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!