Saturday, 22 March 2008

when eyes can't look at you any other way

It snowed today in Surbiton. It did not last more than five minutes, but it was long enough to remind me of home. It was like a long, cold breath and then it was gone. This kind of weather seems unusual for England, since it hasn't been too cold this month, and in fact hasn't even rained much. But, maybe the fact that it was cold and rainy this week was a cruel way of welcoming Max to England. It's like it had to prove its own stereotype to a visiting American. But he's on a plane on his way home to New York now, and on my walk home from the bus stop, my toes felt as if they were miniature ice cubes clanking together inside of my canvas zebra trainers. Needless to say, I immediately changed into warm pajamas and my L.L. Bean slippers as soon as I got home.

This week wasn't real. It was here and now it is gone, and it feels bizarre to go back to the way things were before Max got here. I am of course sitting in the house sipping on red label fair trade tea from a slender cup and eating any kind of food that I can find in the refrigerator.

Rewind seven days. I stayed at a friend's in Kingston and woke up at 4:15 a.m. to catch a train to London and then a tube to Paddington and a connecting train to Heathrow Airport. I waited excitedly at the arrivals gate with a sign reading, "MAX." My heart pounding harder than I had felt in a long time, I recognized his kind, beardless face and his slender body immediately. That didn't feel real, and neither does any of this. Am I tired?

We saw everything we needed to see, and we enjoyed each other. It was the perfect combination of sightseeing and just hanging out. We saw some amazing things at the British Museum and the British Library like the mummy of Cleopatra, the Rosetta Stone, original manuscripts and diaries of Beowulf, Shakespeare, Hebrews, the Beatles, the Magna Carta, Da Vinci, Newton, Galileo, and so many more. I showed Max all of the things I've seen before, and he especially liked Buckingham Palace. I enjoyed it more the second time, and it was a perfect transition to walk from there to St. James's Park.

I was just getting used to this independent, new lifestyle and now it seems I'm back at the beginning. I have been proud of myself that as a country girl from Connecticut I am able to use public transportation and navigate my way around the city, as well as being confident in airports. All this to say I am glad to know that I can be independent and be alright but I desire to have my companion by my side. As soon as he got here, it is a cliche, but it felt like the puzzle pieces came together.


I forgot to mention that Max and I went to Hampton Court Palace (King Henry VIII) and met up with Nathan Scharoff, my friend from high school. What a blast from the past.

Friday, 14 March 2008

crank that

This was the night that Soulja Boy was performing live at Oceana in Kingston.
We thought we couldn't miss it, but when we found out it was ten pounds, we had to pass.
Instead, we listened to Crank That and had a photoshoot with Rascal the cat.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

it's true

I have forgotten to mention to anyone really that crumpets are delicious. Right now, I am sitting down to a cup of tea and two warmed, buttery crumpets. Are they sold in the United States? If not, that is a shame. I know that I never made an effort to look for them before.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

All Things Ordinary

Today, I sat outside with a caramel latte with cream and a moist raspberry white chocolate muffin at Caffe Nero in London. For a few minutes, I remembered to truly breathe in where I was and just relax. After a look in Topshop and Urban Outfitters, I went to the Hillsong Church in London. It was really refreshing and uplifting, so I am really glad I attended. The music was fantastic and people were just excited and there was joy in the air. People seemed friendly too. I still want to attend a service at Westminster Abbey before I go back to the States.

After that, Lauren and I went to the Hayward Gallery to look at an exhibition called "Laughing in a Foreign Language" for our Contemporary Issues in Fine Art II module. Some of it was interesting, and some was not, like museums often are. None of it peeked my curiosity. I suppose I should not say "none," since there was a series of photographs and stories about a traveler purposefully trying to get security to notice him in airports that I took to.

Getting home from the city was a bit of a nightmare, however; involving hopping on and off tubes and trains because one or the other was shut down. Apparently, the government workers for Transport of London do most of the mechanical work on Sundays, so none of the trains in and out of Kingston or Surbiton Stations were running. One of the only things I found amusing during the whole process of making my way out of the city was being mistaken for a Canadian. The lady I live with, Debs, told me that she honestly cannot tell the difference between the accents. Anyway, after finally arriving at Clapham Junction, I caught a replacement bus to Surbiton. It was kindly familiar to get on the K3 bus home to Thames Ditton.

None of this is that interesting, so for that I apologize. Something more interesting is that Max will be arriving in London at six in the morning on Saturday! It really does not feel like he is coming here. I never understand the full gravity of big events until they are much closer in time, like a day away. I will be taking Max to the best places I know here in Kingston and London, but I think we will go to a few new places like Bath and Stonehenge. We may meet up with a high school friend of mine, Nathan, who is coming out to London for a week.

I traveled for so long today that I hadn't eaten since breakfast, so I just stuffed myself on walnut and Gorgonzola tortellini...which reminds me that I am running out of groceries. I need to go and work on my paper on classical architecture that's worth 50% of my grade in a class. I've been procrastinating of course, and it's due Tuesday. That's all for now.

Au revoir.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


Tonight, I stayed in and cooked cous cous with coconut, fried spinach, apple, and red pepper with a touch of cinnamon and cane sugar.

And I drink an average of three cups of tea per day.

I made a cinnamon-sugar apple dessert with coconut topping and I give it an A+.

Monday, 3 March 2008

barcelona mi amor

After getting up at 3:30 a.m., taking a night bus to Clapham Junction, taking a train to London Victoria, and boarding a plane departing for Barcelona, Spain, I realized I knew nothing about this destination. Both the time I went to Dublin and the time I went to Barcelona I made few plans ahead of time and did not get too excited beforehand. On the way there, we flew over the snow-capped Pyrenees in France and it was breathtaking. I literally felt that it was so beautiful it could not be real.

Upon arrival, Alex, Lauren and I navigated our way to Catalunya Plaza to meet Alex's friend Grace. Grace is from West Hartford, Connecticut and she is studying and working in Barcelona. Her name fits her perfectly. We stayed in a hostel on Las Ramblas called Hostal Maritima. It was a ten-person room, but it was only ten Euro a night. On top of that, we had a balcony which overlooked street performers, mopeds, horse-drawn carriages, and the statue of Christopher Columbus. There were Moroccan dancers who were in perfect physical condition and did all kinds of acrobatics. There was a Michael Jackson impersonator who actually danced quite well. Barcelona is said to be the number one pick-pocketing city in the world, but we just watched our purses and we were fine.

I met a French girl at the hostel named Manue, short for Immanuelle. She spoke little English, so I tried to talk to her in French. A lot of it ended up being Frenglish, and speaking French in a real conversation was harder than I thought it would be. But, as we continued to converse, I got better at it and I think we really connected. I also met three Israeli girls who were on the tail end of a six-month vacation in South America to celebrate the end of their three years serving in the army. They are from Beersheba. I pretty much freaked out when I found that out because that is the place that Moses made and an oath with God and named it Beersheba (pronounced Bell-sheh-vuh). We talked about old testament stories, and they explained that at Passover in Israel, Elijah is like Santa Claus. They leave wine and unleavened bread for him overnight, which the father usually eats and pretends that Elijah ate it.

Grace took us under her wing, so to speak, and showed us the best places to go. She was very helpful since she is fluent in Spanish. I went to the market and had homemade coconut and ferraro rocher gelato and a fresh kiwi coconut pineapple smoothie. I had several "bikinis," which are sandwiches (bocadillos) with jamon y queso. In the mornings we had cafe con leche, and on a couple of different nights we had paiella and tapas. Paiella is a typical Spanish dish with rice and usually seafood. I ate a little creature that I had not ever seen before. I had to peel the shell off, and he still had his legs and eyes, but I just kept telling myself that it was similar to lobster. Tapas are just little appetizers.

We made good friends with a Brazilian guy named Felipe who is friends with Grace and works at the hostel. On the last day he took us to a Brazilian restaurant where I tried all kinds of fruit juices and ate a fish and rice platter with vegetables and coconut sauce. Afterwards, he secretly bought us this coconut candy and gave it to us upon our departure. It was amazing and similar to the kind of candy that my sister, Kimberly brought us years ago from the Dominic Republic.

We went to a few bars, one of which was called the Black Sheep. I really liked it there because they gave out free popcorn and it was a relaxed environment. Girls in Spain didn't look like they tried as hard to primp themselves and wear hardly anything like they do in England and the United States. Another bar we went to had fake trees, rocks, faces in the trees, a fountain and stars on the inside. Grace had explained in the beginning that sangria flowed "like water" there, and it was true. Sangria was everywhere, and having a glass with most dinners was a tasty treat.

We went to Park Guell, where we saw the Gaudi bench and lizard, as well as a view of the entire city. The way up reminded me of San Francisco because the streets were winding and steep. We went to Sagrada Familia, a cathedral also designed by Gaudi. It was the most massive and unique cathedral I have ever seen, with a sculpture of a green tree with doves right on the front and center. We went to the top and looked out over the city.

Friday, we went to the beach and admired the sights and sounds of the Mediterranean Sea. We walked along the shore and collected seashells as well.

Lauren danced in the streets with strangers.

Alex slept with three stuffed bears: "Ted covers my eyes, like a sleep mask..."

On the last night, Alex, Lauren and I sat on the balcony and breathed in the culture of Barcelona. Coke dealers stood on the streets with cans of beer yelling, "La cerveza!" Apparently, they sell beer, but if people ask, they sell cocaine. We saw prostitutes as well, and we saw government workers washing the sidewalk clean. Las Ramblas is the most famous street for tourists, and the day is much different from the night. Life was good. Life continues to be good. And I know that this is experience is beyond these feeble words.

art is love

I went to the National Gallery in London on February 22 to look at the work of the French Impressionists from the 19th century. I had to go for my Parisian Art World module, but nobody had to drag me there. These guys are my favorite. I was blown away, and my brain felt like it was overloading because of how much I saw and how much I liked it.

Degas was incredible. I stared at After the Bath, Woman Drying for several minutes. It was realistic, but if you looked closely, you could see little squiggles in colors like orange and blue everywhere. He creates such a soft yet electric image, stimulating the aesthetics of the mind.

Let's not even get started on Claude Monet. I bought a little waterlilies journal for five pounds. The guy working at the museum shop told me to go to the Somerset House if I like Impressionists. He said it's on The Strand.

Pissaro's Boulevard Montmartre at Night was magical, with color and depth and imagination. What I like so much about the impressionists is that they brush work is wild yet tame, realistic yet cloudily stylistic. Those deliciously obvious brush strokes and foggy depth continually cause me to wonder what is beyond the painting. I immediately feel like I am part of their world. I enjoy the use of unlikely or "unpretty" color in landscapes like mustard yellow, or pasty Pepto-Bismol pink or greyish yellow-green.

Among my favorites were Cézanne's Landscape with Poplars, Van Gogh's A Wheatfield with Cypresses, Renoir's The Umbrellas, Seurat's Bathers at Asnières, and of course Monet's The Water-lily Pond. Even the paintings of that Japanese bridge at his home in Giverny as he was going blind are fantastic. I keep saying that he had so much vision and even faith in himself to dash blobs of unusual color and shape and size in order to create a pond. If I tried the same process, I would fear I was ruining my painting, but I guess sometimes I try to oversimplify things. If only I could be Claude's apprentice.

You can find some of the images I'm talking about at the Nation Gallery London website: .

am i breaking up?

Last weekend, February 23-25, I went to Dublin, Ireland. From Wednesday, February 27-March 1 I went to Barcelona, Spain. Both were beyond what I could have hoped for. But, I am going to have to put them into separate blogs because they both deserve their own.

My friend, Lauren and I decided to couchsurf in Dublin. is a website where you can find people from all over the world who you can stay with for free, for a cultural exchange and a friendship! There are verified members, references, and ratings, so it is very legitimate. Anyway, a girl named Una decided to let us stay with her in Dublin!

People in Dublin are friendly. I was sitting on the side of a road in Dublin with Lauren and people kept talking to us. People really just wanted to say hello and be nice. It was shocking to me, but there was such a warm sense of community there. Old Scottish men roamed the streets in kilts to celebrate the rugby (or football, I can't remember) game. The first night, we went to a club with Una in the city center called Dicey Riley's. It had a beer garden with hanging heated chandeliers so that it wouldn't be cold. There were also hanging changing fluorescent lights. There was a private 30th party for a friend of a friend of hers that we spent some time at in a separate room. We wandered around and met many fun and strange people, namely Liam and Fergel, who were the favorites. We danced for hours. Lauren and I tried to dance as weirdly as possible, coming out with moves like the "lobster," "dying polar bear," the typical "shopping cart," etcetera. These guys were ridiculously cool, especially since they were not the creepy type and did not hit on us. It seemed that people there just wanted to be friends, which was exactly what we were looking for!

My brother, Marc would be jealous to know that Una and her friend Carole were actually at the Slane Castle U2 concert which he has the dvd of: "U2 Live at Slane Castle." I was excited to hear about it, since I have seen that dvd, along with many others, thanks to the influence of my older brother. Una knows someone who is good friends with Larry Mullen. She also explained that celebrities are not elevated in Ireland like how they are in the United States. She said she saw Colin Farrell in a pub and no one was bothering him. That's just the way people are, and I like that.

I of course tried a sip of the Guinness. I don't like it at home and I don't like it in Ireland. I just had a Kilkenny's, which had a plastic ball at the bottom. I assumed that that was the way it was supposed to be.

The next day, Una brought us to Glendalough. Before we left, she made us coffee in a french press and we had Special K, which was crunchier than American Special K. She says it has more sugar. We also had soda bread with orange marmalade homemade by her mother. It was at least an hour drive to Glendalough, which was generous of her! On the way, we saw boglands, which she explained are a source of fuel and are preserving. Perfectly preserved bodies from the iron age have been found there. There were views of mountains and fields of long grass in shades of brown. I have never seen anything like it before, and we continued on to a waterfall and the the main site. At Glendalough, there was a monastery and graveyard. I did not expect a grave yard to be so beautiful. We walked along a path in the woods to see a lake and mountains.

On the way back, we stopped at a shoppe and pastry place called Avoca Weavers, where I had some of the best berry crumble and cream ever made. We passed the Sugar Loaf, a mountain which I am told is very famous. We heard Damien Rice there, who is of course huge in Ireland, considering he is Irish.

Una's parents cooked us a real Irish meal that evening. We had tender steak, baked potatoes, mashed turnips, mushy peas, rhubarb pie, ice cream, wine, broccoli and califlower, and black magic chocolate. I was very full especially because I had the berry crumble not long before the meal, but I could not refuse, considering the whole family cleaned their plates completely. I just kept thinking about how thankful I was for their generosity, kindness, and welcoming attitudes.

Our last day, we walked around the city and saw Trinity College, the Book of Kells (an 8th century translation of the Bible), Dublinia (a historic museum focusing on the vikings in Dublin), Dulbin Castle, and Christ Church. We took the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) to Sandy Mount to see the sea, which was enjoyable, but caused us to miss our flight and had to catch a later one. I just see it as paying 75 Euro to go to the sea. That was not great, but being on a hill looking at the ocean and collecting clovers was wonderful.

the end.