Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thank You


Well this is a tad surreal. After three months I get to see the States, family and friends with a whole new set of eyes. Will continue to be thanking my Lord for this experience. Living in England offered an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the everyday for people here and for a short period of time their everyday became mine. To my surprise living in England also gave me a better understanding and appreciation for the lives of people from so many other parts of our world. Realize I have much to be grateful for. No worries though - I wont get too mushy gushy on you. I think you can probably imagine the other words I would use to describe this study abroad experience.

The probably five of you, thanks for caring enough to read J Wish this opportunity on anyone.

Beyond excited to see the people I love so much back home. Leaving England tomorrow with a fuller heart. Be prepared for big hugs and sloppy kisses.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Paris

My last weekend in Europe was spent with a quick trip to Paris with Allie, another exchange student from SDSU. We have each had our own friends and experiences while here. Sharing stories, lessons learned and memories from the semester was a nice way to end our exchange semester. I will also be flying home with her Thursday. 

The weather wasn’t the most ideal but Paris is just that beautiful it didn’t seem to even matter. We opted to save money and not buy a metro pass so everything we saw of Paris was by foot. This made for some tiring and cold days, but ultimately glad we chose to do it this way. Don’t regret seeing this now favorite city in winter. It was less touristy and pretty darn magical with the fresh snow.

Had planned to make Paris the trip to enjoy the food and desert. And taking breaks from walking and the cold to enjoy just that in caf├ęs and restaurants was memorable. Luckily, Allie was on the same page. Enjoyed observing the French and listening to them speak, especially while in these cafes. It seemed we were often the only tourists in some places, I think because of the time of year. This French city doesn’t cater to the English speakers, which I can understand and appreciate. It offered some nice and interesting challenges throughout the weekend. For the most part the French were patient and kind with us. Our first night out to eat had NO idea what I ordered. But was treated well by the waiter and even given a lesson in speaking French. Enjoyed trying to use some of the phrases the rest of the weekend.

One highlight was the 4 hours we spent at The Louvre: a great, massive, maze-of a-museum. Similar to time spent at other museums and galleries these past months, it was a treat to see some of the many famous and important artifacts/sculptures/painting I have studied in art history courses.

Paris is such a beautiful place and no wonder it has been an inspiration and home to many artists and creatives. Look forward to returning one day. Feel blessed to have seen this charming city with fresh snow and hopefully will again when the weather is warmer and spirit of this place is completely different.


The snow however did pose some problems for many others and us on Monday. As some of you may know, because of national news, Europe is experiencing some problems with transportation because of the weather.

Our day started at 3 am. Traveled to the CDG airport (this place is massive) by shuttle and were greeted by many people sleeping under neon blankets provided by the airport. Some travelers have been trying two days to get to their destinations. The day was long for us so can’t image how wretched it was for others. We were told after getting in line to board for out 7:45 flight that the airport was now going to be closed until 12 due to snow. But then maybe 15 minutes later heard over the intercom that Manchester passengers needed to go to the boarding gate as soon as possible. After being shuttled to the plane and waiting for a few hours were off the ground. We were so blessed to get out of there when we did. Talking to friends back in Manchester, who knew of others experiencing problems was told that no flights were going to or from Paris or London Heathrow.

It seems that all of the friends that have left so far have either experienced delays or cancelations. England has broke a 100-year-old record this weekend for cold and snow for this time of year. But believe it is nothing compared to weather back home, they just don’t have the equipment needed to handle it. Those of us that are left here are just anxious now to be home safe. Have been checking the weather frequently and think Thursday looks hopeful. Trying to enjoy these last days here despite being anxious to safely step foot on the Sioux Falls airport and hug family. 

We’re Saying “See You”



This week was the start of saying goodbye to the people I’ve grown closest to here. Said my goodbyes to classmates earlier in the week. Wednesday night was our last traditional night out at the Czech Bar and the Footage. But Thursday is when it sunk in that we were really all leaving. The morning started with eating a traditional soup at the Czech Bar with Ondrej. The afternoon was then spent saying goodbye to Enrique. And Thursday night I spent with some ladies from my hall. We shared our last meal together in the kitchen, each making a dish from their countries back home. Carmen, Banan and Wadi have treated us to their Spanish omlettes several times this month. Will attempt to make it for people when I get back home. They are difficult to flip but so good if done right.

We spent a good few hours eating and talking. And when the night was about to come to a close for some of us, I couldn’t help but feel really sad. Didn’t want to think this would be some of the last moments with these ladies. Our hugs turned into one big group hug and the “goodbyes” changed to “see you’s.” We plotted out how every so often we should meet up in a different home country. Want to believe we will all try to keep these friendships going. Trusting that we will all meet up again is making these “see you’s” a bit easier.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gumption

Saturday was one of those average days filled with many little blessings. It consisted of nothing more than a traditional english breakfast with Enrique (eaten at noon), window shopping and cafe stop with friends from my hall and watching the movie "The Holiday" that night. People are what is making this experience so special. England just happens to be the backdrop. Enrique, a recent engineer grad living in Manchester for a few months to improve his English and Banan, Carmen and Wadi, intelligent, funny ladies living in my hall, also doing the same, have given me a better insight into the Spanish culture.

Banan, Carmen and Sham made our way to the city center. We had the funniest discussions about prepositional verbs. English would honestly be a difficult language to learn and analyze, thanks to the many exceptions to the rules. Having slight language barriers between these new friends is teaching me a lot of good things- not actually all about grammar. 

Those same ladies and a handful more spent the rest of our evening circled around a tiny laptop screen in our tiny lounge at Hartley Hall. Popcorn, cheesecake, chocolate covered peanuts, minced meat pies and grapes (to balance the rest of that goodness out, of couse) managed to share space with us on the floor. We watched "The Holiday", which was for some was the first, third or in my case probably the 10th time. It takes place in England and the U.S. And not that I have a better understanding of the scenery and lifestyle here, enjoy analyzing the film that much more.

The modest and lovable 90-year-old man in this movie used the word "gumption" to describe his favorite ladies. I later decided is exactly what many of people I've been blessed to meet here have: gumption.

Love everyday being in the presence of new people - finding that common ground and learning more about who they are and where they come from. People make being in new places special. As much as I can appreciate time spent alone exploring this city, I appreciate it even more when doing it with friends here. If anyone I've mentioned in this blog happens to stumble onto this page - hi and I hope its alright I used your names :)

Will probably have the chance to write a bit more during these last few weeks now that my essays are nearly finished and time is on my side.

Hope all is well in the States!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An English Thanksgiving Weekend

The day of cooking, feasting and good conversations was a success.
Preparing the meal began around 3. Friends from Austria were such a big help and the meal couldn't have happened without them. In between the laughing and snitching, we managed to make two batches of everything, on time and without setting off the fire alarms. The menu consisted of chicken (turkey was not in this budget) garlic mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing and apple crisp. An attempt at making homemade cranberry sauce resulted in extreme failure. But added some comical moments.

Twelve people sat around the tables in what we called "the secret kitchen" of Hartley Hall. A lot of laughing was done thanks to some crazy stories Ondrej and his friends from back home in the Czech Republic shared. Friends from Spain joined, and other guests included Ondrej's guests and Julia's friends from back home in Austria. It ended at the Czech bar. Ondrej and his smooth talking ways convinced the bar owner to keep it open past regular hours. So we had the place to ourselves to play pool and fooseball.


It was fun to celebrate Thanksgiving in a slightly different way this year. Traditions and spending time with family and friends back home were missed. But taking a year off from that to introduce Thanksgiving to some new friends helped make up for it.

Saturday afternoon, I caught my first traditional football match: Manchester United vs. the Blackburn Rovers. 74,000 + were in attendance that day. Thankfully the score was 7 to 1, so we we found ourselves entertained the whole way through.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Everyday

I’m realizing I have written few blog posts about actual experiences in Manchester. I suppose it’s partly due to lack of time and thinking trips are more interesting for family and friends to read, who are choosing to do so.

As much as I have enjoyed experiencing bits of the culture through the holidays fit in around the UK and recently Amsterdam, it is ultimately time in Manchester that I will miss the most. I will continue to travel but realize the opportunity to live overseas may not ever be possible again. It has now been over two months. And in these two months I have spent so many walks, bus rides and restless nights just thanking the Lord for all I have learned and gained more appreciation for. When describing Manchester to people back home, diverse is usually one of the first words used. It is completely different than the other places I have traveled to while here. And I think my friends in Manchester agree. The city and university are home to people of many different races and religions. Greater Manchester has a population of over 2 million I believe. The fashion is crazy and the buses during rush hour are even crazier. Not all of it seems safe, but that’s with any city. It is known around Britain for its shopping, restaurants, many universities, nightlife and Asian food. They have a good amount of art galleries and museums. And there is really so much I have left to see of this city.

Balancing school, travel outside of Manchester, and spending time within the city is probably the hardest thing about the experience. But I guess that’s just life in general. There were a few days this past week where it felt like I should be carrying a brown paper bag around. Was feeling the stress of having to work on my three essays, creating prints for my textile course and somehow still making the most of the month left here. Irrational fears were getting the best of me. And ironically, I’m back to thinking more rationally thanks to studying the theories of the irrational in art through uses of the sublime and gothic for one of my essays. Balance is back on.   

Still finding hard to sleep though thanks to my ever analyzing mind. So much has been learned here. The list goes far and wide. And as I said earlier, there much I have gained a greater appreciation for. It has been even the simplest times in these past two months while here that have brought me the greatest joy. Teatime with friends, conversations over diner in the kitchen, time spent with my head in books, walking, lectures, weekday nights out and riding the bus (which I spend a lot of time doing).

Here is a bit of my greatful/appreciation list I seem to repeat in my head all to often:

Black tea, the jacket potato, bisquits with my tea, apples, pears, mayo, cider beer, a warm hall to come home to, shared kitchens, three-in-one bathroom, living out of all that fits in 2 suitcases, reading, critical thinking, so much about art history, fabric, screenprinting, public transportation, the lectures and my tutors, Hartley hall and all the people in it, hiking, friends in my courses. Diversity, diversity, diversity. I didn’t expect to live in England for three months and learn so much about other cultures and people as well as gaining a better understanding of British life. Hartley Hall and this city have offered so many unexpected little daily gifts.

One month to go! As much as I look forward to seeing family and friends again, I know it will be hard to leave. Not constantly surrounded by new things will be missed. I’m learning to appreciate and prefer “un-normalcy.” 


Monday, November 15, 2010

Mainland Europe via Amsterdam



Bicycles, bicylces and more bicycles. Couldn’t help but be reminded of my summer spent in Minneapolis thanks to all the bicycles in Amsterdam. I expected to see the notorious red light district and special coffee shops in this city, but bikes? They lined practically every inch of free space along the many canals, as well as the sidewalks on side streets. We were more likely to have been run over by all the people bicycling along their designated sections on the roads than cars or trams. Luckily, the little bells most people had signaled for us to quickly leap out of the way.

On Wednesday I took an ironically one-hour plus bus ride from Hartley Hall to the Manchester airport and a short 25-minute flight to Amsterdam.  The travel companions were all fellow Hartley Hall-ers - Athan from Greece,  Sercio from Spain, Tina from Swedan, Julia and Iris from Austria, Mo from Saudia-Arabia and Katlin and Mike from the U.S. We met up Tina’s friend from Serbia, who she hadn’t seen in over 10 years upon arriving in the city.  It was nice to see them so happy to finally get to see each other again.

We got creative with the sleeping arrangement seeing the hotel room was only made for seven people. And the room was a little sketchy to say the least. It was about a 15 to 20 minute walk to the city center and thanks to the many canals in the city, it was easy to get turned around. A lot of lost moments, which actually worked out since we probably saw more of the city than had it been any other way.

Overall, Amsterdam surprised me. Some things I was saddened to see but a lot more good countered that. The extensive canal system and Victorian style attached buildings are very charming. Probably a great place to see in the spring or summer. Unfortunately it was cold and rainy for much of our time there. But that made those times when we could be inside something to look forward to. The Dutch were nice and their pancakes were even nicer. Shared a Dutch pineapple bacon pancake at a cozy pancake bakery that felt more like a pizza parlor.

Time spent at the Anne Frank house and Van Gogh Museum were highlights. My interest in the holocaust probably began upon receiving the Anne Frank book and my own diary when I was a kid. It was hard to rap my mind around actually seeing the rooms, two Jewish families spent over 2 years hiding in. The Frank family moved from Germany to Amsterdam when things started to seem fishy with the Nazi’s. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, ran his business in the same house they would later hide in. Once the Nazi’s controlled Amsterdam, the business was put under other people’s names, his family hid in a secret annex on the top floors and Otto continued to help run the business. They were betrayed by an unknown source and the eight people hiding in the Amsterdam home were brought to various concentration camps just months before the war’s end. Otto, the only survivor, returned to the house and found it was emptied by the Germans. For that reason no furniture is found in the house to this day. Replicas were made to show what it did look like that between 1943 and 1945. And pictures Anne collected on her walls also remained. One of the person’s who helped in hiding them had however found papers and Anne’s diary, saved them, and they were eventually returned to Otto. He was quoted with saying “To build up a future, you have to know the past.” Anne’s diary, published in over 70 countries and their preserved home do just that. It was a touching experience.

The Van Gogh Museum houses over 200 of his painting, along with his sketches and painting from other artists who inspired him or were inspired by him. I enjoy the how Van Gogh approaches color and brush techniques. Loved seeing everything up-close. Found my-self even more in awe of all of his creations and what he brought to the art world.

First experiences in mainland Europe were good. Didn’t expect Amsterdam to be my first taste of it. I was impressed by Amsterdam’s beauty and would recommend a trip there to others.

The rest of November is going to require buckeling down with school but the recent weekends away will make it easier. Will be working to put about 10,000 words to paper in the 3 essays required for my classes.

The work will be broken up with a Manchester United game, Manchester Christmas market and trip to Lincoln, which is the home to England’s largest Christmas market. Being surrounded by Christmas spirit is making me excited to see all of you!