Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesday: Writing in the Public Sphere

My solo class, yay! I had had another reading to do, and it was so dense and challenging to get through, so I felt a little more unprepared for class discussion. We discussed a lot about the public sphere and how this author, Nancy Fraser, presented her argument as a critique of Habermas. I have an essay due next week so we looked a lot at her writing style to give me an idea of how to format mine.

Apparently, I had a much better grasp on the material than I had thought, and my professor was very happy with the discussion and  the things I was saying. She complimented me on being an excellent reader, and being able to pick out the important parts of a piece of writing, which was so great to hear!

Our outing was across town (by tube and above ground tube) in the East End at the Museum of London Docklands. Read more about it here:

Rusty and his daughter, Erin, went with us, and it was a wonderful outing. I really enjoyed the exhibit a lot. And my professor complimented me again after Rusty joked about me being a bad student, and she said I was brilliant. Like, what?! Seriously?! So cool. And so humbling coming from her, because she seriously IS brilliant. So awesome.

It was me and Rusty on the ride home- Erin and my professor went their separate ways. I grabbed a sandwich, came home, took a nap (this is getting to be my normal routine...), then went off exploring. I wanted to find a bookstore to just do homework at, and I ended up at Waterstones. It's more of a chain, and HUGE with a below ground level with a Costa Coffee and then the ground level, and then three levels up from that. I absolutely loved it. There was so much to explore and it didn't have a chain feel at all...there were so many books everywhere. I went up to the highest floor and found the religious section and ended up not finding the book I was looking for (Love Does by Bob Goff) but got a Tim Keller book that I'm really excited about, and then found a book called Britain, etc. that is AWESOME. It goes through the alphabet and dives into the significance of the items of each letter on a variety of levels. I'm loving reading it- it's teaching me so much about the culture I'm living in! Love it. Such a good find.

I spent the next few hours down at Costa with a delicious raspberry iced tea, getting SO much work done. Best afternoon on my own ever. I seriously needed it.

Came back to the house in time for our weekly meeting, bought tickets for Les Miserables for Saturday (STOKED ABOUT THIS).

It was Amanda Gallagher's birthday, so a bunch of us went out to a pub a little further away from the house but still within walking distance. It was called The Rocket, and they had pitchers of Pimms for eight pounds, so most of us got those. Such a good deal. Amanda Mey and I got one to split, but I ended up not liking it much and I got other drinks on my own. They were a lot cheaper than other places we have been, which was great! It was a perfect evening so we started the night outside on picnic tables, but then moved inside when it got colder. We were definitely loud, obnoxious Americans, but it was SO much fun. One of the best nights so far!

Raced home (literally, I ran) to skype Kyle at midnight, then skyped Zach Powers!

Such. A. Good. Day.

Today- Thursday- free day

Took serious advantage of this and didn't set an alarm this morning! Yay, so great. Woke up about 10:45, had breakfast, read some of my new book, got ready, had lunch, and when Amanda got back from class, we headed back out to Waterstones.

Read more of my book and wrote a bazillion postcards and had another yummy iced tea with a blueberry muffin. Got my thesis for my upcoming essay all worked out and ready to get approved too! Stopped at a great little cluttered secondhand and new book store on the way home- so much fun but didn't find anything worth buying. Stopped at the post office to buy more stamps, then came home, made dinner (a yummy cottage pie with Quorn- a veggie meat substitute that was really good), and have been reading, writing, etc. Skyped Emily and her boyfriend! So good to see her again.

Off to Windsor tomorrow to explore on our own- I think it might just be Amanda and I! So excited. Grammy recommended it and I'm excited to see it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday/Tuesday classes

Monday: Media and Politics

We discussed a lot about the constitutional differences between the US and UK and the roles of the monarchs (to be seen and never heard), talked about the experience we had at the jubilee activities, etc. Our outing was to Kensington Palace- where Princess Diana lived, and where some royals still live. Half of it is residences and half is museum.

It was recently renovated and there was some sort of super modern exhibit thing going on through the museum and we all were pretty disturbed by it overall. It was so distracting and got in the way of the actual palace in it's history and beauty and I really didn't like it. It all had a weird sort of dream-like, Alice in Wonderland kind of spooky feel...weird. Museums don't need cutouts of dead trees in shadow and megaphones that whisper royal gossip when you walk by...

Why is this...thing...hanging from a chandelier? I don't know.
Overall we rated the new renovations and exhibit a 4 on a scale of 1-10...not as awesome as it could have been. But it definitely was fun exploring and giving super honest feedback throughout it on what we thought! Our professor is very open and fun and honest about things which makes it really interesting and just a much better experience overall. I love it.

Oh, forgot to mention it was POURING RAIN when we were walking to the museum from the tube...and of course it was the one day I decided not to wear my rain boots. So my poor Toms got soaked. And my feet got soaked. And every time I took a step, water sloshed around in my shoes. Gross and uncomfortable, lemme tell ya.

After the musuem we rode the tube back, I stopped at Pret to grab a sandwich, and came home and napped. Oh, sleep, how I miss you. Naps are my thing.

After my nap, it was homework homework homework for the rest of the day pretty much. Such a fun work and media analysis papers to revise and such.

Tuesday: Media and Society/Culture By Design

Media and Society was a lottttt of lecturing. Our professor gets lost on these tangents about things that are interesting, but so long-winded that I start to lose focus. And he talks for ages, today was all about the British class system and the British empire (terms we had already defined in our group work). We had a guest speaker who was an American/now British journalist, and she presented to us about the different newspapers in London and told us where they stand politically and what types of news they present and to what target audiences, which was interesting.

We were supposed to leave for our outing at 10:30 but I'm pretty sure it was more like 11:30 before we left...and then we walked and walked and walked to get to Fleet Street where I'm sure there is awesome journalistic significance with newspapers from back in the day and such, but our professor never mentioned it. I'm still not really sure why we went and what we were supposed to get out of it...basically a lot of walking for no real reason. Oh well.

A group of us went to The Olde Dutch- a pancake house with huge awesome sweet or savory crepes- for lunch. I got a sweet crepe with berry compote and cream, and it was good but really different. There were berries in it that I have never seen before, so that was interesting. I ended up wishing I had gone savory. But oh well, there's always next time! There will definitely be a next time at that place.

We had Culture By Design about an hour after Media and Society ended, so after lunch we headed back to class. This time, lecture was shorter, and we discussed a lot about industrial design and the components that make up good design, so as to set the stage for our outing to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

We took the red double-decker buses to get there- my first time riding them! We were on top and it was a neat way to see the city as we rode quite a ways to the museum.

The museum was HUGE and awesome and full of so many cool things that we didn't get a chance to fully see, but we looked at several examples of design and discussed them as a group before we went to the temporary exhibit of British Design through the years which was really cool. We were sent off on the mission of finding something we felt was excellent design, based on our own standards. The exhibit went through many decades, with fashion and music and entertainment and household products and all sorts of designed things on display. It was really cool and so unique from anything I've seen before, and I loved it.

The design I picked as being particularly excellent was actually the museum's logo:

I'm just a big font nerd, and I love the serif font that speaks to the historical aspects of the museum as whole- it's not helvetica and modern, it's still timeless and classic but still unique. The "A" isn't complete, which adds quirk and a bit of whimsy to the design, which is also such a key characteristic of the museum itself. I just loved that it was simple and clear and easy to understand, is indicative of the museum and represents more than just the title, and it's not excessive. All it takes is three characters, and a bold and obvious message is presented. I just loved it. Call me crazy, whatever.

Also. This museum had an awesome huge grassy courtyard area with THE COOLEST CHAIRS EVER. I was seriously obsessed with them. We sat in them during a break in the outing, and then after our scavenger hunt when we were reflecting on what we found. I loved them. They just spin around when you move in them, and you always feel like you're about to fall, but you never do. It's just great. So much fun. Best part of the day by far!

Culture by Design class! Our professor is in the dead middle in the back
After class, we rode the tube back, stopped at the grocery store, and came back to the house. I ate dinner- random odds and ends, and then worked on reading a huge 26 page scholarly article on the public sphere for my class tomorrow and uploading pictures and such! Off to bed now...sadly, no skype date with the boy and I'm not sure what happened :( things that suck about being in foreign countries...

until tomorrow!

Back to London!

Yesterday was our last day in Edinburgh. We had breakfast at 8 like the day before, and then had until 10:30 to be out of the hotel. We didn't have any real plans for the day, just free time until we had to meet at the train station at 4:30. I blogged and got my pictures uploaded and such while I still had wifi and before I started forgetting everything. We packed up and left our bags at the lobby and were off. Nobody had any real plan and we were all pretty tired from the day before.

A bunch of us ended up at the St. James shopping mall and wandered around for a while in there killing time. It wasn't anything too exciting, and I didn't want to spend any more money. We left after a while and headed off in search of a restaurant for lunch. About six of us or so ended up back by the castle sort of, and found a cheap cafe for lunch. Got a mozzerella and sundried tomato ciabatta which was pretty good. All of the group ended up congregating back together at a Starbucks- I wandered off on my own (didn't want to spend my time in Scotland sitting at a Starbucks like I could do anywhere at home), found an awesome street vendor selling gorgeous jewelry. Chatted with the guy a lot and it was really fun to hear his perspective on the states and our staying in London and was my first real extended conversation with a local and it was really awesome. Bought a few pieces of jewelry and he gave me awesome deals because I was so friendly, it pays to chat with people :)

Got a cappuccino and kept wandering, and ended up finding an AWESOME vintage/retro feeling little boutique kind of store...I spent forever in there. Bought a really awesome black and white print of Edinburgh that I'm so excited about. I've been on the lookout for good art things as souvenirs, I just love having it as opposed to trinket things that I'll never do anything with. Found some gifts and cool cards and postcards and such...I bought things three times from the lady because I just couldn't leave and kept finding more treasures!

Our group went through more shops together and had fun exploring for a while. Amanda and I reached our limit with shopping and left the group to go take pictures at the Olympic rings (the torch went through Edinburgh either today or maybe tomorrow?) and then sit in a beautiful huge grassy park area and chat about life.

Scotland is just so gorgeous, even in the crappiest of weather. I love it so much and can't wait until I can go back and visit again and explore more.

Sitting at the park was when I pulled my camera out of my bag to find that the screen has a huge crack in it :( Such a sad discovery and I have no idea how or when it happened because I had taken pictures like five minutes before we got to the park and it was didn't affect the screen at all visually, so I'm hoping it will hold out and not get worse. Looks like I'll be saving up for a new camera after this trip!

We had to go back to the hotel to grab our bags (mine were way too heavy...I was wishing for luggage on wheels) and head to the train station. We all met up and boarded the train. I wasn't at a table this time, but I was sitting by Amanda by chance, which was great!

The train ride home was a LOT less exciting than the train ride there...I was tired but couldn't get comfortable enough to sleep, couldn't read or I would feel sick, etc. Ended up editing all my Edinburgh pictures so I could re-upload them to Facebook and doodling/writing letters and listening to music, but it felt like the ride took forever.

Got back to London about 10 ish! It was raining here fun.
Did some homework until midnight, skyped Kyle again (for longer this time, yay!) and then finally got to bed, but didn't fall asleep until after 2 :(

Monday, June 11, 2012

Worship on the train to Scotland

I see You in the rolling fields of green in countless shades and shadows, in the deeply rooted trees spread wide and far. You are abounding in grace and love sheltering over Your people and Your creation. You are beauty beyond any I could ever see. The waves breaking on rocky shores to shower the land in mist are nothing in comparison to Your strength and majesty. The sky, endless and limitless, is a tiny detail in the realm of Your splendor.

How can I love You, Lord? I am so sinful, so broken, so far from who You are. How can my heart make anything You would see worth in? How can I love You as You, my King, should be loved and adored? I fall on my face before You. I am humbled by all that You are and all that You have created. Your work is perfect and complete. You made the earth, and it is so so good.

Abba, I see You all around me. I know You are here, I know Your spirit is at work in me, shaping and molding me and refining me in every way. You are good, You are good, You are good. I bow at Your feet, in awe of Your presence, knowing I am sinful but redeemed in Your son’s name. You died to save me, my savior Jesus. I didn’t deserve it then or now, and I will never earn it. I can’t fathom a love that deep, that mighty, that precious and pure. You are true love, Abba, in every way. You are love. I am hungry for more of Your love, more of Your life.

The beauty around me calls me and stirs me to worship all that You are. I pray that that would never go away, that You would always be moving in me to love You more. I want to be more like You, I want to see Your face in new ways every day. As Your mercies are new every glorious morning, may my love for You and for Your people and Your world grow in new ways in every situation.

Lord, I have been so selfish in how I’ve acted and treated Your children in my life. Make me so much less. Be greater in my life. Break me of who I am, and show me how to be more like You. I haven’t been reflecting You as well as I should, and I want to be a mirror. Shine Your light into me, that I may live in the light and not in the darkness. I know I’m a fallen sinner. Cleanse me in the blood of Your Son so I may know You more.

You are in the sun as it rises, and in the beauty left behind when it sets. You are in the stars, past, present, and future as they burn. They burn for You, as the fire in my heart burns for You. Ignite me with an even greater passion for Your name. Erase all that is sinful in me, and make me pure before You.

I’m Yours, in every way. Break me, make me, set me on the path You have set for me, and lead me forward. You are glorious, my awesome God. You are beautiful. I see Your face in this land around me, and I know You are beautiful. I love You, Abba Father.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I love Edinburgh.

So we arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland at like 1:30 in the afternoon, and it was FREEZING and so overcast and cloudy and rainy leaving the train station. Didn't pack for this cold of weather.

We had about a ten minute walk to our "hotel"- basically an old house or something, we took up almost the whole place with like 3-4 people per room, so that tells you how small it is.

our VERY pink hotel room

We had a little bit of time to settle and unpack, and then we were off to head back to the train station to take a bus tour of Edinburgh. It was a double decker bus, but the top was uncovered and in the gross weather, most of us opted to stay inside down below. The tour took us through New Town and Old Town of Edinburgh- the tour guide compared it to The Tale of Two Cities- but Edinburg's version as a place with two towns contrasting.

It was good to get oriented, but I was exhausted and I couldn't see much and the gloomy weather wasn't too thrilling, so it wasn't the best thing ever.

Afterward, a group of like 5 or 6 of us stopped in Topshop to browse, and then went to H&M where I bought a few sweaters- definitely a necessity. Layers are CRUCIAL and I just don't have enough of them for how cold it is here.

We ended up walking quite a ways to find a restaurant Charlotte had recommended, but we ended up finding it. It was Amanda (my roommate)'s birthday! So we got fun drinks to celebrate- mine was called Riveting Rasberri, a mix of champagne, raspberry vodka, and Chambord. Tasted delicious at first, then got SUPER strong.

me and the birthday girl!
I got a Caesar salad to eat...bad idea. Had anchovies on top and a ridiculously fishy flavor to the dressing...way more than the states. Not good for this veg girl. Didn't eat it at all, but I finished my drink (after spending money on it, I was determined to)...which led to quite a bad headache. We stopped at a grocery store on the way home and I grabbed a sandwich and some snacks and we bought Amanda a birthday cake!

Back at the hotel, everyone came up to our room to have cake and just hang out and drink, and it was such a fun evening!

We wanted to go out to a karaoke bar with the whole group, but after a lot of researching and calling around, we realized it wasn't really gonna happen. We all set off in search of a bar we had heard about, The Three Sisters. We wandered in the cold rain for a while and personalities and frustrations flared up and it got to be crazy, and Faith and I bailed and just came back to the hotel. The group ended up finding a cheap and fun bar and had a great night, but I was glad to have time to myself to just relax and then be able to finally skype Kyle in China! Haven't been able to talk to him except through a few sporadic emails when we get wifi, so it was awesome to see him and hear about his adventures! Such a good way to end the night.

Woke up early for breakfast at the hotel at 8- lots of pastries, yogurt, fruit, scrambled eggs, coffee. Yum.

By 9:30 we met at the hotel and left for our tour of Edinburgh Castle. We walked there and it was a bit of a hike with quite a few stairs, but we got there and it was SO impressive. We were part of a guided tour, but I was too distracted by the incredible views of Edinburgh from where we were that I didn't really listen too much.

approaching the entrance to the castle

views! ahhh!

Amanda and I with the views in the background
We were led through the castle with the tour- saw the oldest buildings and the newest ones (the castle was destroyed except for one chapel at one point), and then had time to explore on our own and take pictures and such!

We left the castle and wandered through the city streets, eventually splitting up to get lunch in smaller groups (my group got cheap sandwiches at a cafe and ate outside). The weather is SO unpredictable- it would be hot and sunny, then two minutes later be crazy windy and freezing and pouring rain, then two minutes later be crazy. My jacket came on and off so many times. My second umbrella of the trip broke to the point where it wouldn't stay open and then the handle fell had to buy another one. Getting sick of this, but it's at least a game now to see how long they'll last!

Bought an awesome totally Scottish big wool sweater that I'm so excited about, and then we were off to go climb Arthur's Seat (aka highest point in Scotland!)

We had quite a ways to walk to get to where the walk/hike/adventure started. It was SO steep at first, and I started getting worried that my knee wouldn't hold up for the whole thing. It definitely didn't look as steep and challenging when we were on the ground, and of course I was all bundled up in tons of layers which meant I was sweating like crazy and not too thrilled about it all haha. We kept going and it eventually leveled out and our group stopped to take pictures while the rest of people kept going.

The rest of the group except for Liz, Ian, and I went on to the veryyyy top of the peak but I knew my knee wouldn't be able to handle it. The three of us explored little ridges and cliffs and such on our own and just laid down in the grass and talked and took pictures for a few hours- it was so fun and relaxing and crazy gorgeous. We were able to see everyone when they were at the very top too, which was awesome!

Some of the group came down and met us at the bottom, and the rest went down a different way. We hung out in the grass for a while but it was ridiculously windy and we were all getting hungry and tired of just sitting there, so we left and walked back quite a ways to go to the cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. There was a long line so we ended up leaving to eat at Nando's- an awesome restaurant with lots of chicken (veggie burger for me!). So good.

Amanda and I left when the group went to get dessert, stopped in some shops for souvenirs, and then came back to the hotel. All the wind had given me an insane migraine, so I crashed at 8 with my clothes on, completely not expecting to stay asleep all night, which I did. Woke up at 3 am completely disoriented, but headache free! All of the group ended up crashing early, we all were exhausted and just needed to sleep apparently!

Off to explore on our last day in Scotland- I'm going to be sad to leave this gorgeous place.