Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hartley Hall Banquet

If I have learned one thing in the past month it's that love for food brings us all together but is a sure way to tell us a part. Hartley Hall is currently home to students from all parts of the world. Many of us are international students but even those from England actually come from other countries. Diversity is best seen in the kitchen. I share a kitchen with some very lovely ladies who I have quickly grow to love. They are from places like Austria, Ireland, Pakistan, Spain and England. Its always exciting for me to open the door and see who's in there and cooking what. It seems everyone's eating habbits are very fitting to where they come from. Even the times people eat fits into the lifestyle they have back home. The ladies from Spain will often have their breakfast late in the morning and dinner around 8 or after. Have inquired many questions about the dishes people have made. Should actually start taking notes. Look forward to bringing some of what I see home.

I am about the worst representation of American eating habbits at the moment. Choosing to be stubborn and cheap, I refuse to buy any cooking utensils. So all I have to survive on is plastic utensils, plates and bowls brought from home that I re-wash. A pampered chef microwavable container- i could not live without, 1/2 cup measuring deal, coffee cups, a knife and a set of food storage containers are also in my small cupboard. Getting creative with microwavable dishes though. Jacket potatoes (an English thing) are my new best friend. Upon discovering that our microwave had a jacket potato butter I decided to embrace a bit of the English culture.

Hartley Hall has grown to be a tight community. And on Saturday twenty or so of us gathered around the second floor kitchen for an international banquet you might say. We made our way over to AZDA-the walmart equivalent and picked up groceries for the dishes we were each going to make from our own countires. And the next hours after consisted of every kitchen on the three floors to be in use. We had traditional dishes from places like Spain, Greece, Austria, Morocco, Libia, Pakistan, England and America. I chose apple-crisp as it is one of my favorite fall dishes from back home. Somehow the three batches of apple crisp turned out by just using utensils listed above plus the aluminum disposable pans I purchased. Served it with ice cream and surprisingly was a hit. The food was good - too good. After three months over here and the weeks of holiday celebrations when I return, well I for-see problems. I'll worry about that later :)
Truly grateful to be living in this hall. Look forward to my visits to the kitchen everyday as it time to sit, eat, and get to know people I wouldn't otherwise. We have plans to make a thanksgiving feast happen too.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday: Day of Hike Sunday: Day of Rest

Recently joined the MMU Hiking Club, turns out it's considered a sport. And I can easily say Saturday was the most physical activity I've done in a long long time. We left around 8:30 am to the Lake District, an area north of Manchester with sixty or so lakes - they've got nothing on Minnesota except the beautiful hills/mountains surrounding them. I did share the nifty land of 10,000 lakes fact with the Brits and they were in awe. Manchester is a great location for outdoor lovers in that it is a short bus ride away from mountains and the sea. The Peak District and Lake District are popular destinations for hikers. The hiking club has outings every Saturday to some of these areas as well as in North Whales. They also have socials once a week.

Around 7 hours of our day was spent hiking the lake district hills/mountains (not sure what they qualify as). The group split off towards the beginning and I decided to head off with the group that was going longer and planning to reach higher elevations. Sometimes I don't really think my decisions through. Ok, so a lot times. My body felt pretty limp after it all. The views were amazing every moment able to take eyes off my large feet. The Lake District is known for a rockier terrain.  And at one point we were high enough to see the Irish Sea in the distance.

Me bum hurt a bit after it all. A pint was the prize at the end of our little/big excursion and I have never looked forward to one more.

One fun fact of the area is the stretch of land know as High Street. It happens to be the route Romans would take back in the day when doing all that Roman business. Its mind boggling to me really. High Street is now one of the paths hikers can take.

It was great to spend time in the English countryside and getting to know other British students. We made a stop at two pubs in small villages on the way home and a proper chip(fries) shop where they gave us proper forks to eat with our chips. The English take their french fries very seriously. They also seem to take their badger friends pretty serious too. The Badger Pub happened to be a shrine to the little guy with stuffed badgers, badger paintings and a variety of badger sculptures. Look forward to more outings to come. Fresh air is so nice.

This Sunday was a beautiful fall day. We've had sunshine this entire last week. The nice weather is also a surprise to the English here. Think I've gotten lucky and need to appreciate every day I see the sun as it will probably soon change. Went to the cinemas with a friend from my hall. Haven't watched any British television while here but got a bit of their good humor in the previews before the film. English and the States seem to share a lot of the same music and movies. Here is one of the ads they had shown. Iowa - they are proud supporters of their farmers and cows here too. Cow Ad

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Together We Can See What We Can Find

Currently unable to sleep due to hacking up my lung, so decided to write. Caught a cold, like everyone else here last week and have yet been able to get the sleep needed to recover. But on a more positive note, my week long trip with Maggie couldn't have gone better.

Here is a brief summary. We started the weekend out in Manchester and on Saturday night saw Mumford & Sons perform at a theater here. Everything about this trip was made up of last minute decisions except for that. Hostels, our B&B, airfare and some public transportation were booked less than a week in advance. And packing was done just the night before. But Maggie and I agreed we couldn't have imagined our trip going any other way. Leaving some of our plans open ended was definitely the right decision.

Maggie and I were gone from Sunday to that next Monday. We traveled by bus, train and air around parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland. They led us to York in England, Ediburgh and St. Andrews in Scotland and Dublin and Galway in Ireland. It was nice taking the train and bus as it allowed us to see some of the countryside. Our nights were spent in hostels except in Galway where we treated ourselves to a B&B - best decision we could have made! Mary and Charlie, the owners, provided us with useful information about tours, let us use their personal computer, fed us traditional irish breakfast and Mary even did our laundry! It was our saving grace after some exhausting days and lack of sleep while staying in hostels.

Can't say enough about the places our eyes were blessed to see. Each so uniquely beautiful and filled with fascinating history. Getting to know other travelers and some locals in the town were highlights.

Some of our best days were spent at seaside towns. On Tuesday we took a bus from Ediburgh to St.Andrews- the home of golf. It is a small village located on the North Sea. Maggie and I ate our breakfast on a beach there. We had no timelines and were able to leisurely visit the Abbey ruins, university, beaches and quaint shops. When in Dublin, we decided to extend our stay in Galway, another seaside town. We canceled one of our hostel nights there and contacted Mary and booked another night at the B&B. Dublin seems like it has a lot to offer, as it is a large international city but we wanted to have a more authentic Irish experience. It turns out Galway couldn't have been a better place for that. We were able to visit parts of the Atlantic coast by tour bus, one of the stops being the Cliffs of Moher. Galway has a beautiful spirit. The town is filled with street vendors, music and a people during the day. And at night completely transforms into another kind of lively town. We enjoyed hanging out with locals both nights. Some of the funniest people I have ever met.

I feel like there are so many stories I could try and share. But my patience while writing is not the best and Im sure anyone reading would get rather bored anyways. So In short, I feel completely blessed to have gotten a week long break from reality to travel with my good friend from back home. We turned out to be quite the team. So many memories made and travel lessons learned. Glad I can say she is now safely back in America and officially chalk this trip up as a success.

Here is a short video, lacking in quality, but non-the-less a video, hopefully more interesting than my words. A very condensed summary of our trip.

Follow this link for better quality. Cheers!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mumford and Sons + Maggie!

Going to quick fit in a blog before Maggie and I are off for our week adventure to York, Edinburgh, Dublin and Galway. Maggie's flight in on Friday went well! So proud and grateful she made her way over here.

As many of you know (since I tend not to hide it) I have a slightly large love for the band Mumford and Sons. And actually purchased my tickets to their show in Manchester before even purchasing my plane tickets to England. 

Once getting into the Apollo theater last night we attempted to get into the standing room only by following some people we met in line. The guard at the door didnt seem too fond of our idea so we abided and found our seats on the second level. The concert would have been great from there too but we wanted to see their faces and had gotten there so early had the opportunity to get good standing places. So we walked down to the bathroom on the first floor mostly hoping to spot people who looked like sitting seats would be more appealing. The first few didn't want to trade but in a last attempt I visited the beer line, asked an older couple and to my surprise they quite liked the idea. We traded and I can't imagine the concert without the spots we had. We were able to watch Johnny Flynn (the opener) and Mumford and Sons in all their amazing banjo, accordian, mandeline glory from five heads away. I think Ben the accordian/piano player and I should probably meet and fall in love. Hope the concert can be inbedded in my head for awhile. Their spiritual lyrics seem to be continued out into the new set of songs we heard. Looking forward to the next album.

It was a great way to quick start this week. Today we are off to York by train, Scotland by train tomorrow and fly to Ireland after that. Everything has gone smoothly so we are ready for that surprise speed bump! But I guess that is just part of the fun.