Saturday, January 31, 2009

10:52 AM: Small joys...

Since I've been here, I've been asked one question by many of my family and friends. Though worded a bit differently according to each person, the question holds one similar, underlying thought: "Do you like it there in London?" Each time a friend writes and asks, I think about it a little bit more as I sit at my desk, fingers poised to rap out a response. Do I like it here? Am I enjoying my time? As I walked down Tottenham Court Road the other day in cold, gleaming sunlight, my nose pink from the brisk wind, I found myself thinking about it. And I came up with an answer, the one I've been giving everyone who's asked.

Yes, I like it here. I love it here.

That doesn't mean I'm ready to pack everything I own into big cardboard boxes and cram it all into an expensive London apartment. I couldn't ever live here for a long period of time. Four months will do it. And if you add up all the traveling I'm going to do, I won't even be in London for one of those four months. But that's beside the point. Yes, I like it here. Very, very much.

Why do I like it here, you ask? I'll tell you!

Thursday was one of the most fun days I've had here so far, and it was one of the simplest. After lunch, Caris, Kristen, and I went in search of film for Caris' camera that the two of them are sharing for their photography class. We walked all the way from Baker's Street to Tottenham Court Road. The wind was brutal. We talked and laughed and haphazardly navigated our way towards this tiny slip of a camera equipment shop, where they purchased batteries and film for Caris' manual Canon. It was still early, so we jumped on the tube at Tottenham Court, headed to Waterloo Station. Destination (by my persistent urging, I must admit): Borough Market. We figured we could walk from Waterloo to Southwark. Yeah, it was a LOT farther than we thought, but I'm gad we did. We walked along the Thames, which was much colder than walking a bit further inland. We saw a three-man band performing some catchy folk music on a drum, an accordian, and a... trumpet? I think. We found a colorful skatepark right next to and under the Tate Modern. We stopped for bit for Kristen to experiment on the camera while Caris patiently taught her how to use it. I plopped on a nearby bench and wrote down shutter speeds and aperture numbers for them while they fiddled. And I people-watched.

Probably the first thing you'll notice is people's sense of fashion. Europeans--Londoners, specifically and especially--have a strong sense of fashion. Everyone is dressed nicely, or according to the trends. Everyone, even the elderly, looks hip. Every woman and girl wears boots, usually with a significant heel. Guys wear nice pants and jackets. They're not "dressed up" in that fancy sense, but they don't look sloppy. At all.

If you look at their faces, they'll look at you. It's like they know you're looking at them, even if you're not directly in their line of vision. They'll look up and see you, and look right back. If you smile, most of them won't smile back. But some do. Mostly they just look surprised, but some manage to tilt just one corner of their mouth before they brush past. I don't stare at them, or at least not intentionally. I just look, and when they look back, I smile, and wait, and look away again. I like to people-watch. The tube is probably the worst place to people-watch because it's so amazingly awkward. Most people bring something--anything--to read, even if it's the most boring piece of writing in the world. It saves them from having to look at you. I'm appreciative. I don't want to be stared at awkwardly.

Moving on... we finally made it to Borough Market, which is semi-outdoors but not as cold. It was an hour until it closed, and not many people were there. Actually, hardly anyone was there. We strolled around at our leisure, chatted with the vendors, and sampled some of the interesting-looking cuisine. An old man who owned a bread stand did his best through flattery and artful conversation to get us to buy something, but we didn't. Instead, we went to the Turkish sweets stand (different from the one I saw before), and there we were urged to try everything. And we did. They had all kinds of chocolate-covered this, and cinnamon-coated that, and all types of dried fruit dipped in white chocolate, with a hint of mint, and honeyed nuts and spicy nuts... everything. It was amazing. For 250g or one large scoop of anything you wanted: £4.25. Pretty good. A little man ran around scooping into the baskets, repeatedly chorusing "Try! Try! Try!" Caris bought about a half scoop of large, pink, white-chocolate covered raspberries, and I bought a full scoop of milk chocolate-covered coffee beans (I'm eating one now, actually). I could have stayed another hour tasting the olives and cheeses and everything else, but it was soon to be closing time. We vowed to return... many, many times.

We went to the London Bridge tube station across the street and handed Kristen the map. She's been wanting to learn how to navigate the tube, just in case she gets left somewhere. She plotted out our ride to Picadilly Circus, with a few prompts in the right direction. When we came out of the Picadilly station, it had gotten dark, and all the lights had been turned on in the busy center of town. It was truly beautiful and exciting. We found Haymarket Street, which we had been told housed a cinema that gave students a discount on film tickets: only £5:90. We checked the times for the film, "Slumdog Millionaire" (which is up for several Oscars this year), and decided to have dinner. Just down the street was a small, modern-designed restaurant called "Miso," which served a variety of Oriental food and was fairly inexpensive. We had quite a bit of time to kill before the movie, so we ordered, ate, and talked for a long time. I learned a lot about Kristen and Caris and their lives--little bits and pieces, obviously, as the telling of one's life story can take a while. We simply enjoyed each other's company. It was nice. 'Snice.

About 30 minutes before the movie, we hop-skipped to the cinema to grab our tickets and climb the labyrinth of stairs into the theatre. From the outside, the theatre didn't look that amazing, but, inside, the design resembled that of a nice, actual theatre. It was beautiful! The movie was even better--I now completely understand and agree with its being nominated for several Oscars. Ten, in fact, two of which are in the category of Best Original Song. I was thrilled. It was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.

The night ended with the three of us cheerfully walking back to the college. It was such a fun night! The next day, we—Caris, Kristen, Julia, Emily, and I—got on a bus to Bluewater Shopping CenterKent, following the advice of one of the Reid Hall support desk workers, William. He said that if we liked to shop, especially if the prices were cheap, we’d like Bluewater. Yeah, he was wrong, or his perception of “cheap” was completely different from ours. Still, we had fun walking around the mall all day, sifting through the sales racks, laughing at the prices, admiring each other in the dressing rooms, and sampling the faire in the food court. We grabbed ice cream—yes, ice cream, to eat in England’s freezing weather; I got “raspberry swirl twist”—before we boarded the bus home. It was a good day.

So far, most every day since I’ve been here has been a good day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

1:27 PM: Travel plans and realizations

So, discussion over spring break plans is closed. We decided on Greece and Italy officially, and, last night, we booked our three flights--London to Athens, Athens to Rome, and Rome to London. We found good prices using EasyJet, Aegean Air, and RyanAir, respectively. Still, carving things like flight itineraries into stone made me so nervous and stressed. All of us who are going--Caris, Kristen, Emily, Kevin (another Webster student, a friend of the girls'), and me--piled into Caris' and Kristen's room with our many laptops and booked our flights. We will leave London for Athens on Thursday, March 5th at 3:10 PM and spend some time in Greece. But, because some of us wanted to spend more time in Greece than others, we decided to book different flights from Athens to Rome. Caris and I wanted a few more days in Greece, so we decided to fly out on Wednesday, March 11th, at 6:15 PM, as opposed to the others, who will fly out on Monday. After spending a few days in Italia, we will fly back to London from Rome on Sunday, March 15th at 6:35 AM. We booked all these flights online and settled back to calm our nerves. Buying plane tickets is stressful.

And then I read about the airlines' baggage restrictions.

We had all opted not to check any luggage, assuming that two carry-ons could get us through a week in two countries and would save us time and money. BUT, in the airlines' description of carry-on baggage, only ONE item per person is allowed, with fairly tight weight restrictions as well. The girls had a moment of panic. Kristen and I are high-maintenance (and not afraid to admit it, either), so we are worried about cramming everything into one bag. After our brief freak-out, we put our heads together and realized that we could do everything to consolidate. For instance, we won't take tons of clothes and will simply wear things multiple times. We're going to share EVERYTHING--shampoo, a brush, clothes, etc. Julia told us that as long as we can get through security with one bag, we're pretty much good to go. She even said that she's gotten through with both a purse and a bag before. We'll see. This will be an adventure. "Pack light" has taken on a whole new meaning...

Also, airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir are very, very, very, very strict about deadlines. If boarding closes at 2:30 PM, and you arrive at 2:32 PM, that's it. You don't get on the flight. Rough, huh?

Phew. All these realizations hit hard last night after we booked our flights. We were all stressed, nervous, but still really excited... but mostly stressed. So, to remedy the situation, five of us girls snuggled into Caris' bed to watch Becoming Jane. We went to bed considerably less stressed.

Thanks, Jane.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

5:00 PM: A whirlwind...

...has been what the past few days have felt like. My feet are about to fall off, my legs are sore, and the amount of energy I have is about the size of one of those "dots" in Dippin' Dots ice cream. But it's been great. I've seen so much and had so much fun seeing it. I don't regret the feet, legs, or energy. Well, maybe just the feet...

Five of us girls ventured out early in the English morning to the National Express coach station, where we took a bus cross-country to magnificent Bath. We left the station around 8 AM and were riding for about 3 1/2 hours. I saw the sunrise and the breath-taking beauty of the countryside. It was incredible (especially since the night before we had watched Pride and Prejudice to get ourselves ready). Arriving in Bath, we walked around a bit, and the other four girls decided to tour the Roman baths. I had already seen them--honestly, not that impressive, but worth doing your first time--so I struck out on my own in Bath. I poked around in the little shops and strolled down the cobbled streets. It was more crowded than it had been last time I was there, and no street performers were catering to the crowds. It was different, but I still liked it. Bath is very quaint, very homey, and a bit less expensive than London. I didn't buy anything, though.

Once the girls were done touring the Baths, we stopped to grab lunch at a place I knew from before: the West Cornwall Pasty Shop (is it "shop"? I can't quite remember). Pasties are like smallish to medium-sized calzones, except they're stuffed with potatoes and ham and cheese, or whatever you like, really. You can carry them around while you eat, and they act as hand-warmers in blistering cold (as in Bath that day). We grabbed pasties and, in my case, a cup of hot chocolate, and walked toward Pultney Bridge. The bridge is in a seemingly quieter side of town, and the view of Bath from either side is beautiful, with the early afternoon sun brushing the buildings just so. We saw a dancing pigeon (it looked like it, really, but I think he was limping... I got a picture of him) and explored underneath the bridge and to the other side. About that time, we headed to the Pump Room, the best part of the day.

The Pump Room is an old-fashioned tea room, similar to the ones, I imagine, Jane Austen would have frequented in her day. Doors open to a very large, ballroom-sized venue with a sky-high ceiling and several chandeliers. Two-person tables and long tables for large parties are positioned across the floor, with a raised stage at the end of the room where a grand piano sits. The host escorts you inside, seats you at a white-clothed table, and hands you a menu full of delicate tea treats and a varied list of teas, both English and foreign. You order, and relax. All of us Jane Austen fans were in heaven. We ordered cake, pastries, scones, and, of course, tea. I stuck with what I knew--English breakfast tea (surprisingly strong, but then I figured out you were supposed to add more hot water... oh well). I even got Kristen (who hates tea) to try some of mine, and she ended up finishing off the pot. I was triumphant--another one converted!

We relaxed into great conversation fueled by sweet food and soothing drinks. It was wonderful. We didn't want to leave and brave the evening chill, but we did. Heading for the famous bread shop, Sally Lunn's, we bypassed into a little shop called "Pink Lemons Too," where we found some unique treasures. Kristen found a lovely little dress, but she decided to think over buying it while we went to Sally Lunn's. We bought four buns and returned to Pink Lemons, where the shopkeeper closed 15 minutes early, shutting and locking the door in front of Kristen's pleading, sorrowful face. It was a bitter moment.

"Well," I said, "we'll just have to come back now, won't we?"

We caught the bus home to London and arrived back at the school in a pitiable state around 10:30 PM. Caris and I had planned to take our "walk" around London the next day--this "walk" is actually an assignment for our Literary London class, in which the professor has outlined a path through London with stops for us to make. Knowing this grueling walk was just the next morning, I fell into bed, exhausted.

The next morning came waaay too soon. Caris, Kristen, and I were out the door around 10:30 AM, hoping to hop on the tube to Tower Hill, our starting point. Unfortunately, it wasn't so easy. About half the major tube lines were closed due to scheduled maintenance or to other problems (a loudspeaker told us that the Metropolitan Line was closed due to a "person on the track," which usually means a suicide). It took us almost an hour to get to Tower Hill. We walked EVERYWHERE: Tower of London to All Hallows Church, to the Thames and the HMS Belfast, to Southwark, to George Inn Yard, to Southwark Cathedral, to Borough Market, to The Golden Hinde, to "The Clink," to the Globe Theatre, to "the Wobbly Bridge" or the Millenium Bridge, to Tate Modern Museum, to the National Theatre, to Waterloo tube station.

The answer to your question is "yes." We were unbelievably tired.

I had been to most of these places before, but I enjoyed seeing them a second time. I especially loved Borough Market. We didn't stay very long because we were so tired, and it was extremely cold. I did find a small booth of Turkish foods, including a vast selection of olives (oh, my downfall... tempt me with olives and I cannot refuse) and Turkish Delight. I wanted to try everything and walk around for hours, but my two companions were about frozen, and the crowds were ridiculous because it was a Saturday. I'm going to try to go back this next Thursday. Oh, I could eat my weight in olives. This could be bad. And my mom mentioned something about these amazing grilled cheese sandwiches sold there...

This morning, a group of us got up early (again) to go to the 11:15 AM mass at Westminster Abbey. The weather was worse than the day before--bone-freezing cold PLUS rain--but the service was truly beautiful. It was different than the one I had attended before, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. There was much standing and sitting, standing and sitting, and reciting and repeating, and singing of hymns I didn't know (but I liked them!). My favorite part about the service was what had prompted me to return this time--the choir. Made up of grown men to the littlest boys, the choir and the music it sings are angelic. Because the service we went to was called the "Sung Eucharist" mass, communion was offered. Watching everyone so formally and lovingly take communion or receive a priest's blessing was incredibly beautiful to me. I'm not "Catholic," but I think the beauty and formality of the Catholic mass gives praise and reverence to God. I would really like to go back sometime.

Instead of walking around and seeing the other sights after the service like we had planned, the weather drove us back to Waterloo station. The cold was unbearable, and the rain had picked up to a heavy downpour. We returned to Regent's, ate a hot lunch, and curled up to watch Enchanted, a feel-good movie if there ever was one.

It's been a great weekend, but I'm wiped out. And classes start again tomorrow... at 9:00 AM.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

4:58 PM: Bath tomorrow...

Nothing much to report. I'm really looking forward to seeing Bath again tomorrow. The bus leaves at 8:00 AM from Victoria, so we're leaving the school around 7:00 AM. Blah. I'm so excited, though. Bath is beautiful and homey. We're going to try to have tea and scones in the Pump Room at some point. Can't wait...

A big group of Webster girls plus me piled into a dorm room last night to watch the movie of all movies: Pride and Prejudice! The houses featured in the film are unbelievable; I wrote a paper about some of them last semester in my Landscape course. Earlier in the day, Julia and I ate lunch with the incredible Sophie Laws, the quaint little English lady who is the head of Regent's Study Abroad program. She told me that I could hop on a train and visit each house in a day. What a great weekend adventure! My friends are big Jane Austen fans, so we're planning a few days to see the houses in the films: Chatsworth in the northern Peak District, Groombridge Place Gardens in Kent, and Basildon Park in Berkshire. Until it gets a bit warmer, these days trips are ideal. We want to see places like Ireland and Scotland in late March or April when the temperature rises.

Until later...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

9:21 AM: Colin Firth was at breakfast today.

No, not really. Well, he sounded just like Colin Firth. I was passing him on my way out of the refectory (that's the cafeteria), and my ears prickled when I heard his voice. I know that voice! It's Colin Firth! But then I looked, and it wasn't. Sad day.

I wanted to say a quick "Thank you!" to all those back home who have been praying for this trip and sending me supportive and encouraging notes along the way. These thoughts and prayers have meant so much to me; I feel that I'm closer to home knowing that so many are thinking of me. Thank you!

Classes went well yesterday--I had three, the first of which I have described. The second was Intro to Media Writing, and I love the professor (granted, she could be reading this, as she was interested in the fact that I had a blog, but I'm not just saying that I like her because she might be reading this, which she may; I'm actually being sincere!). She's very interesting and likes to keep all her students engaged (and awake). She won't be an "easy" professor, in that she's not likely to give throw-away assignments or simple-minded tests, but I think I'll enjoy the challenge. My last class yesterday was Scriptwriting, which should be renamed Screenwriting, as that's truly what it is: writing scripts for the screen (TV, movies, etc). The professor who teaches the class (of which I really do hope he is aware, because he showed up more than 20 minutes late without basic information or a syllabus) has much experience, and he claims to have worked with Larry David (of Seinfeld). We had a good discussion about what film truly is, which he defined as an emotional experience/adventure/journey/etc that we pay to see because we don't have enough courage to do or create ourselves. He compared movie-watching to a roller-coaster ride--we ride the coaster because it gives us a thrill, lets us have a near-death experience. Films, professor David Hansen says, do the same thing. Interesting, huh?

Travel plans: five of us ladies (Caris, Kristen, Julia, Emily, and me) booked our coach (bus) tickets to Bath yesterday. On Friday, we're leaving around 8 AM and returning around 9:30 PM. I can't wait to see Bath again! We're still working on our trip to France... we may be able to stay with Caris' friend, so we won't have to worry about a hotel bill. We're all about saving money!

It looks like it's going to be Greece/maybe Italy for spring break! We've been trying to sort out all of our travel plans enough in advance that we can go ahead and book things and, thus, get cheaper tickets. At first, I thought 4 months was a really, really long time, and that I'd have plenty of time to see everything I wanted, but, after looking over how many weeks we have in one semester, time is going to be an issue. How can you possibly see all that London and England alone have to offer, as well as all of the amazing countries beyond? I'm going to do my best.

Monday, January 19, 2009

11:34 AM: Classes begin.

Today is the first day of classes. I've only had one so far, and it was... interesting. I have a feeling that these classes won't be as easy as I had hoped. I'm glad that I'm dropping one for a minimum of 12 hours. Here is my schedule for those of you who don't have it and want it:

Contemporary British Fiction: Breaking the Boundaries, T/TH @ 11:00 AM-12:50 PM
Literary London, M/W @ 9:00-10:20 AM
Scriptwriting, M/W @ 4:00-5:20 PM
Introduction to Media Writing, M/W 2:00-3:20 PM

*Note that no Friday classes are offered, so that students can travel!

I had "Literary London" this morning, and my first impression was that the class seemed based more on history than English or literature. We will be reading literature, of course (almost all of which I've already read, thanks to George Thomason, Jennifer Sikes, and Angela O'Neal!), but we'll be discussing the history of London in relation to that literature for the majority of the class. The professor is a character. She's not wild or loud or bouncy or funny, but she's a character nonetheless. She's what I would call "nondescript" in the very best sense of the word. Her accent is in between American and British, though she claims to have lived in Britain for 43 years of her life. She looks past you when you speak to her. She makes interesting, almost-funny comments (which I laugh at anyway... I laugh at everything). She's open to discussion, but I think she likes her own ideas best (who wouldn't?). Personally, I like her, though she might put me to sleep once or twice.

Anyway, I have two more classes to look forward to: Intro to Media Writing and Scriptwriting, my journalism classes. I have not a clue what Scriptwriting is about, honestly. I have zero experience in that area. Oh well.

My Regent's adviser is awesome (but can't beat Sikes), and I'm so glad Hannah Jacobs told me to keep an eye out for him. His name is Olaf. Olaf Jubin. That's pronounced Oh-lauf Joo-bean. He's from Germany, and he's very tall and a theatre/English professor. I'm a big fan of his.

Quick note about yesterday: Caris, Kristen, and I went to Christ Church London (Julia was sleeping, overcome by jet-lag) at the Picadilly Theatre. The church must rent the space or something, so the service is in the afternoon at 4 PM and lasts till 6 PM. It was unlike any church service I've been to: the theatre (a drama kind of theatre, not a movie theatre, which the British call "cinemas") was set up like a band was performing at a Christian concert, instead of a weekly worship service. Flashing lights, smoke machines, loud speakers, etc. It was different; the three of us agreed that though it wasn't "bad," everything was a bit distracting. My favorite part was the message--a man named David Stroud (I think that's how you spell it) gave a message about the freedom of the cross. I really, really liked it, and I'd go back just to hear him. Hearing everyone there speak in British accents reminded me how the body of believers CAN stretch across oceans. I think we Christian Americans in today's age sometimes think that we are the only believers on the planet--I know I've felt that way. It was comforting to see so many believers gathered for worship in the heart of London.

Next Sunday, we're going to Westminster Abbey for the morning service, if we can get in. And a trip to Bath is in the works for Friday!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

9:25 PM in Britain: The roommate arrives!

(Due to Internet connectivity issues, this post has been added after actual composition.)

So, as announced in the previous post, I was planning on sleeping in this morning, and I did to an extent. My alarm went off at 9 AM, but I turned it off and rolled over. Around 9:30, I woke to a rattling of the door handle, the scrape of a key in the lock, and the door to my room inching open. In my groggy state, I saw a girl walk in with a few luggage bags, which she quickly laid in a chair. I was pushing my way out of bed, trying to say “hi,” and she was apologizing profusely for waking me. She hurriedly said that her name was Julia—I tried to say my name cheerfully in reply—and she told me to “please go back to sleep.”

When she came back later, I was up and dressed, and I officially met my new roommate, Julia Sattler. She’s American and attended Regent’s last semester—she’s doing a year-long program through her school, Webster University (where my two other friends are from). She is very sweet, very girly, and knows London like the back of her hand. I got to know her really well this afternoon: our little group plus Julia got on a bus to see Buckingham Palace (again, for me), and we ended up walking all the way back to Regent’s. It was SO much fun! We talked a lot about all kinds of stuff, and I think we’ll get along very well.

While watching “Hitch” in Reid Hall lobby this evening, Kristen, Caris, and I started planning our first trip in February! To Paris, France! To see Caris’ brother’s girlfriend! We looked up flights, prices, hotels, etc. It was very exciting, and it looks like we can get a really good deal through RyanAir. Taking the Eurostar to Paris is actually pretty expensive, unless you book really early or at exactly the right time (which no one can really pinpoint). Details to follow…

The wind is blowing really hard here… no rain yet.

Friday, January 16, 2009

12:19 AM in Britain: I'm in His hands.

Over the course of the mere two days that I’ve been here, I’ve been amazed at how wonderful, comforting, and providing God has been for me. As I lay in bed the first night and asked Him over and over for confidence and peace, good friends, discernment, etc, I can look back now over the last 24 hours and see how He has answered those requests. He is so good! What I have been the most thankful for are the two good friends I’ve made—Caris (pronounced like Karis) and Kristen, who live across the hall from me. I found out tonight that they are both believers, don’t drink to get drunk, and want to travel EVERYWHERE just like me. I’m blessed to know them.

Tonight, the three of us went out to meet Caris’ friend Rob at a restaurant (okay, it was a bar, but they served food) near Waterloo Station. I was nervous about navigating the tube and stuff, but it was surprisingly easy. I was surprised at how much the British are willing to help. If you ask, they’ll gladly tell you and point you in the right direction. I also saw that when I was traveling with Carol—we had several people help us with our many bags.

Anyway, it was a fun night. Rob goes to Christ Church London which is within walking distance of the college. We were invited to come Sunday, and we decided we would. Yay for adventures and God’s provision!

Tomorrow’s Saturday, which means sleeping in, shopping, and more exploring. I’m getting the hang of this.

3:16 PM in Britain: I have friends!

Today has been so much better than yesterday. I think I was so overwhelmed, tired, hungry, and thirsty yesterday that I couldn't think straight. I laid in bed last night, roommate-less, very much homesick (wow, I sound so pitiful), and prayed out loud. I asked God to help me keep my head on, to give me a good roommate (I don't like being without one), to help me reach out and make friends (I have to overcome shyness), and to trust that He has His hands on my shoulders, guiding me every step of the way. That way, I don't have to fear.

I could tell a difference when I woke up. I was being a nana and went to bed around 9 PM, which turned out to be beneficial. My room faces the "back" of the school, and all the workmen started up with their trucks and trashcans and shouts and atom bombs and whatever else they were using to bang around... at 6:30 AM. I know eventually I'll get used to it. I hope.

Bonnie would have laughed at this: I was so thirsty this morning that I got two drinks, apple juice and a water bottle. I downed the apple juice in about five minutes and took the water to the big orientation meeting in Tuke Hall (Yes, I did laugh at the name). As the head of the school was talking, I opened up the water and took a swig... and nearly spit it all out, but I didn't. My face must have been hilarious, though. I read the label: "Sparkling" water. Blech. Not even flavored. Anyway, I thought it was funny.

On to more interesting things: I have friends! (God answered my prayer!) As I was leaving my room to wash my face in the (awkward) community bathroom, the two girls who live across the hall asked to borrow my hairdryer. And that was it. We were friends. I've hung out with them since, and we've found that we have TONS in common: we all are interested in journalism/design/marketing, and we're all serious students (for the most part!). They've invited me to travel with them! Yes! They've got this long, long list of all these places they want to see, including ones that I hadn't really considered, like Prague and Greece. I'm psyched.

I got an Oyster card today, which acts as a universal ticket of sorts for the tube, buses, and trains. You can add, or "top up" (British-ism), as much as you like, and the money you put on never expires... ever. It's fantastic.

I'm missing everyone back home, but today has been considerably better, and the future looks promising in God's hands. Next up: finding a church. :)

6:08 PM in Britain: Still no Internet.

It’s been a rough day. After I wrote the previous post, I collapsed on the bed, shivering, but the room wasn’t cold. I was scared I had a fever or something. I slept for about an hour and woke up nauseous and dizzy. I guessed my stomach didn’t agree with something I ate on the plane. I was in and out of sleep, feeling gross the whole time, when I finally relaxed and slept for a good bit. I woke up feeling much better.

The student staff members gave us a campus tour around 2 pm. One thing I learned: I am going to get lost. The buildings are all interconnected with random levels and floors and stairs and passageways and signs that don’t really point in the right direction. I’ve figured out the main part I’ll be walking everyday—where the dorm is, where the “refectory” (British word for cafeteria) is, where the main entrance is, where the library is, where IT is, etc. I also noticed how quickly people walk around here. They’re practically running everywhere they go. Oh, and the chivalric code of holding doors open for women doesn’t seem to apply here. I’ve had at least three men jump right in front of me and walk right through without holding it open. Yes, this is definitely not the Deep South. The British accents are cool, though.

I met some girls who go to Chestnut Something University (sorry, can’t remember), and two of them are studying English. One of them is from New York, and the other is from “Philly,” as she put it. Philly Girl (sorry, can’t remember her name) is tall and looks very much like Elizabeth Booman at Shorter. New Yorker Tammy is shorter than me and very, very tan. They’re both nice. Maybe I’ll have some classes with them.

I haven’t done much exploring because I was so wiped and felt so strangely today. I want to find some travel buddies soon. Oh yeah, I don’t have a roommate…yet. She didn’t show up today, but she might be coming in tomorrow, if I actually have one. We will see…

I’m already homesick. I’m really going to need that Internet to work… soon.

10:00 AM in Britain: Well, I'm here.

(This post and the one following have been posted later since I have just now gotten Internet.)

Wow. I can barely keep my eyes open. No, really. I’m serious. I have no energy, and I really want just to sleep. Too bad I have to stay up another ten hours until I can. Blast you, time difference!

The plan ride was good, albeit uneventful. I met Carol (a friend of a friend, lives in Huntingdon, England) at the gate—she’s a peppy, cheerful lady—and she let me know that, though she’d been on standby, she was most likely going to get a seat on my flight. Praise God! Someone to travel with!

Holy crap, I’m falling asleep. Wake up, Amber!!!

I actually slept on the plane! I’ve never been able to get good rest on a plane before, but I took Mr. Klempner’s advice and bought some Tylenol PM. The dosage is two tablets; I took one and was out for two hours. It was great sleep, too. Oh, and did I mention that I didn’t have anyone sitting beside me? That’s right. I had two seats all to myself, so I spread out and got comfy.


We landed around 6:10 am (45 minutes earlier than I had expected) at Gatwick. Sorry, England, but Gatwick Airport is not pretty. It’s just not. Hartsfield is way prettier, at least compared with Gatwick. Carol and I drug all of our crazy luggage through the airport, found the train to the Gatwick Express, heaved our bags onto the GE, rode 30 minutes to Victoria Station, alighted the train, and found a black, yellow-signed taxi to drive us to Regent’s College. Our cab driver was old and adorable and had a lovely British accent. Imagine that.

When we got to Regent’s, we were greeted by staff members (students and adults alike) who welcomed us (me and Carol) and got our bags. Check-in was a whirlwind. I got a key, an info packet, a guide, a book… it was like moving into Shorter freshman year. We found my room (on the “first floor” in England, second floor in the US)—room 121. My roommate wasn’t there yet. She still isn’t here. The room is smaller than I thought it would be, but we have bunk beds! I’ve never had a bunk bed before. I can’t decide if I want the top or the bottom… I’m thinking the bottom.

I’ll post photos later. Carol took tons of photos of me in the taxi, in my room, unpacking, etc.

Nappy time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm leaving tomorrow!!!

I can't believe that time has flown so quickly! I've been planning this journey since the summer after I graduated high school... almost three years ago... and now it's here!

I thought I would post my address, just in case you would like to send me a letter. Nothing brightens my day more than getting mail!

My address at Regent's College: (I know, it's long.)
Amber Wilson
Reid Hall
Regent's College
Inner Circle
Regent's Park
London, NW1 4NS

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

So, since I'm hop-skipping across the pond to the beautiful yet daunting city of London in the United Kingdom beginning January 14, 2009, I figured that I needed a place to record all my adventures (assuming, of course, that adventures will indeed present themselves) and to inform those in my homeland of various happenings. Fortunately, I enjoy writing, so I expect blogging will not be too much of a chore for me. I won't make any promises, though.

My broad travel plans: departing from the USA on January 14, 2009 at approximately 5:30 pm, arriving in London at approximately 7:00 am on January 15, 2009, spending four months at Regent's College (BACL, precisely: British American College London), and returning May 3, 2009 to the USA.

I will be in contact through email, Facebook, and occasionally Skype (online, free phone service). I doubt I'll be sending many letters. Desperately need to contact me? Facebook is the best.

Watch for more posts. Here's to study abroad programs, knowledge, opportunity, and, best of all, the unknown!