Saturday, June 30, 2012

The weekend

Friday was fiiiiiinally the day my little secret from my roommate would be out in the open- her boyfriend flew to London to surprise her! Her boyfriend, also named Kyle, had been messaging me for a while to plan things, and I was so excited and anxious for him to be here so that everything would work out! She went to the airport to drop her parents off who had been here for the past week, and they stalled for time until Kyle got there and they all met up! I'm so happy for her (and a tad bit jealous too...)! They're off in Looe this weekend so I have the room to myself, which is very nice, I must say.

I hung out at the house most of yesterday, just blogging and reading and such trying to kill time until they got home from the airport. I ended up going out to run some errands and try to find some souvenirs in shops around the area, and when I got back, Amanda and Kyle were here! We chatted for a while and they went off exploring and Mimi and I ended up going out shopping in Oxford Circus.

Four hours and lots of purchases later...I have lots of beautiful new clothes and I was exhausted! We met up with Ian at wagamama for dinner (so good) and came home. The three of us and Tina hung out here and drank and talked for a while, hung out with Liz when she got home and we found where she had been hiding from us out around the neighborhood, and I went to sleep around 2ish.

Today, I slept in and it was SO NICE. My knee is wearing down rapidly and I was just so physically exhausted and really needed to be lazy for a while. I haven't even left the house today...oops. Did my laundry, SKYPED KYLE YAYYYY, am now totally caught up on my blog and my class blog too, wrote a bunch of postcards, read, had dinner, and have been totally and completely enjoying my weekend of alone time :)

I'm feeling so much better about things overall than I was a few days ago, and I think this weekend and rest was exactly what I needed. The fact that there are three weeks left is scary. I don't know if I'm ready to leave! Definitely need to make the absolute most of the rest of time I have here.


Kristina, Mimi, Ian and I left the house just after 7 am to take the tube to Wimbledon!
We got there about 45 minutes later or so, and walked from the tube stop with EVERYONE else from the tube to get to the queue and line up! We were nervous about getting tickets, but we got our queue cards and I felt confident that that meant we would get tickets! It was just a huge grassy field with thousands of people lined up and hanging out with picnic blankets and such!

About two hours later, after a few rain showers and spending three pounds to buy a picnic blanket along with a newspaper, a poncho, and a cool woven bag, our line moved and we were able to get in!

Once we got in, we had access to all the grounds! We went and saw some practicing, and then wandered around and found matches that Ian told us were good (he's a big tennis fan and knew everyone, so I was glad he was there to lead us around!). It was a HUGE place and I was surprised at how close we could get to the games and players! The biggest matches were for ticket holders and were in the bigger courts like they show on tv, but we saw some awesome matches and it was great!

It was SO HOT out and I was sweating like crazy, and dehydrated, and I got reaaallllyyyy tired of standing almost the whole time (my knee is getting so much worse). We got lunch in the middle, which was a nice break from being in the sun. It was just a tiring day, but I'm so glad we were able to go and have the experience of going to Wimbledon! I don't know many of the players names, but here are pictures from the day:

The girls went to to the store and then left around 5, and Ian stayed to watch more. I didn't feel well and I was beyond exhausted and just ready to be off my feet and out of the sun. The tube ride back went well and I came home, took a cold shower, and crashed super early! An experience I was glad to have, but don't think I would ever do again.

Week five of classes

Monday- Media and Politics
Had a 2,000 word paper due! Thankfully I had written mine before the weekend trip so I didn't have to worry about it Sunday night. I think it was the longest paper I've ever had to write, and the most difficult. I don't know much about politics, and it's not something I'm particularly interested in, so it wasn't easy to just sit down and write. Reading scholarly journals to find sources was really intriguing though, and I ended up loving the challenge of writing it and diving into a new topic. I was on such a high after I finished it, and I started following a bunch of new blogs on interesting topics that I want to know more about. This is how college should be. Interesting, challenging, encouraging you to learn more and seek knowledge for yourself outside of your comfort good.

I got to class and realized Kristina and I were supposed to give a little presentation on the media's perception of the Olympics that I had totally forgotten about in the midst of writing my paper...but we got up and went with it and I think it actually went really well! Practicing my B.S. skills. Sweet stuff.

Our outing was to the Old Bailey- we got to sit in on a fraud case that has been going on for a while now! It was one of the coolest outings we've had. It was so much more interesting than sitting in Parliament, because it was younger people and an actual court case and they were questioning the people and all the barristers were wearing wigs and it was just awesome. We sat in for two segments of time of the case, and I did not want to leave! I wanted to hear more and see what the jury decided. So cool. Never have I been interested in law before!

Ian, Tina, Griffin, and I went to Pret for lunch and then came back to the house. Grocery shopped at some point, and I'm pretty sure that's really all I did of importance on Monday...

Tuesday (aka longest day ever)- Media and Society/Culture by Design

In Society, we had 500 words of our essay due to show that we've made progress on it. Essentially, it was an introduction, the outline of body paragraphs with the sources I'm planning on using and quotes from them, and a rough conclusion. Not too bad.

Our outing was to Notting Hill and we took the tube to get there and meet our tour guide. As soon as we met up with him, our professor straight up left. So weird. I really think he should have stayed with us considering he is getting paid to be our teacher, not just drop us off places and leave...but anyway.

Notting Hill was really cool! Definitely a unique area. So much cool culture stuff there, and also so many nice houses where very rich people and celebs live and stay. Our walk gave me a really good sense of the area and I loved it! Lots of sights and references to parts of the movie Notting Hill, which I need to finish watching! Saw the famous Portobello Road market and want to go back one weekend.

Portobello Road

The bookstore from the movie Notting Hill

Presumed to be a real Banksy piece!
After Notting Hill, everyone that had CBD afterward had to rush and take the bus and tube to St. Paul's Cathedral where we were meeting for class. We had time to grab Pret and eat, but no real time to breathe between classes. Tuesdays are very long days.

We took a tour of St. Paul's, and it was incredible! Such a gorgeous church, especially in it's architecture, and I loved seeing it. There is so much detail in every aspect of the design, and I just wanted to stare at all of it all day. Our tour guide was a really sweet and funny old gentleman, and we learned SO much about the cathedral! The group went up 200+ stairs to get to the first tier of the big dome, but knowing my history with heights and small spaces (signs warned that people with claustrophobia not attempt the stairs), I passed.  I enjoyed seeing it all from the ground level, and with my knee and everything, I knew it was best not to attempt it.

We left the cathedral after everyone came back down, and we went to a courtyard outside St. Bride's church to discuss the day with our professor, and then we went back to the Cheshire Cheese pub (where we had gone with Society on a different outing) and discussed more while some people got drinks with the professor. Not me, too weird.

Afterward, we had time for dinner (Tina, Mimi, Ian and I went to Garfunkels where I had disappointing nachos and then a delicious berry cheesecake) and then it was back to St. Paul's for the Berlioz Requiem! SERIOUSLY the longest day ever. Nonstop.

The Requiem was SO good. It was all sung in Latin, but we had programs with the Latin alongside the English and surprisingly I was able to follow along pretty well. Reading the context of the performance was helpful too- it really set the stage for how spiritual it all was. The music and the voices were so beautiful, especially echoing throughout the was such an awesome evening and something I wasn't expecting to love as much as I did. So cool.

Took the tube back home and CRASHED. Over 13 hours going, going, going...Tuesdays are brutal.

Wednesday- Writing in the Public Sphere
I had a 1,500 word paper due for this class (last paper of the week!) and another big reading, but I was in a much better mood this week (and feeling much better health-wise) so our discussion was much more enjoyable! The articles are getting lighter in their content each week, and more recently written as well, so they're easier to digest. My professor gave me another incredible and humbling compliment too, saying that I have an incredible ability to read a piece of work and clearly and concisely identify what is important from it. I can't get over the ways she encourages me! I love it. Serious confidence boost.

Our outing was to Fleet Street and St. Brides Church where we had gone for an outing with Media and Society (where we didn't learn anything and I was very disappointed) so I was excited to go back and see it through a different perspective. We took a bus to get to Fleet Street and then strolled along it, stopping to read signs about the history of different buildings and to explore little alley courtyards and neat places (like the original London Twinings Tea shop in the home of one of London's original coffeehouses! SO cool!) and to learn about the buildings where newspapers used to be housed- the real purpose of the significance behind Fleet Street.

We ended our outing at St. Brides Church! Read more about it here:

Afterward, my professor went her own way and I went off on my own to explore and shop and get souvenirs for people! Spent a lot of time and money in one souvenir shop and got a lot of stuff. Found awesome summer sales at Topshop and ended up finding a dress for only about 14 pounds that I love!

It was so great being on my own in the city, finding my way on my own and taking my time doing whatever I wanted, and even figuring out how to take a bus home by myself (including getting lost and having to walk 30+ minutes to get back).

Went to dinner at Nando's with Amanda, Mimi, Tina, Ian, and Rachel Gill- so good.

week of classes: DONE.

(I'm writing this much later...but just realized there were things I never mentioned)
Mimi and I went shopping on Oxford Street- to H&M (two different locations- one is much bigger), Topshop, New Look, and then ventured a bit further down the street in search of Primark! When we finally got there, we were instantly VERY overwhelmed. It was HUGE. We only ended up browsing around the first floor (there are several) and it was so crowded and chaotic, ridiculously cheap, and all really cute clothes for my age group/style/etc. I spent about 50 pounds and got two sheer blouses, a pair of light purple skinny jeans, green capris, a skirt, and another top. So crazy!

What's on my mind right now

  • Having a weekend to myself with no big plans or anywhere I have to be is so freeing and is so needed
  • Tonight's long, happy Skype date with my boy after a rough week with not a lot of time to talk and catch up made everything feel better
  • I don't miss the weather back in the States at all- not the crazy storms that Richmond has been having, and not the typical insane heat that Arizona has. I love London weather, especially this week, with warmer temperatures and sunny days.
  • I don't know what the future holds for me anymore. I'm torn between where I want to be and who I want to be with. There are no easy answers to this, and figuring everything out is daunting already.
  • I need community. I need people. I need worship with other believers. I need accountability. I need prayer. 
  • My future small group girls are somewhere around the world right now, living their lives, and God is at work in them. It blows my mind to think about them and to dream about how their Father is shaping them and growing them and how He will bring them to be in my small group.
  • I'm going to be leading a small group. In a few months. Dang. Prepare me, Abba. Equip me. I'm nothing without you.
  • I have exactly three weeks left in London. Time has gone by way too quickly, but also so slowly. I can't comprehend leaving. So many bittersweet emotions.
  • I'm beyond blessed. I have a big God who is doing so many big things, both in me and in the world. To be here having the experiences that I'm having is so surreal and unbelievable and I never want to take a second for granted. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wilton House and Stonehenge (Sunday)

Woke up, had breakfast again like yesterday (just toast and cereal for me today, though).
Once we ate, we packed and got ready to leave, and then we were back on the coach to head to Wilton House. We were driving on a lot of mountain, windy roads, and I didn't feel good at all. I tried to sleep most of the way (pretty unsuccessfully) and when we got off the bus at Wilton House, I had to rush to the bathroom and got sick. Several other people got motion sick too, so it was a pretty unpleasant morning all around.

The Wilton House was a huge estate home where an earl and his family lives (and where they have lived for many years, passed down from earl to earl, etc). It was gorgeous, but because I was feeling so sick, I wasn't really enjoying much of it at all. Couldn't take any pictures inside, but it was a huge, very ornate, very fancily decorated home that was hard to picture a current family with young children living in today. Movies like Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and Young Victoria filmed scenes in one of the rooms! Need to watch them so I can see it.

We had a lunch prepared for our group, but I just ate rolls and some potatoes to try to calm my stomach down. Someone had dramamine that I was able to take, and then we were back on the coach to head to Stonehenge!

This bus ride was much better- I think the medicine helped, and I slept the whole way, and then we were there! Since I was asleep until we got there, I didn't see it as we drove up like everyone else did, so when we were walking up, I got so excited when I first could see it!

It was so surreal to see! It's one of those places I've seen pictures of my whole life, and to actually be there was just really weird. It's in the middle of nowhere (a lot like Four Corners- middle of nowhere, and then all of a sudden this huge tourist attraction with a gift shop and cafe and weird).

It was a gorgeous day- sunny but SUPER windy, but the sky was awesome in all the pictures! You could walk almost all around it, but then had to turn back and retrace your steps to leave. We spent quite a while out there, taking pictures and just laying in the grass and taking it all in. Such a cool day. We were really bummed though, because we knew the other JMU group that was here earlier this summer was able to go in the middle of it and hug the stones and everything, but it was all roped off when were there (probably because of the summer solstice (aka the big Druid day of worship/celebration/etc)).

Here are some pics of the famous Stonehenge!

After Stonehenge, we had a few hours on the road to get back to Madison House, and then it was back to working on my papers that were due this week and unpacking and finally, SLEEP.

Such a long weekend, but so many awesome things were seen. It's nearing the end and I don't know how to feel about it! No more weekend trips with the group for weird.