Tuesday, December 31, 2013

#variousandsundry

Raise your hand if the only thing you consistently do is consume Diet Coke: [raised hand emoji]. 

I mean golly - you hop on a plane to London to start a grad program in the Fall and the next thing you know it's the last day of 2013. What the hell. And the real flip-out comes when you realize that your nephews aren't babies anymore. It's like no matter how much you will it, those adorable, kissable little persons just refuse to stop growing. How rude. (Also thank GOD for Skype.]


ANYWAY, to avoid too many more tangents (I make no promises) I'll get right to it. In an effort to make up for my lack of consistent rambling and filling all of you in on what's been happening (I know you've just been dying to know), I've decided to compile a list 
(aka the lazy blog post) of all of the wonderfulness that has been my time abroad thus far (or at least since we last spoke).  And lucky for you I happen to specialize in list-making, so this will be great fun. 

Lewes  [loo-is]

I felt particularly British in early November when I travelled south with the auntie and uncle to the town of Lewes for their annual Guy Fawkes Day festivities. You know - "Remember, remember the fifth of November?" It's okay, I wasn't super familiar with it myself, #butiamnow. In case you didn't know, Lewes hosts the largest Fifth of November celebration in the world. There's actually a more detailed history to it all that's worth reading a bit further on, but for the sake of shock value I'll just tell you that in this town of roughly 16,000 people there are 7 different bonfire societies, some with founding dates in the mid 1800s, and each with their very own archbishop. (This is me voluntarily passing over the slight political incorrectness of it all.) It's all very fun - the bonfire societies march around with lit torches and they throw bangers (stop giggling, they're just firecrackers) into crowds of unsuspecting bystanders, and they end the night at their respective bonfires and accompanying fireworks shows. I only lost my hearing for like one or two minutes a couple of times. Just in case you've gotten bored and are considering not reading any further, here are some pictures of things on fire (in Lewes, duh):
[The fire and me.]

[Don't they look like they're having so much fun?? All 
of those little kids got the day off of school the next day, too
jerks.]

[Cowboy?!]

[The giant bonfire the size of which can not be 
comprehended through mere iPhone photos.]


Fajitas and Friends
The auntie and uncle were nice enough to let me host a dinner party for the friends I've made in my program. The work of community organizing is busy and hectic, and it was so much fun to have a night of merriment with my new friends. As much as she would contest my saying so, I merely assisted the auntie in her over-the-top wonderful execution of a fajita dinner for 11 (hungry) people. Some of them are still raving about the deliciousness that was that night. Two words: homemade queso (also known as "liquid cheese," lol). Ohmuhgawd. So good. 

My mother blessed me with the ability to befriend people wherever I go, and I'm very grateful to have made such wonderful friends in the short time that I've been in London. And now, for more pictures (not necessarily fajita-night related):
[Ana, the Brazilian! <3]

[Fez.]

[Megan & Alex]

[Claire]

[Liiiiiiaaaaaammmm]



#UKChristmasCaren
My sweet Georgia/Texas friend, the one and only Caren, aka C-Dilts (and sometimes Vitamin C-Dilts) came to visit me! The woman was in the UK for a whopping 10 days and lemme tell ya - we killed it. We made our way through a long list of tourist attractions and local must-sees, had a very pinkies-up high tea with the auntie and even managed to hit up the Brick Lane Market in East London. Oh yea, and we went to SCOTLAND. Caren has some very lovely friends (and I guess I do too, now!) in Dunfermline (aka the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie, aka where William Wallace was put to death) - a town about 30 minutes from Edinburgh by train. They were the loveliest of hosts, and a breath of fresh air and then some. 
[Caren's first train ride!]

[Dunfermline Abbey]

[Aberdour. It was cold, but that VIEW. Swoon.]

[CASTLE. Edinburgh Castle, that is.]

[Castle selfie!]


One discovery made while Caren was visiting was the unusual ability she has to attract strange occurrences. Nothing strange happened to her directly, but we witnessed quite a few (at least more than I'm used to witnessing) strange happenings while exploring the city. Here is a sub-list of the weird things we saw while Caren was here:
--> An adult female sucking her thumb while riding on the tube. #GERMS
--> An intoxicated man trying to get on the tube, and actually making it past a couple of  London Underground employees and running into the side of a stopped train. It's okay he was escorted out, no one was harmed.
--> An elderly Irish man very kindly making friends on the bus and trying to give change to a small child despite his mother's protest. This was mostly strange because we were like 2 inches away from it all and the awkwardness was so strong you could almost smell it.
--> Two dogs chasing a squirrel just outside of Kensington palace, and one of the dogs catching the squirrel and violently flailing it about. Caren's immediate reaction: "Survival of the fittest." My immediate reaction: "What the hell, squirrel, you just passed by like 8 trees you could have shimmied up for safety!"


And stuff, and stuff...
And lastly, not necessarily actual events that have happened in the UK but things I wanted to include anyway because FEELINGS. Here is a mini-list (I told you, I'm serious about this list business) of things that make me cry, in a good way:


Receiving messages of all sorts. Texts. Calls. Emails. Letters in the post. I can't help it, I just love communication! I like to hear about funny things that have happened, accomplishments, hard times (so I can send happy thoughts and prayers in the necessary directions), to see photos and videos of people I love (aka BABIES), and the list goes on.  Little messages and correspondence like these bring happy tears to my eyes and remind me I have feelings. Lots of them. 
It's surprising how close you can get to friends even though you're thousands of miles apart. Absence makes the heart grow fonder (and snifflier) I suppose.

When my Mom pins things to the Pinterest board she made for me. You guys, I'm not kidding when I say that my Mother is the most adorable pinner there ever was. And I mean that in the most sincere and least patronizing way. She made separate Pinterest boards for both of my sisters and me, where she pins things that make her think of us. I should mention that if you think your mother doesn't know you, like really  know you, you're probably wrong. Exhibit A. And B. And C. I could just be a painfully predictable person, but I'm gonna go the feel-good route with this one and say "you guys my Mommy loves me she really does!" Overall, it's just a really great feeling to know someone is thinking of you. The icing on the cake (or potentially freaky part?) is realizing someone else has you figured out way more than YOU have you figured out. Moms man…


Thanks to everyone who has loved and supported me in things both big and little in 2013. It's been a grand year indeed, and 2014 holds even more adventure and discovery, of the self and world variety alike. Here's to a great year.

Cheers 




Saturday, November 9, 2013

Say whaaa?

Listening to: She & Him – London.

Before I left for the UK I had lots of errands to run and loose ends to tie up, which included telling lots of strangers about my upcoming travels and studies. 


"Oh wow, that sounds like such a great opportunity," they would say. "Now is the best time in your life to do those kind of things," they'd comment. Admittedly, I never tired of the excitement of telling new people about my London jaunt, and I presume I never will.


There was one very kind lady whose polite, follow up question caught me off guard:


"No way, London? Do you speak the language?"


………..wut.


"Oh yea, that definitely helps!" I said with a forced smile as I turned and left the building.


I would be lying if I said I didn't seriously verbally bash this woman (in my head of course, and then again over text to my mom and bff, like you do) for her absolutely ridiculous question. 


"Ummm, ya think they'd speak ENGLISH in ENGLAND?? Lolz. Srsly, WTF??"


[Underlying sub-context to be discussed at a later time: Women can be each other's worst critics. We're all guilty of it. I seriously need to cut it out.]


If I had the chance (and if it wasn't socially unacceptable to apologize to people for rude thoughts you've had towards them that they're completely unaware of), I'd like to not only apologize to that lady, but also tell her she might have been on to something. 


Seriously. Sometimes I feel like Alice in freaking Wonderland over here…chasing around a smartly-dressed, completely preoccupied bunny rabbit in search of a clear answer on just anything. Between the sayings and the food and the accents and the entire disciplines that you've never studied at all (thanks a lot for the complete UNemphasis on Geography, America...), you start to wonder if you're even a real person with the ability to comprehend anything ever.


[Google search history: "adult learning disorders," "do I have dyslexia," "how fast should I be able to read," "good shout," "Guy Fawkes." (<-- seriously click on that link. I literally LOL'd.)]


Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love immersing myself in and exploring different cultures. Call it what you want (*cough - escapism - cough*), I just like to be reminded that there's a world out there that's different from the one that I know. What I didn't mentally prepare for was the unending list of foreign cultural isms, very persistent men (inspectors, apparently) who ask to see your Oyster (subway) card and you have to show it to them, and bits and pieces of conversation that would serve as constant reminders that I am most certainly, not from here. 


Discovering a new culture is most definitely exciting, but for a personality type like mine (yea, I'm not even going to try and define that for you), or maybe just humans in general (trying to make myself feel a little better here), it can start to wear a bit on your emotional/mental/general psyche. 


"What was that?"

"Say again?"
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Tell me your name one more time."
"Wait, what are we talking about?"
"Oh BROM-ley."
"No, I've never heard of that kind of candy."
"What's Half & Half? Oh, probably the reason America is so fat..."
"You've never even heard of ranch dressing?"
"Haha I don't have an accent - YOU have an accent…why are you laughing so hard?"
"Yea, I have no idea where that is…" 
"You've never had pumpkin pie??"

Okay now I'm rambling…but really though. 


If there's one bit of advice I can offer from my measly almost-two-months of living abroad experience it would be this: don't underestimate the amount of newness you will encounter and don't overestimate your ability to just sail right through it all. You'll crave familiarity, be it food or friends, and you may even feel a bit guilty for not enjoying every single second of every single day as if it were Christmas morning. But what you can choose to do is stay positive, and not just in the cheesy daily quote kind of way (not hating on people who love cheesy quotes, man, I'm just cynical). Even with that fancy undergraduate degree and/or years of experience working with all different kinds of people, ahem: you really don't know anything (haha, silly person). 


Go ahead, get frustrated, but channel that frustrated energy into something better.


Like kick ass papers that show complete and utter mastery of the subject (fingers crossed).


Or like a book of funny phrases and memories that you'll make a coffee table book out of and sell at Urban Outfitters one day: 

Stuff Americans in England Like, or 
'What's queso?' - How To Deal With Alarming Questions You'll Hear During Your Experience Living Abroad, or 
How to Really Freak British People Out…Step 1 - Smile at People When You Walk Down the Street.

It's obviously a work in progress, okay…also don't steal my idea. Kthanks.


The moral of the story is: being new to a place is really fun, and it can also be overwhelming. But generally people are understanding (especially if you have an 'exotic' American accent) and more than willing to repeat themselves and do things like go out to pubs and explain even more things you don't know over a pint (or 4). 


So it's all good. 


Stay happy.


…and don't fall behind on your reading list or you will cry.


K Bye! 





Tuesday, October 22, 2013

#geekout

This is a story about the time I tagged along with some friends to a book release. It's really not that boring, you can keep reading. Okay maybe it is. You know what, you decide. 

The book: The Poverty of Capitalism

The author: John Hilary
The venue: Firebox Cafe
The motivation for attending: Free Dinner and Wine (approximately 40% of the reason why I went.)

Upon arrival we discovered that the wine was free, but dinner was not.


All was not lost though, for in London, insanely cheap fish and chips are never far! 


My friend and I went in search of food which consisted of us walking around outside until we saw someone with chips (fries), and kindly asking them to point us into the direction of such deliciousness. Chips were found, and purchased, and consumed and we returned to the book release and all was well. 


(We did consider buying food from the cafe because it smelled wonderful and looked delicious and we even made plans to go back sometime when it's not packed full of people, but we decided to find a [cheaper] alternative as a very tiny form of protest...it seemed fitting with the theme of the evening.) 


The talk/presentation portion of the evening was very intriguing (despite the fact that it was about five million degrees in the restaurant and it took a while for me to stop thinking about how I really shouldn't have made fun of my mom for all of the times she pulled a fan out of her purse and wishing she was there at that moment). I would have actually bought the book, too, if I wasn't too busy sniffing around for the last of the free wine and doing THIS:





That's right, DOREEN MASSEY signed my copy of The Dictionary of Human Geography.* 


You better stifle that snicker right now or we're not friends anymore.


She was one of the commentators for the evening and the other 60% of the reason I went.  

Do yourself a favor and click that fancy little hyperlink up there and read about the awesomness that is Doreen. In the world of geography (so basically the entire world), the woman is a legend. There's no way that I can possibly do her justice here in a cheery little blog post, but you should know that she has been a key player in our current day understandings of, you know, GLOBALIZATION. Not to mention she took a nasty spill recently and has a broken finger and somewhat shattered hip and still showed up to speak. Badass. 

Eeeeeven if you don't agree with the plethora of words she has to say about neoliberalism (read: let's not debate the subject here), her contributions to the idea of a truly global sense of place are pretty damn fantastic.**   


Twas a wonderful evening making memories with new friends, and I'm glad for it. 





NOTES:
*It was all Liam's idea that may have initially started as a joke but I did it anyway and we all got to chat with DM for like 5 whole minutes and it was amazing. ALSO, we found out she supervised our program director's PhD way back when. Cooool. London is really a small town guys.
**Don't worry I'm not all that boring. I may or may not have listened to Katy Perry's new album the entire time I wrote this post. Because I have an affinity for academia AND poprock. So there.




Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cheers

[Listening to: J√≥nsi – Why Not?]

Exactly thirty-seven days ago I moved to London to pursue a master's degree in community organizing.  I'm still not completely sure what I expect to gain from this experience (besides, you know, a degree and oodles of work experience), but apparently moving thousands of miles away from the only life I've ever known is cause for a bit of forced/necessary/at-this-point-unavoidable introspection. 


It was about this time a year ago that I returned home from an adventure that it turned out I wasn't quite ready for. But this time it's different.


I know it. My mom knows it. And from all the love and support I've received on this journey thus far, it seems as though a good chunk of those nearest and dearest to my heart know it, too. 


In just over a month I've met some truly wonderful, adventurous, scarred, hopeful and passionate people who have already challenged and encouraged me in the most unexpected ways. Just about the time I start to wonder what the hell I'm doing here and how someone like me was accepted into an international graduate program, I'm reminded why in the conversations, questions, laughter and kind words of new friends and colleagues. 

I am and always will be a Texas girl at heart (more on the kind of international conversation starter that is later), but for the next year (ish) London has my complete and undivided attention.


There are so many unknowns in store over the next year, and I hope you'll join in as I venture into uncharted territory. This journey is as much yours as it is mine. I wouldn't be where I am and who I am if it weren't for all of the people I've met along the way. 


Let's have some fun, shall we?


Cheers