Afoot & light-hearted...

"everything is going wrong, but we’re so happy"

As my bank account dwindles and the stress of the inefficient day to day life of Italians starts to wear on me, I’m trying to hold on to what is amazing about this country.  In the course of the past five weeks, I’ve been to 5 of Italy’s regions, seen Venice & Rome, Michelangelo, Leonardo & Donatello, sunsets over Lago di Garda, and starry nights over Firenze.  My “parents” have made feasts of pesto, Tuscan beef stews, lentil soup, Easter lamb, and other such forms of heaven.  Speaking Italian, I’ve gone from a mute to a semi-capable speaker: I can walk into bars to order my morning cappucino (delicious and only 1 euro!) and have a casual conversation with the barista or tell my parents a story or two from my day.  I still nod a lot and laugh when I’m not quite sure what is funny, but progress is progress.  The “Italy” half of the program has been almost antithetical to London.  Visibly less updates (this is only my second) reflect my internet situation. I have no internet at my Italian home, and its very hard to find a place to get online after a dinner finishing past 9 pm.  Our courses require a lot more book work and leg work (both are on-site) and we have a third course here in Florence, Italian.  Everything is going by so quickly, and I’m trying to make the most of it, regardless of the pace and stress.

Speaking of “slowing down”, this past weekend, I found a little place for some friends and I at “Lago di Garda”.  We booked a 3 bedroom house for seven of us in the middle of a golf course, a couple km outside of “Peschiera del Garda”, a lake town in Northern Italy.  It reminded me so much of Coeur d’Alene, and those of you who know me well are aware of how much I love this lake: filled with motor boats and sailboats, people tanning, playing in the water, going on dinner cruises.  I adore lake culture and always wished I had a lake place of my own.  The golf course catered to Swedes, Germans, Brits, typically of the pensioner variety, so we were sort of stand-outs with the evening shuttle crowd: young, tan, and lacking in any plaid golfing pants. 

maybe I’m just homesick, but doesn’t this look like Coeur d’alene?!

We ended up in Northern Italy after a jaunt to Venice.  I can’t say enough about Venezia - the rumors are true. Its incredibly romantic, and the lonely single girl side of my “independent nature” came out to growl a bit.  Everyone was a couple, holding hands, kissing on gondolas and the bridges crossing the water filled “streets” of this mythical city.  You get the sense, walking around, that someone painted it because there is no way it actually exists, stranded alone in the middle of this giant lagoon, in shades of bright yellow, orange and pink against the glimmering water. 

My incredible art history professor, Jodie Mariotti, managed to get us a private reservation for the Basilica San Marco the Thursday evening of our stay.  At 7:30 pm, we entered into the basilica, barely lit by the setting sun and sat down in the front of the Nave.  She had the custodian slowly light the room, and soon the 8000 square meters of gold mosaics covering the ceiling and the interior of the 5 domes lit up around us.  Its hard to articulate, but this photo is my best attempt

We saw the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist, and the “Pala d’oro” on the sacred altar space most visitors never enter.  The Pala d’Oro or “golden cloth” is the high altar of San Marco, and it is a Byzantine Gothic piece of ark coated with 1,927 gems. (more details in the link).

The weekend before Venezia, I went to Cortona, the city where “Under the Tuscan Sun” took place, and a quaint little town that epitomizes Tuscany.  It rises 800 feet above the countryside and lake below it, and is filled with enotecas and little craftsman shops.  We went to a wine tasting, bought a bottle, and marched up to the highest point of town to enjoy a picnic and bask in the Tuscan sunlight.  The following day, Mariana and I went on a pilgrimage to Bologna and its famous “Nutelleria”.  The “Nutelleria” was a bit of a flop, considering that it was a hole in the wall that didn’t even have bananas for their crepes, but the rest of Bologna was wonderful.  All of the sidewalks are covered Loggias, and it allowed us to see the entire city center despite a deluge of rain.  After a few churches, an obligatory lunchtime meal of fettucine a la Bolognese, and a visit to one of the world’s oldest University, we called it a day and checked off another Italian city.

If I were to promote one piece of Italian infrastructure, it’d be the simplicity of their rail service.  For all the inefficiencies of everything else here, I’ve managed to get everywhere I’ve tried to go on time, and with minimal problems.  Then again, I’ve never tried to go anywhere on national holidays or transportation strike days.

Over the next few weeks, my travel is on hold while I hug my money tight before Jess & I venture off to Corsica (and I begin to pay rent on my C Springs house).  I hope to get my work done, make some more Italian friends, and get cozy with anatomical studies and sketches in the Uffizi gallery preparing for my final paper.

and in honor of my need to be patient, accept that traveling is a bitch, and that it is the “Italian way”, i give you a wonderful proverb:

"Never run after a bus or a man, there will always be another one"

My love to all, and I will see you soon

Washington DC - June 3rd, Denver CO & COLORADO SPRINGS - June 4th, PNW - August 13th. 

"time may change me, but I can’t change time"

My apologies for the cheesy David Bowie entitled blog, but I’m currently in my favorite WIFI cafe and Changes is on…

Its probably the best cafe ever. They have these things called “Delicious Milk Shakes”.  A few flavors: “chunk monkey” (chocolate banana and coffee), cookie choc chips & vanilla cream, granola and vanilla, “blueberry breakfast” (apple and blueberry with vanilla syrup). SO GREAT.

Anywho. its been forever. mi dispiace!

I live in Florence, Italy… In an apartment about 20 minutes walking distance from the city center with Mariana (from CC), 2 parents (Cristina and Bruno) and a 26 year old brother (Francesco).  Life is pretty incredible.  I get Tuscan cooking every evening and have a little breakfast laid out every morning. In the past three weeks, I have been to Siena and Rome (for four days) and seen countless works of Raphael, Michalangelo, Donatello, Da Vinci, Boticelli, Bernini… etc.  

Rome is an incredible city, but it was a whirlwind.  The Sistine Chapel was easily the highlight for me, but spending the ENTIRE day at the Vatican was suffocating and upsetting.  The excess of the papcy is incredibly apparent and it makes me rather unhappy.  I also walked around the Jewish District, went to Trevi Fountain, and The spanish steps while on my own.  With class we went to the Roman forum ruins and the colosseum, as well.  On Saturday, we went down to Naples & Pompeii, which fulfilled an abundance of childhood dreams.  Sunday was my favorite — the Parco della Villa Borghese is unbelievable.  Its this Baroque era villa on a hill in Rome with a gigantic park surrounding it that goes on and on.  Inside the Villa is a museum with a lot of classical sculpture, Renaissance works and some Baroque masters (namely Bernini and Caravaggio).  Extremely exhausting but very rewarding trip south..

I could go on about everything I’ve done since arriving in Florence, but a quick summary is:

I eat a LOT of Gelato, Pasta, and OLIVE OIL!  I spend as much time as possible outside. My host parents speak zero English so I’ve been learning Italian much more quickly than I had anticipated, which is exciting but also frustrating because I still feel very restricted by my language abilities.  I run a lot - theres a ton of amazing parks and beautiful hilly roads that lead out of Firenze past this gorgeous villas where every person has their own olive trees and grape vines.  

Today was one of the best days I’ve had since coming to Europe.  After a long, awesome night out, I woke up to a text that read “Hiking in Fiesole, meet at 11 at San Marco”. I got my shit together and walked to go meet the crew.  Seven of us: Kaleb, Zack, John, Emily, Sara, Kayla and I headed up the hill to the town of Fiesole, nestled up above Firenze. Of course, the group included a Coloradan and person who works at a summer camp in the Sangre’s - so we were ready for adventure and some hills.  

Kayla’s hiking guidebook had been published in 1997, so we don’t know for sure how accurate it was or how “off” we were, but within five minutes of starting the hike, we found ourselves meandering off the beaten trail into this really narrow, rocky, walled-in trail.  as we went, it got steeper and steeper and prickly vines began to fall in our path.  At one point, we heard classical music coming over a wall, so we got up onto the wall and 15 feet below us we saw a string quartet accompanying a wedding!  After a few minutes of extreme voyeurism, we continued on through the swampy trail.

About ten minutes later, once we’d almost wore out the Lord of the Rings references and firmly established that we were no longer in the Shire, we emerged onto the trail we had intended to go on.  A normal, well marked trail… 

It was perfect… Exactly how I like my hikes. We didn’t follow a map and frequently got sidetracked, spelunking in what we think were old stone mines, climbing rocks, taking nature pees with views of the city below, singing “The Circle of Life” as we went further up the Tuscan hills.  At one point, we found ourself on the mountain top where Leonardo had tried out his flying machines, and when we finally (after walking in a few circles) came to a town on the “other side”, we realized that we had actually come out of the park a few blocks away from the bus back to Firenze.  

In retrospect, I told that story horribly, my ability to piece together sentences has deteriorated GREATLY since I began speaking Italian. 

Today’s best example: “Wow, Zack really!? You have lunch for pasta?!”  

Homesickness has haunted me since coming to italy. but i guess that is life. I will be back home in 6 weeks exactly.  And when I say home, what I mean is Colorado.. 

Pictures are on facebook. I love and miss you all. 

Fikas, Falafel, Fromage, Friends!, et BEAUCOUP de parler francais

Amongst the “whirlwind” weeks of my life, this one is rapidly creeping to the top.  A week ago, Kayla, Sara & I were sitting in our flat in London in EXTREME study mode as we neared our 2 final exams Thursday afternoon.  But before I get to that… Let me just say
 
The final few days in London were amazing weather wise.  Kayla’s aunt was in town and we went to the Kensington Palace Orangery for high tea, a treat I had promised myself I’d splurge on despite my constant fear of going broke.  Well worth it.  I spent as much time as possible outside, running & strolling around my beautiful adopted home as temperatures soared into the sixties, Hyde Park overflowed with life, and our backyard garden bloomed.  I miss it already and hope to be back soon to share the secrets of London with loved ones from home.
 
After our exams, we headed back to the flat, drank wine & packed, and then were fed a wonderful buffet at a local wine bar & restaurant, the Troubadour (where Dylan played back in the early 60s).  On Friday morning, I hopped on the Piccadilly bound for Heathrow with Ben’s Cookies in hand to deliver to mes amis in Copenhagen!!
 
After a flight & a train, I navigated the Danish street signs to a little hostel in the “Norreport” neighborhood of Kobenhavn to find HILDY SCHOTT, TEAL FRANCIS, & ANDREW BAIRD!!!!!!!
I was overjoyed to see my friends after so long & to gossip about CC etc.  
 
I quickly discovered that Copenhagen is the most expensive city I’d ever been to, and after Andrew clued me in, learned that Scandinavia in general is just THE WORST.  Apparently he’s been spending $8/9 per beer all semester in Sweden! Ooftah! As a result, we spent the majority of the weekend eating either falafel or danishes. Not really complaining.
 
We went down to the Little Mermaid statue at the waterfront at saw the Kastellet fortress.
 
We never found out what is so strategic about a star for defending a fortress…so if anyone knows, tell me.  The mermaid was rather disappointing though.. very little… compared to us in this photo at least…
 


 
We meandered along the waterfront for a bit, walking through the city’s many beautiful parks & seeing “Nyhavn”, a district that is the most picturesque of the city’s many canals.  We were blessed with a glorious, sunny (but cold, 39) day & people filled the outside seating of all the cafes along the canal.  We were going to “fika” (or take a coffee break, according to Andrew, our dear ex-pat Swede), but there was quite literally not a single open seat along the entire stretch of Nyhavn.  Here’s a picture
 
 
Hildy, Andrew & I also checked out the Nationalmuseet where the highlights were lots and LOTS of skeletons (some with creepy teeth & hair) from peet bogs and some viking schwag. Gotta love the vikings.  We had a SOLID night out that involved a run-in with a Canadian named “Chris” who is 21 and going on a month long solo backpacking adventure throughout Europe.  He heard our accents at the hostel and hit the town til late at night.  He even ventured out with us the following day
 
Andrew peaced super early (we hope he made it home? I think he did? It was daylight savings time and we all forgot and pissed the hostel off and checked out an hour late).  Then Teal, Hildy, Chris & I had the most delicious danishes ever before walking to Christiania.  Here’s the Christiania “blurb”

Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania (Danish: Fristaden Christiania) is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents, covering 34 hectares (85 acres) in the borough of Christianshavn in the Danish capital Copenhagen. Civic authorities in Copenhagen regard Christiania as a large commune, but the area has a unique status in that it is regulated by a special law, the Christiania Law of 1989 which transfers parts of the supervision of the area from the municipality of Copenhagen to the state.

Among many Christiania residents, the community is known as staden (‘the town’), short for fristaden (‘the freetown’).

The people in Christiania have developed their own set of rules, independent of the Danish government. The rules forbid stealing, violence, guns, knives, bulletproof vests, hard drugs and bikers’ colors.

Famous for its main drag, known as Pusher Street, where hash and skunk weed are sold openly from permanent stands, it nevertheless does have rules forbidding ‘hard drugs’, such as cocaineamphetamineecstasy and heroin

 

It was so bizarre to just see men selling hash from stands at the side of the road.  Food was also a bit cheaper inside the commune.  And it smelled like weed everywhere.  I’d show you pictures but photos are strictly forbidden, especially on Pusher Street.  Here’s Hildy, Chris & I on a tree right at the entrance…

Big thanks to Ms. Adrienne Wood & Ms. Emmy Crouter for pointing us in the right direction twds fun things in Copenhagen.  Teal & I were the last to leave the city & explored the meat packing district and found this bizarre surreal park with a palace in the middle & the strangest trees I’d ever seen.  We ate a Dominos pizza at the airport, starving after non-stop walking all day, and apparently missing American grease…  Next Stop: Paris…

More thank you time: Teal was such a wonderful host!  She even had a mattress for me.  We crashed after Copenhagen and a super confusing mess of public transport home from Charles de Gaulle, so I got up fresh the next morning to do what I could with one day in Paris.  My French is pretty pathetique at this point (its been awhile) & I was feeling nervous, but wanting to try to use as much as possible.  I snuck out while Teal was still sleeping from her flat at Parc de Monceau on the border between the 8th and 17th arrondisements (look it up, Paris is a snail of neighborhoods called “arrondisement) just a few blocks from l’Arc de Triomphe.

Mission do all of Paris in a day begins here… I walked down the entire Champs Elysees, stopping just past the Virgin Megastore (where I, obligatorily, stopped) and ordered my first meal in full French with no pointing or stuttering (I did speak really fast though because I had thought through exactly what I had to say so much before ordering, I was super nervous and just exploded out “Je voudrais le petit dejeuner s’il vous plait avec le pain au chocolate et un cafe creme”!  So that is what I had… and this is the picture of it, ugly picture, not special food, but this was an important life moment for me …

I continued down le Champs Elysees, through Place de la Concorde (where the Obelisque is), and it was gloriously sunny so I could see down le Champs Elysees to l’Arc de Triomphe & then to the left over to le Tour d’Eiffel.  And across the bridge to les Invalides… Phenomenol.  I kept walking through le Jardin de Tuileries, but at this point I’d been in direct sunlight without glasses all morning & my eyes were killing me.  I was at a loss as to how to fix it, when at the end of the gardens I ran into a street vendor selling cheap-ass shades.  I took a deep breath then went off to haggle, in french.  His first question, “parlez-vous Francais” I answered with a very confident “Ouais!” (this is more like yeah, than yes, and it makes me feel more comfortable with my french to speak slightly casual).  I got him down from 10 euro to 4 and got the sunglasses…and managed to get the color I wanted… still with no English.  I even said “d’accord” subconsciously a few times.  So there’s accomplishment number 2 of the day.  Here’s me, in said sunglasses, 5 minutes later in front of le Louvre (my apologies for my hideous hair, it was windy).

Adventures in Paris continued as I got hassled by gypsies trying to convince me to sign a petition as they supposedly waited, slash distracted me while someone stole shit.  I resisted and this woman shook me violently as I refused to sign and i shoved her out of my way and jogged 10 feet past, scary… This was along the Seine right before le Pont Neuf, the first crossing to l’Ile de la Cite..  I headed into the Marais.  Marais means marsh, because this was the swampy area by the river WAY back in the day, but today its a district that is traditionally aristocratic but that has been taken over by amazing little boutiques and fantastic falafel stands.  Teal had pointed me this way & I really enjoyed walking there.  Afterwards, however, I took the Metro up to “Pigalle” and started the march up Montmartre.  Last time I was in Paris, this had been my FAVORITE place & I couldn’t wait to get back up the hill to see le Sacre Coeur & look out over the city.  I sat in the 65 degree heat & sun, soaking up street performers & the sounds of an excess of high school Americans on Spring Break…ha. Win.  

That night, Teal & I went to a bar in the Quartier Latin, le Piano Vache (piano cow), and planned to meet up with Lincoln Peek, another CC kid.  I text Mariana from CC & my program to let her know and she happened to run into Lincoln so was persuaded to join us for a bit.  We had some good catch up, nostalgia, intellectual discussion time & raced home before the trains closed.  I felt like I’d succeeded at 24 hours in Paris….

Onwards & Upwards to Geneve.  I made my way through some more meal ordering and even used the Conditionnel (for non-native French speakers, you’ll understand my excitement at successfully navigating this weird tense) to get directions to my train at the station (J’aurais besoin de was what I need to say…simplest conditionnel conjugation, but still…its been awhile) & took off to Geneva.

I’ve had the most amazing time here. Our family friends the Jagoes are such a generous, loving, welcoming family. George & Leslie met my parents in Boston back in the day before I was around and they now have Molly (13), Sommers (nearly 11), Garrison (9), and little Leta (6).  They’ve lived in Mozambique, Madrid, & here in Geneva over the past 7 years with George’s work in public health.  The kids are all at least bilingual with some residual Spanish from Madrid (and George’s mother is Spanish so its a language spoken amongst relatives etc).  Being in the house & in their little community of houses about 15 minutes outside of Geneva is just incredible.  So many languages & cultures around here.  Geneva really is the international city, with the UN & the Red Cross & the WHO… People are from EVERYWHERE and speak everything..

The city itself is beautiful.  It lies between the Jura Mountains of France & the Alps right on Lac Leman (what we call Lake Geneva).  The town is built around the little waterfront area, where the worlds largest fountain, le Jet d’Eau, turns on and off throughout the day.  Looking across from le Paquis, the northwestern side of the lake, you can see Mont Blanc behind le Jet d’Eau on a clear day.  Today Leta, Sommers, Sommers’ friend Billy, and George & I took bikes down to the waterfront and rode through the botanical gardens, les Jardins Anglais, and le Parc des Eaux Vives.  I saw most of the waterfront area & played a few MEAN games of tag.  Successful…  

I plan on “doing Geneva” solo tomorrow.  Taking the bus into town & walking everywhere.  Hopefully checking out some shops & maybe buying a Swatch or two for gifts… I feel so blessed to have a nice bed, good dinners (we had RACLETTE! last night, a delicious treat of melted cheese Hannah Jooo introduced me to in highschool), and a place to recuperate after a whirlwind of two months.  I’m so excited for the rest of the week here and my exciting life in Firenze.  

My apologies for the novel. Its just been the craziest week of my life.

if love be blind, love cannot hit the mark

One minute ago, in real time (it will change before this post ends), it was St. Patrick’s Day.  I am a person who centers her life around dates; the day I got accepted to CC (December 24th, 2007), the day I started at NIH (June 2nd, 2010)…  I remember days when I met new friends or went to a new place for the first time.  My good friend Tom sometimes likes to point it out like a spectacle when I meet new people: “Katie, what were you doing this day last year!?”, assuming I can remember it.  On St. Patrick’s Day last year, I met a really awesome group of guys, several of whom I still keep in touch with and who helped me survive my lonely summer last year.  So, inevitably, this year, I thought to myself, “Man, I better make new friends this year TOO!”.  Mission…sort of accomplished.  

Today was one of the BEST days I’ve had in awhile.  We’re coming in on the end (I leave for Italy a week from tomorrow) and, naturally, I have a few papers and finals to prep for/write, so I’ve been preoccupied with academics.  Today, after class, I finished my laundry, wrote half of my final paper for my Theatre class, went on a BADASS run through a forest with peacocks, and made delicious fajitas.  By the time we went to O’Neill’s, the local Irish pub, I felt successful, and was ready to make the most of it.  I had a Guinness & a Jameson on the rocks in honor of the Irish and settled down to talk to my friends and enjoy the atmosphere.  As the night proceeded, I attempted to have a conversation with a Frenchman (I spoke french, he spoke English…), jigged with some high school boys, danced in an Irish jig version of a conga line around the entire pub, and sang U2 at the top of my lungs.  I just came home to a lovely nutella & strawberry jam covered crumpet & tea…awaiting the 1:45 am Gonzaga game (yes I do plan on staying up for it).  Needless to say, I’m getting pretty sad to be leaving London.  This is a really awesome vain photo of me in my new Guinness hat… all the normal photos are on other people’s cameras…yes, I am sweaty…we jigged a lot…

Since “we” last spoke, I’ve been on a few adventures.  I finished my venture grant!  Ian, from DC-land, visited me!  I showed him my favorite things: Ben’s Cookies, Camden Markets, the South bank… We went to the pubs.  Standard London fare.  More exciting, though, was the class trip to Stratford!  I’m not really sure what it was about it, but I fell in love with this silly little tourist trap town.  We got to our B & B’s around 2 in the afternoon (SUPER soft beds w/ 2 pillows each! and a bathtub!) and took to town.  It was in the mid-fifties and sunny the first day we were there & being in a small town with a river and fresh air in such lovely weather was the biggest relief from London’s crowd a girl could ask for.  After some meanderings, we met up as a class and visited Shakespeare’s birthplace, where we took our very first group photo…


I’ve decided that it should be called “Eating Abroad” as opposed to studying abroad because everywhere I go, I always remember the significant foods I’ve ingested.  In Stratford, I went to this epic milkshake shop where they literally stick a candy bar in the blender with the milk & ice cream and it tastes like the candy bar.  I got twix…heavenly.  The best was probably Mariana’s nutella milkshake.  Heavenly.. “Moo Moos” Sadly, there are only 2…one in Stratford and one in Oxford, so no more for me. We also got a buffet of fried bar food after the play at “The dirty duck” and a traditional English breakfast.  No fried food for this girl for awhile… 

The trip was great mostly because of the nature.  After Shakespeare’s home we walked through a park along the river to Holy Trinity Church, his burial and baptism place.  We were all skipping and and jumping along dirt paths, down to the river, and up the trees, elated to be smelling fresh air and getting mud in our shoes.  One of the trees had “Rosalind” carved into by a clever tourist, harkening back to my first week here and the performance of “As You Like It”.


Adorable…
That night, we saw Romeo & Juliet at the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre on the riverside.  Its Romeo & Juliet…so its hard to really “say” how I felt about it.  Mercutio was hilarious, I got drawn in regardless of how ridiculous I thought Romeo was in the first two acts, I still believed that maybe THIS time Romeo would wait to take the poison for Juliet to wake up… Ya know how it goes.  The next morning we returned to the burial of Shakespeare when the church was actually opened. I decided that the graveyard surrounding this church is TOTALLY where James & Lily Potter are buried, we just can’t see their gravestones because we’re muggles

Back in London, we hopped back into school.  I went to the Globe yesterday & we had a little theatre lesson… I read a line from Macbeth & my awesome, actress roommate Kayla played Juliet to an awkward high school tourist boy’s Romeo…splendid.  That evening, we went back to the West End to see “The Children’s Hour”.  This play starred Keira Knightley and Elizabeth Moss (Peggy from Mad Men!!).  It was about two female schoolteachers accused of being involved in an affair in the early 20th century.  Heartwrenching and beautifully acted.  Although, Keira’s American accent is pretty shaky.

Highlights: Stratford-on-Avon, Children’s Hour, St. Patty’s Day, Ian’s visit, Moo-Moo’s!.  I also went to the Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum.  That was, understandably, upsetting, but very well put together, and I needed to go.  I recommend taking the journey to Southwark for that if you’re ever in London.  

Oh! Also, today in Sarah class, we walked around the cemetery I go to for all of my short runs & learned a lot about it.  My favorite little anecdote was about Beatrix Potter.  She grew up in the Boltons, a small, gated community on Old Brompton Road I’ve run past a few times.  Apparently, she used to come to the Brompton Cemetery for walks and walked past the grave of a “Peter Rabbit” and several “McGregors”.  In fact, some have speculated that the high walls of the cemetery were the inspiration for the walls surrounding McGregor’s farm… Pretty fun story.  

We have 1 week left & I plan on making the most of it (high tea and food from Harrod’s food halls!)… After that…I can’t wait to be with my CC friends in a week, seeing Paris again, and relaxing in Geneva with our family friends, the Jagoes.

I’m off to await the start of the Gonzaga game (1 more hour…guess I’ll have to work on my paper).  Then up at 9 am tomorrow for class! Sigh…

Miss you all, skype or email, please!  & Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

Oh, this is my favorite picture from Stratford, for some reason… In the garden adjacent to the plot where Shakespeare’s later home had been is a garden with sculptures dedicated to each of Shakespeare’s plays (they’ve done 12/38 thus far, I think).  This is the quote on the back of the winter’s tale sculpture


I like it because it recalls the Pygmalion myth…my favorite in Ovid & the inspiration for two of my favorite films, “My Fair Lady” and “Pretty Woman”.

How much does a polar bear weigh??

Tonight, a group of friends and I went to a pub at Imperial College London and after drink number two they challenged me to try out a pick up line. I found a group of men from the college football club and went to try my luck. (Men are ordered by positions they sat around table, clockwise from me)

   Katie (waves around at group and puts elbows down on table, clears throat, makes         eye contact, and prepares for embarrassment): Hi, so this may sound odd, but               how much does a polar bear weigh??

  Guy 1: 400 Kilos?

  Guy 2: NO! No, 500 kilos, innit?

  Guy 4: oh, OH!, 600 kilos

  Guy 3: Ha, they think they’re all smart aren’t they, its actually 450 kilos. JUST                  joking, its ENOUGH to break the ICE!!!. So, what are you American?

  Katie: yeah. You all go here?

  Guy 2: Uh, how bout you guess?

  Katie: okay, okay. So you go here, whatre your names?

  Guy 3: I’m Alex.

  Guy 4: Tom

  Guy 1: Giles (pronounced JY-ulls)

  Guy 2: Andy! .. And wherere you from

  Katie: Colorado

  Alex/Guy 3: Oh, do you know Cartmen?

  Andy/Guy 2: YEAH! Yeah, and were you THERE when they became superheros like the     Coon and Mint Berry Crunch??

Needless to say, Andy & Alex were my favorites. I left soon thereafter.  Mission accomplished, polar bear line used (which I’d NEVER heard before tonight) and ballsiness tested.  Remind me of this next time I’m afraid to talk to strangers… 

I love my friends, they are wonderful.

Yes, you! I woke up this morning to a handful nice long emails/messages from friends at school - a few from people I hadn’t heard from since leaving.  And in the past week I have skyped with four of my best friends.  I needed it, so thank you guys!  I’ve been battling a bad bout of food poisoning since Friday in the middle of the night, and today, I think I finally got over the hump.  It wasn’t the best thing for my spirits to be bedridden on our one three day weekend of the London half of the program (also the best weekend weather we’ve had thus far).  I missed the Fulham football match I’d spent £22 on, and I’m a bit behind on running… and caloric intake.  Whining aside…I was SO happy to see that everyone is well at home or wherever they are abroad, I miss you all more than you know.

Before the evil chicken schwarma kebab stole my intestine for a weekend, I had quite a fun little week.  Monday and Tuesday, Sarah took us on mission LONDON IS FUN WHEN MISERABLE.  In class, we took to the streets in sleet and 15 mph winds, scribbling “notes” on the Spitalfields region just east of the City of London.  I’m a skier, but this was pretty intolerable.  Tuesday we, thankfully, were inside for class, but we were learning about the paintings of William Hogarth and JMW Turner at the National Gallery and spent almost and hour standing and discussing each portrait.

We went to see Clybourne Park last week at the Wyndham’s Theatre. It was our first West End Theatre, and I really didn’t care for the setting.  We were in the nosebleeds, and the play was a really intimate banter-based show about race relations; not fitting at all.

On Thursday, however, we saw Vernon God Little… Before I talk about that - let me describe the GLORIOUS lead up to the best show thus far.  

I went to Starbucks to read the play the afternoon prior, and as I sipped my Vanilla Rooibos tea, a handsome English bloke invited me to join him & his friend.  I declined, despite his insistence that his friend really wanted to get to know me.  Apparently, I’m not quite ready to actualize my dreams of marrying a British man and staying here forever.  

On Thursday evening, after a good few hours of work on my Venture Grant, I walked to get gelato a mile or so away before taking the tube to Embankment.  I came out and crossed over at the Hungerford bridge to the Southbank centre.  I swear to GOD this is my new favorite place.

aerial view in the daytime..

I’ve mentioned previously my obsession with the Southbank. Its just so alive.  On the other side of the bridge is the Southbank centre where there are multiple galleries and theatres as well as the National Theatre.  People mill around waiting for their show to begin, taking in the city lit up at night (views down to The City and into the heart of Westminster across the river), or listening to street performers.  I got so involved in my people watching, I almost missed the show (another 1/2 mile walk).  I luckily did make it to the Young Vic theatre in time.  Vernon God Little is based on a novel by an Australian and turnedinto a play by Brits, but its about a school shooting in Texas.  The show was a satiricical dark comedy that I thought handled the issues well in the most honest way possible, with absurd humor.

Friday, Kayla and I went to the British Art Show 7. Every five years, the art show travels around Great Britain displaying some of the fresh talent of the past five years.  The most “shocking work” was a bench, except every once in awhile, a naked man would come out and sit and stare at a flame that would ignite at the end of the bench.  I came while the naked guy was there…

My FAVORITE part of the art show was this 24 hour clock film… Every shot was taken from a movie of sorts and showed a clock with a time on it.  The time always corresponded with real time, and progressed chronologically.  A clip, from the station agent, showed a broken watch at 2:10, and I realized upon checking my own watch, that it ACTUALLY WAS 2:10 pm.  It was a cool concept, and clearly took a lot of work.  

We also went to Borough Market - but I’ll talk about that next week since I’m about to go again, and take photos this time…

Last night, I had the BEST Chippy thus far (fish & chips) to celebrate my wonderful roommate SARA’s 21st birthday.  Delicious! Just a total dive with no corking fee and the most gigantic piece of fried haddock I’d ever seen

I jumped RIGHT back into the whole eating thing… 

Speaking of eating. Here in England, instead of taking off their shirts and getting wasted, we celebrate Carnaval/Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday with a little thing called PANCAKE RACES!  

Shrove Tuesday was once known as a ‘half-holiday’ in England. It started at 11:00am with the signalling of a church bell.[8] On Pancake Day, pancake races are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. The tradition is said to have originated when a housewife from Olney was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake. It remains a relatively common festive tradition in the UK, particularly in England even today, is the pancake race whereby participants race through the streets whilst tossing pancakes into the air, catching them in the pan whilst running.

We went to the Guildhall and saw the liverymen Pancake race - where all the members of the traditional “guilds” joined in the races.

They were funny hats and coats and had to flip the pancakes twice in the run… Weird. & 1 pound pancakes!

Sorry this is incredibly scattered & poorly written (I’m not editing), but my friend is in town & I want to go touristing..so bye!


"By Invitation Only": 24 Hours at England’s Most Exclusive Club

Teaching is thought to have begun at Oxford as far back as 1096, less than a decade after the founding of the first University at Bologna, making Oxford the second oldest still running University, coming close to a millennia of academia in this little British town, about sixty miles northwest of central London. The idea of Oxford has, in my mind (and presumably the rest of the world), always been intimately tied up with books - old yellowed paper and old english calligraphy.  In fact, the University contains a “legal deposit library” that contains every text that has been published in Great Britain (the Bodlein, attached by underground passage way to the Radcliffe Camera, or Radcam, seen below). 

Yes… People do study there. In fact, my friend from high school debate requests for texts to be delivered there (many of the books at Oxford can only be read on site inside of one of the Oxford library system libraries. There are three separate SYSTEMS).  While in town we met up with Jordan (aforementioned friend) and a few other Sarah Lawrence kids on the SL-Oxford study abroad program.  During our meanderings, I learned a bit about Oxford academics; to quote him, “This is a program for academic masochists”.  At Oxford, they do “tutorials”:

Tutorials take place at least once a week and it’s up to you to research and prepare for them. Then you meet your tutor, perhaps with one or two other students, to discuss an essay or solutions to set problems. The aim is to review your answers or theories and explore ideas that arise in discussion. A tutorial relies on the exchange of ideas between you, your tutor and other students. You need not be experienced in debating; you just need to be ready to present and defend your opinions, listen to others and accept constructive criticism. Tutorials develop your ability to think for yourself, an essential ability for academic success but also a skill that the best employers look for in Oxford graduates.

Pretty intense… Apparently, a typical student takes one tutorial and one lecture course per term, but the Sarah Lawrence abroad program requires two tutorials, which tends to result in two 10-page papers a week. Point of story, by the end of the night, I was incredibly impressed with the academic dedication of the three people with whom we spent the most time. As a result of this, Jordan was able to describe in detail his favorite rooms in his favorite libraries.  Sadly, since Oxford is truly England’s most exclusive club (the interior courtyards of most colleges cannot even be accessed), I never got into one of the libraries.  I went wild goose chasing in pursuit of the “Taylorian”, where they are apparently lax about checking IDs, and found it closed on Sunday.  

This is a pic from the interior care of the interwebs.  I guess there is a Voltaire room somewhere in this library which is great for studying and has multiple busts of Voltaire… real life kids, real life.

Enough about the academics…on to the parties!  At Oxford, they have these events called “BOPs”, standing for “Big Open Party”.  We went on a little pub crawl, and went to the infamous pub, The Turf Tavern, where Clinton “didn’t inhale”. Read the description, nuts!  Stopped at a few more pubs, had my first IPA since arriving on this side of the pond (joy!), met up with some more Sarah Lawrence kids, and headed over to the “college bar” at Wadham College.  Wadham was the college of the lovely Professor Sir Christopher Wren of architectural (and Sarah Cochrane) fame!  After a bit of a battle to get Kayla in (her name somehow did not make the list), we found ourselves wandering through an open courtyard under the first stars we’d seen since arriving here in the UK (light pollution + London weather, meh). 

Pretty lucky folks.  Had a swell time, if I do say so myself.  

In other news, I’ve been doing well the past week.  Highlights were probably Sunday and Thursday.  Sunday, after a jaunt through Old Spitalfields Market I went back to the Tate Modern for a class assignment (seeing Sunflower Seeds) and had another look around.  I decided to brave the London drizzle and walked 8.5 miles home.  I saw St. Paul’s, walked up Fleet Street recalling passages of Dickens and the unfortunate story of Sweeney Todd, marched through Trafalgar Square and up the greenway of St James Park to Buckingham Palace, proceeded onward through Green Park to Hyde Park then Kensington Gardens to home.  There’s no better way to learn a city than by hoofing through it, pausing to listen to protesters at Speakers Corner and the guards at Buckingham.

Thursday, we went out to Chiswick to see the “Chiswick House”, the Duke of Burlington’s masterpiece of the second Palladian Revival of the 18th Century.

It was rife with imagery from Greek mythology, and I had a lot of fun “reading the visual text”, if you will.  The highlight, however, was not class, rather, this was our nicest day by far since arriving.  The high was 58 and the sun was out all afternoon, so after class was over, I walked through the little suburb and found a cafe to read my paper.  I sat outside in A T-SHIRT! and munched on one of the best brownies I’ve ever tasted, amazing what a little vitamin D can do for the soul. 

Theatre wise we saw two shows last week, The Blue Dragon and The Heretic.  Blue Dragon was heavy on the tech and spectacle, but had a lot of new and interesting elements (use of subtitles and mixed media).  I really enjoyed the Heretic, though. This was on at the Royal Court Theatre, known for its emphasis on politically controversial or intellectual plays.  Richard Bean’s play centers around a global warming skeptic and her relationship with her daughter, coworker, student, and her environmentalist “enemies”.  Johnny Flynn played Ben, her “fresher” student, a 19 year old idealist whose endearing shyness and stammer mask a quick wit and commitment to his course of study.  

I also got to see the wonderful Flight Brigade at the Water Rats near Kings Cross on Friday night.  The band played a fantastic and sadly, far too short set. Afterward, they requested that we come to all of their shows and dance as enthusiastically; perhaps even with compensation?  I’m a sucker for large instrumental groups and it was a blast to see a band rocking the violin and the accordian, so props, guys!

We only have 25 days left here in London before I’m off to Copenhagen to see the lovely Andrew Baird, Teal Francis, and Hildy Schott.  And next week Ian (a friend from Maryland-land) is coming to visit for his Spring Break!  I’m looking forward to his visit because it’ll help me jump back into exploring London (I’ve been a bit burnt out on tourism) and give me an excuse to go back to my favorite places (Brick Lane…Ben’s cookies…)

Sorry this is 10,000 pages long and doesn’t even begin to cover my past week.  Hope all you CC Kids are getting excited for Drag Ball, and  I’m sorry I have yet to send any postcards home.  Miss and love you all. 

a piu tardi

Katie

we drink along in double time, might drink too much but we don’t mind

Wednesday evening, after a fun, sunny day meandering through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park with my roomies etc, I headed to Brick Lane. Now, we’ve all seen Chinatowns, and I’m guessing most of you have at least heard of London’s gigantic Indian population (makes sense).  Brick Lane is basically “Indiatown”; its the heart of London’s Bangladeshi-Sylheti community, and it has the food to prove it. A few of us checked out this little Indian place right before our play & I had my best meal thus far in London (curry, rice, naan, and mango lassi for £8!!!) 

Wednesday’s play was hilariously heartbreaking.  Its basically about normal people with normal shit issues; dead parents, MS, white knight complexes, alcoholism… The best part about it though, was that it was an American play.  Really interesting to imagine the ways it was different/confusing for a British audience.  They program had a glossary explaining terms like “Sears”, “401k” (the joke, “He’s so young! lets make a bet that he’ll think ‘401k’ is a rock band”, fell completely flat on everyone except my classmates & I), “rent control”, and a few other things.  They also had a little slip explaining the geography for those Brits a little shaky on how Key West relates to Providence, Boston, and New York… Pretty brilliant, if anyone ever picks up a copy of “Becky Shaw” or gets a chance to see it - highly recommended. I’m sure it’d be even better, seeing as all but one of the actors was a Brit whose failure to master the American accent was much more apparent to us native speakers of the courser (as the English seem to think) version of our language. 

Not too much of interest happened Thursday.  Typical class - discussing architecture and touring famous British buildings. After class, however, I decided I wanted to go browse the national gallery.  I marched up White Hall and Alex & I did the tourist thing in Trafalgar Square.  We were looking out over the Square (probably the most open, constantly populated spaces in all of London - visual aid above.), and we saw a mess of young men run through, rapidly and violently.  I saw a few push each other around and then one threw a glass bottle at another. A couple bobbies seemed to radio some important people, but no one really reacted. I quickly forgot about it because on my way home, I stopped at the grocery store and bumped into a guy who grew up in Spokane (RANDOM, awesome?!).  The next morning I was having my morning coffee & newspaper time at Starbucks when I stumbled upon a short write up in the Guardian mentioning a giant fight in trafalgar involving THREE STABBINGS! Nuts… No worries folks, really really out of the ordinary for that to happen.  Gang fights are normally not in the City of Westminster nor such public places…especially on non-protest days.

Yesterday, we had a big old adventure in The City; Sarah took us to the top of the Monument, Christopher Wren’s marker to commemorate the beautiful modern city of Classical architecture and dominance he planned after the Great Fire. We walked up it. ….I was dizzy

We continued on to 3 hours of walking around in freezing, rainy London, talking about architectural juxtaposition of new and old… Look up the Lloyd Building (aka the inside out building, same architect as le centre pompidou) and the Gherkin. Afterwards, Sarah escorted the brave souls willing to continue to jog along at her walking pace across the Southwark Bridge to see one of her favorite markets, Borough Market.  As per always, I fell in love with this one.  There were several blocks of fresh produce stands, baked goods, delis, and cheesemakers.  I sampled truffle infused olive oil and homemade mushroom pate; men and women shoved fish flavored cheeses, fresh baclava, and spicy chorizo samples into my hands.  I picked up a cup of warm mulled cider to bring the feeling back into my hands and had a lunch of delicious samples; in the end, I gave in and purchased what I can easily say was the best eclair I’d ever had.  The chocolate creme in the center melted away into delicious oblivion as it hit my tongue … 

I didn’t buy any fruit…but I will return.  Since my lunch had been minimal, I put together a gigantic dinner, which was definitely the best I’ve made since I got here.  Brinner! Bacon, eggs, toast, hash browns, and tea! Made me miss the good old 106 men.

3500 miles from Brooklyn, on the second balcony of the O2 Empire in Shepherd’s Bush, I found myself screaming out drunken hymns to a drugged up savior found lurking in Brooklyn, Minneapolis, and Ybor City. Last night, I went to see the Hold Steady with my friend, Alex, from St. Olaf.  In retrospect, I wish I had jumped on purchasing two tickets when I found out about the show a few months ago so I could have been screaming with the crowd right in front of the stage, but it was still an amazing show.  They played some of my favorites, and I got myself into the appropriate mindset (ahem) for a Hold Steady show and sang my heart out.  Great way to kick off a weekend.

After a crazy night last night, we got going by 12:30 this afternoon. Back to Portobello Road, but this time, the market was buzzing because it was Saturday. I made my way through the antiques and the thrift clothing stalls without buying anything. As always, however, I’m weak when it comes to sweets and books.  I came home with a 2 pound copy of Nicholas Nickleby (explanation to come), a mango, and a crepe with nutella sitting happy in my belly.  Had a lovely walk home though — I really try to avoid the tube, so if I ever leave the group (as I did today), I’ll end up walking home if its no more than 3 or so miles. 

Staying in tonight and working on school stuff so I can go exploring to a new market (Spitalfields) tomorrow.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m obsessed with markets… there will be so many in Florence too.

(spitalfields)

The other reason I’m trying to get work done is that I want to start working on my final paper/project for the Visual Text class.  Its our project to explore what interests us about London’s visual text and history.  Hence, Nicholas Nickleby. I’m thinking about doing my project either on London & Literature in the 19th Century, or entirely about Dickens and London. I want to incorporate his novels and their vivid descriptions of London and surrounding areas into what I actually see as I walk around the city & what we’ve learned about culture, class, and change in the cityscape.  I need to run it by my professor, but I’m pretty excited about it.  Step one - I’m going to read Nickleby (then re-peruse David Copperfield and Great Expectations & maybe read Tale of Two Cities as well…)

Well… Now that I’ve gone on my academic rant, until next time - I’m off to eat the beautiful mango I got at Portobello Road Market today  

Miss you!

Oh yeah - as far as “I” go… I’m still adjusting, but I’m doing better. Definitely more homesick than the first week or so, but I’m also more comfortable with the people here and my life here.  Hoping to start skyping and such with people more now that my schedules a bit settled, and now that its been a couple months since I’ve seen any CC people, so email or facebook me !!!!!

Florence and The Machine

—Dog Days Are Over

happy friday. post tomorrow. 

also - i forgot to mention that yesterday we went to see “northern star” — a play about the united irishmen in the 1790s and the execution of Henry Joy McCracken.  It ended in a hanging. Real joyous way to spend Valentines Day.  It was a fringe theater and literally they put it on in a room barely bigger than my dorm room thing in my flat with 40 people squeezed in on all sides. Low budget, but brilliant acting.

Oh! And travel plans are solidifying. I’m going to Copenhagen (With Teal, Hildy, and Andrew!!) then Paris then Geneva (and skiing in the Alps) for Spring Break.  Then Jess and I are going from Florence to Livorno - taking a ferry to Corsica - staying there 4 nights (including her 23rd birthday) then heading to Nice for a day & a night before jetting back to London the night before we fly out.  Back to Washington DC for a night on June 3rd then still CC ON JUNE 4TH. for those worried or wanting to be jealous :)