Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So Long, Farewell....

So it comes to this, my very last post on this blog. I'm almost teary-eyed. It's the last and final chapter in a piece of my unforgettable study abroad experience. Thankfully, it's not the very last piece. I'm planning to make a scrapbook about studying abroad, with all the little things I saved--it will be my first, so that will be an adventure in of itself. I've been asked to write about my experiences for a school publication as the first undergraduate of my program to study abroad, and that will be very exciting too (let the writer's block begin!).
That's enough about the future for now. The last entry is when one should be waxing poetic, but I am unfortunately horrible with poetry--my only attempts (for school) have been safely locked away in a vault with other possible blackmail material. So instead I hope to wax whimsical, if such a thing is possible.
What have I learned? Hmmm...
-Always, always, always get a map before you get lost in a foreign city--or, at least know where one is located nearby with a nice big symbol that says "You Are Here."
-Give me a map and I can find my way--at least by the third time around.
-You don't always want to use a map when visiting a site, sometimes wandering around is just fine--especially if the map looks like a piece of mysterious modern art with no obvious connection to a discernible physical layout, as can happen at large significant cultural institutions.
-Hydration is a very good thing--and by hydration, I mean drinking water, lots of it.
-Not all civilized countries have air conditioning (and that's okay).
-If a food stand is selling "jackets," they're referring to jacket potatoes (small baked potatoes).
-"Cress" is alfalfa sprouts, but "watercress" is something else
-Fries are chips, and chips are crisps.
-An elevator is a lift, but a restroom is not the loo, it's a toilet.
-It's not a movie theater, or even a film theatre, it's a cinema (I found this out while asking directions--went through about half a dozen synonyms before a lightbulb went off and the person said: "Oh, you mean a cinema...")
-Free museums are awesome
-British people like (or at least don't mind) nice young clueless Americans, and can be very kind to them
-Americans are evidently considered a bit exotic by some
-Only order fish 'n' chips when you're really hungry-- talk about generous portions!
-You can tell how many tourists regularly eat at a restaurant or other food place by if they have ketchup, how much and where they keep it (do you have to ask for it?).
-It's not just Southerners who use terms of endearment ("honey," "sugar," etc.) with strangers--UK natives just use different ones ("love" was the most common: "you just go down that road and turn left, love")
-There's a thrill one can get only by seeing the real original
-Don't be afraid to ask for directions--just find someone safe, official-looking and friendly to ask
[Note: despite how many times I've mentioned asking for directions, I really did find my own way almost all of the time.]
-"Cheers!" works for just about any method or mode of communication--thank you, goodbye, c'est la vie, you're welcome, whatever.
-Bring earplugs! If not for the airplane, then just in case you want to sleep when there's someone loudly coming in after midnight from pubbing/clubbing or you're near enough to the river that psychotic seagulls can wake you up shortly after the pubber/clubber scene settles.
-Remember, whatever you buy you will also have to pack.
-Smile and laugh as much as possible. Whatever happens, it's why we call it an adventure!

Well, I gave some money, a handful of sanity and a month of my life, and what did I get in return? A posse of friends whom I hope to always keep, 3 t-shirts, a couple of postcards, almost 900 pictures, a little elephant in a kilt, a dozen kooky stories to tell, a renewed sense of wonder in Providence, and a summer I'll never forget.

Thanks very much, I hopeall this was as enjoyable for you  reading as it was for me writing.

Around the Dorm (Last Picture Post)

I wanted to give you a small taste of my home away from home :)
Presenting a few small vignettes:
my room, from the window
my room, from the door
door to the flat--
note that the fire door is propped open with a fire extinguisher;
this was the only way for air to circulate at all,
and was banned as soon as it was noticed by responsible people who lived elsewhere
the dorm was a haven for such quiet birds as this one,
as well as some not-so-quiet birds--
like the seagulls who started screaming at about 4:00 every morning.
our front door, viewed from across the street
hanging out in the laundry room,
affectionately known as "the dungeon"
for both its subterannean location and basic comfort level,
which was in the same building as the dorms but accessed by a door down the street
housekeeping :)
contents of my refridgerator during the last week:
my daily fruit, a small stash of chocolate,
and a whole lot of water bottles (I actually had a couple more)
these stairs led from the lobby area to the courtyard;
we had the fun of rolling our suitcases down them at the beginning
and hoisting luggage up them at the end of the month
the stairs also included the two bulletin boards that were our main source of information
posted hither and thither about the courtyard--
any sound could be heard by anyone in the inner ring of rooms
stairwell-- the only way that you knew whether or not
you had reached your floor was
by peeking around the corner towards the elevator!
keys, both traditional and card form
(and the ring is a joke between me and my mom, not real)

Sherlock Holmes Museum

The Baker Street tube station was part of the World's First Underground Railway,
the London Tube. The original stations were dug by hand,
as this was before any related machinery came to be.
Until recently, there was no 221B Baker Street address,
which would explain why a fictional character lived there.
However, the place now known as 221B
is an original boardinghouse of the time period
in which the Sherlock Holmes series is set.
what you do while you wait in line to go inside...
they also had a Watson bowler hat if there were two of you.
I could have done a better (less dorky and/or awkward) pose,
but I'd seen far too many people put that pipe in their mouths!
I was keeping it as far away as possible.
Sherlock's laboratory and violin, in the parlor area
nerd's delight
the desk, and my elephant of the day
(by the way, the books are of the series)
this is a real candle burning!
Sherlock Holmes' bedside
the man, the myth, the legend, the fictional character...
this made me laugh--salt and pepper shakers!
there were also dummies demonstrating various dramatic scenes
This contained a motion sensor, and sounded like a dinosaur roaring.
Or, rather, like a sound-effect of a dinosaur roaring.
Part of Baker Street tube station

The Last Few Libraries

we visited the Reading Room of the Royal Geographical Society
on Tuesday of the last week
On Thursday, we had our last visit:
the Maughan Library of King's College
in the stacks
the Circle Reading Room

Sauntering Down the South Bank

These photos are from my last Friday abroad, some of my last visits and things.
Laurence Olivier
South Bank
seagulls in the UK are something else

my first destination
at the Oxo Towers
a barge on the Thames
next: the Tate Modern
Finally: Master's Super Fish!
I'd heard about this place, first from my flight stwewardess,
then from one of my guidebooks.
Finally found it on the last Friday,
but it was definitely worth it.