingenious glory. No matter how many times I walk by, I can’t help but stop for at least a few seconds and stare up at it. Tonight, it was especially magnificent; we arrived right during sunset, so the clouds created puffy-looking streaks across the sky, in varying shades of violets, blues, and greys. (I’m in Britain. I’m spelling grey like a Brit. “Gray” is American and so much less refined looking, I think.) I cannot walk past St. Paul’s without singing the song, “Feed the Birds,” from Mary Poppins. So, I always inevitably have that song going through my head for the rest of the day or night whenever I walk past that lovely edifice. I love St. Paul’s.


(Picture stolen from my roommate, Caitlin. She's the middle one. Roommate Whitney is the one on the right.)

After walking past St. Paul’s, we had to cross the street and walk over to Millennium Bridge, which is a pedestrian bridge only (I did not know this) and is also in several movies, including a scene in the latest Harry Potter movie where it gets destroyed. On the bridge, I naturally got distracted again and we paused to take many, many pictures of ourselves and other girls in the program, taking full advantage of what Dr. Soper (the Humanities professor) termed “the golden hour” when we were learning about basic principles of landscape photography the other day. It’s that hour just before the sun sets when it casts a golden light over everything and in which everything looks more vibrant and beautiful. I love that kind of light. But I am a little bit vain about why—someone told me once that my red hair looked really lovely in that glowing, golden light of the setting sun…and I was narcissistic enough to believe it. So I love being in that golden light, unfortunately because I’m a silly, vain little girl sometimes. Not to mention it makes everything pretty. Oh well.

The play was excellent, but I guess I was a little wrapped up in the simpler things tonight. I think I tend to forget to pay attention to some of those things as I hustle and scurry around to get to the next thing. It's easy to feel that way in London. It's easy to think of and hear about all the fabulous things there are to do and to realize that you probably won't get to see or do half of them, even though you do try to go out and take advantage of your location at least (and often more) once a day. I'm very much a list-maker--almost nightly for the past couple of years, I have made a to-do list (Generally on Post-it notes. I'm obsessed with them.) for the next day...and the highlight of any week is looking at a completed post-it note list at the end of a day. I list things that have to be done, things that would be nice to get done, and just things I want to indulge in because I'd like to do them. (There are a lot of that last category on my London Post-its.)

But tonight I remembered how beautiful it is to rejoice in the doing of my Post-it items, because though the item on the list was "Go to As You Like It," I think I learned just as much from the journey as I did the play itself and the completion of the task. Reminds me of President Monson's "Finding Joy in the Journey" talk from October 2008 General Conference. It's nice to stop and smell the roses. Even if I don't finish all the things on my daily to-do list, I'm remembering to enjoy the process. If I can learn to "suck the marrow" out of this experience, as Brother and Sister Shuler advised, and truly live in the things that I do accomplish, then I might even learn to revel in my half-done Post-it note.

Because really, by doing less and living more, we don't lose that much after all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It's been one week since you looked at me...

...or, in some of your cases, a little longer than that. But, that doesn't fit very well with the BNL song, now does it?

Now, for an update. I'm just going list the things I'm thinking, as connecting them all with enough words to make them flow would just be a longer post than any of you are interested in reading.

1. I flew over the Atlantic all on my own, sitting next to a nice Muslim Bangladeshi man who often visits Chicago (where I was) and lives in Saudi Arabia and has a Mormon colleague from Utah. Random. He was a really nice guy though. This is my first view of London. At 6 a.m. It was beautiful. :)


2. I arrived at number 27 Palace Court last Wednesday at about 9:00 a.m. London time. I met up with 8 other girls in my program at the airport, and we took a shuttle bus to the London Centre. I sat by a very, very cute Scottish boy (with an even cuter accent) and our driver was a wonderfully charming old man who narrated for us the neighborhoods of London as we passed.

3. By Saturday, I had seen Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, the London Eye (only I'm not going ride it--its 17 pounds! And everything that I would see from it, I can see myself. As Rachel said, it's a rip-off.), the Thames, several houses of state, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, all around my neighborhood, and also Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament from a distance. I had also visited the British Museum and the National Gallery and been to Phantom of the Opera. (Phantom was amazing. We had an absolutely excellent cast. Mostly because the Phantom was incredible. I loved him.) :) Woo-hoo!

My roommate Nicole and I in front of the British Museum.
I saw the Elgin Marbles! Gaaahhh!!! :)

4. Sunday, I went to church. I attend the Mitcham ward, in an area of London waaaaay south of the main city (about 1 1/2 hours one way) and there are only 6 or 8 people in the ward who are white. And 4 of them are missionaries. Most of the people are from Ghana, I think. I work in the Primary, and it is going to be so cool! :)

5. Monday, classes started for real. I like them already, and the faculty especially.

6. I am almost done with my English Teaching Application. I'm emailing it to my mom to send in on Thursday, and when I finish, it will be cause for GREAT celebration. It's been kind of an ordeal to get it all done. I worked on it almost all day today, and finally after dinner tonight I took a break and went to Gelato Mio with a couple of my roommates. It was lovely to get out.

It's been fabulous so far. I'm so excited for the rest of this week! But more on that later.... it'll be a surprise.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TODAY.

This is it. What I've been waiting for since the age of ten.

I'm flying to London today.

And I can't even articulate real words or real thoughts to attempt expression of how I feel.

I'm so excited. Oh boy. :)

:) :) :) :) :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Drip, drip, drop, little...August showers...

I'm in Chicago for a few days before I head to London, and it's been rain-ish-cloudy-ish-weather the whole time I've been here. I love the rain. Sun is nice and all, but growing up where I did, we were always very grateful for the rain, since we always needed more of it. I associate it with being calm, pondering, and curling up with a cozy blanket on a couch. During the fall and winter months, rain is my favorite kind of weather. It's a good thing I'm going to England. I'll get lots of rain there. :)



And I love this painting of Chicago in the rain. It's called "Chicago Hancock November Rain," by John Houston.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Waiting

I am waiting to go to London. It's just about all I can think about. I feel like these people, just waiting, waiting, waiting.







Only, this is what I am waiting for:




I think Andy Warhol is right.