Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Sea and Sherlock Holmes

I love windmills.

Laura, Britin, Calvin, Cam

Not much time to write, so this is gonna be a mess. Ready, go.

The first few days of this week were pretty chill. Just class, some work, and finally got around to getting my frequent reader card at the British Library (not sure if I mentioned it, it wasn't that amazing. But everyone is jealous cause only I get one. Because i'm awesome. And the TA. In that order. Anyways). So yesterday we all got up early, packed sack lunches, and got on a coach/bus for a giant field trip. Our coach driver's name was Glen and he was way cooler than Greg the other day. First stop: Brighton. Brighton is a wicked cool little coastal town. I had been wanting to come to the coast since we got here, and it's beautiful. And freezing. More on that in a second. We got out of the coach and headed to the Royal Pavilion. I will now copy and paste what the internet has to say about it's history: Built for George, Prince Regent, at the turn of the 19th century, the Royal Pavilion is remarkable for its exotic oriental appearance both inside and out. The end. Look up pictures online if you can (we weren't allowed to take them inside, plus I forgot my camera this trip). Prince Regent George liked women (lots of them) and his party house (ps - this is me, no longer the internet). Calvin also liked his party house. The place is pretty huge, Indian architecture on the outside, Chinese theme on the indside. There was lots of awesome painted walls, some gold stuff, a big kitchen, and the coolest chandellier (sp?) EVER! The thing is 35 feet long and weighs one ton. It is also being held in the claws of a dragon made out of silver. That is one bad dragon. He hooks into the ceiling (obviously) and has the chandellier in his claws. It's got a 'waterfall' of crystals going down to four or five gold dragons that all have their necks bent up because they have glass lotus flowers in their mouths (which would make it look like they were breathing fire back in the day). This thing was SO cool. The other two cool things about the place were that the artist that did the walls put in a shadow of a duck in the middle of a mural depicting a pond with cranes (hard to find but once you see it it's pretty sweet), and the fact that George had two hidden doors in his bedroom that each lead to...the pot. Don't know why I found that so funny, but I did. Between the chandellier and pretending like my audio tour was a taser created to shock Leslie repeatedly, it was a good trip.

Left the Pavillion and had a little bit of free time. I went straight to the beach with Cam, Katie, Brit, and Mary. The beach at Brighton was FREEZING but cool. There is no sand, there are only pieces of colorful rock and smoothed down fragments of seashells. Very cool. I found some type of vertibrae, a sweet orange rock, a sweet red rock, some sweet shells (seeing a pattern here?), a piece of rubber that bounced really cool off the rock walls, and a giant donut sculpture (at least that's what it looked like to me). There was also a long pier kind of like Santa Monica pier, but I was too busy finding sweet orange rocks to fill my backpack. Back on the bus and on to Battle Abbey. I'm taking too long to write, so as soon as I finish dinner I will come back to tell you about Battle Abbey.

Thai food is good. Back to Battle Abbey. Battle Abbey is was constructed by William the Conqueror after winning the Battle of Hastings (AKA the Norman Invasion in 1066). We got there and it was rainy and a bit cold, probably very much like it was the actual day of the battle, which happened on a day in October. There's not much left of the actual abbey, but the battlefield is all still there and is very cool. The program didn't fork out for us to get audio tours, so I took myself on an audio tour (reading the signs out loud in an English accent). Eventually I met up with Cameron and Jenny. We took a shortcut so that I could chase sheep (it was pretty muddy but a good time nonetheless). At the end we went into the ruins of a church, took pictures of an orange bird we saw in the bushes, climbed on things, and then went in to the gift shop to try on the different plastic helmets and take pictures of us stabbing each other with fake spears. Good times.

Back to the coach and another 45 minutes to the city of Rye. Rye would have been cool if we had gotten there earlier, most things were closed. But we did hike up some steep cobblestone streets to St. Mary's church (the highest point and center of town). If it had been open we could have climbed to the top of the clock tower, but instead we just sat on the cannons, perused through a graveyard with headstones that are no longer readable, and bought food for the trip home. We had a little while longer, and I had seen a sweet windmill (pictured above) on our way in to town, so Brit, Katie, and Cam accompanied me to find it. It was closed also, but I still loved it. Because windmills are--for some reason--appealing to me.

Today was pretty cool too. Woke up, ate breakfast, did homework, and we were supposed to go get tickets to see Phantom of the Opera tonight but could only find 9 people that were willing to go today (we need ten for the discount). I've been wanting to find Sherlock Holmes' house, so Cam decided to come with me. We took the Tube to Baker Street, but I couldn't remember what number Holmes lived in. We knew we were on the right street, and that it had a 2 in the address, so we just walked to the end of the street. It wasn't at 2, or 12 (Cam's guess), or 72 (my guess), so we decided to retrace our steps. We got distracted by a store with awesome and expensive chess sets and Subway (I was starving), but decided to stay on the trail (that's right...I was pretending to be Sherlock Holmes looking for my house). We had walked by a movie theater, so we decided to go see if the movie was playing. We both picked a side, and my side had a poster with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law standing under a lamp post with 221 B written on it. (If you haven't seen the movie, go. It's great. And not just because I saw it with a beautiful girl). So we kept backtracking, went past the Tube stop, and finally found it. There was also an Elvis store and a Beatles store, so we got distracted again. But finally we found Holmes' house and turns out it's a museum now. We didn't have a lot of time, so we decided to just peruse through the gift shop. It's important to note that since I had conceived of the notion of tracing Sherlock Holmes I had also randomly decided that I need a pipe. So...I bought one at the museum. It's pretty much awesome. It's the color of my guitar (dark red with the wood grain still visible) and pretty much the greatest thing I have ever spent money on). As I was looking at it on the Tube Cameron laughed at me and said, "You look so satisfied right now." And, indeed, I am.

So that's the last few days. Tomorrow we have nothing because Saturday is full of another field trip. So...the end.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Plays, Food, and Churches

Thursday night = Les Miserables. Ok, I had heard it was good. I was even aware that it's very good. I was not prepared for it to be phenomenal. The music is incredible, the acting was incredible, and the characters were incredible. The play was done at the Queen Theatre, and they had a rotating stage (like a giant lazy susan) which made the travel and scene changes very cool. I would marry the girl that played Eponine (but only if she asked me). When she died in the play I shed tears. That's right, two tears came out of my face during a play. And I'm not even ashamed of it. I was absolutely floored by the play and I hope to swing things so that I go see it again before heading out.

Friday = Westminster Abbey and Borogh Market. Westminster Abbey is one of the coolest places that I have been to. The place was packed, and they're redoing part of the floor and a different part of the ceiling, but it was still a wonderful experience. I wish that they'd allow us to take pictures inside, but I understand why they don't. When we first got there I was just kind of taking everything in, and I looked down and figured out that I was standing on Charles Darwin. For those of you that haven't stood on Charles Darwin, I recommend it. I was kind of like, "whoa." Isaac Newton is buried there (or so someone said) but I didn't get a chance to look at his grave. I got to go in and see Mary (King James' mommy) but Elizabeth I's memorial was being worked on as well, so I only got to see the not-as-pertinent monarch, which is fine because the whole time I was just really excited to make my way over to Poet's Corner. Eventually I got over there. Pretty much everybody cool is buried and/or memorialized there (Shaky's grave is in his home town, which i'll get to eventually). Eliot, Browning, Byron, Tennyson, Johnson, the list goes on and on. I finally made my peace with Charles moonwalking across his grave. So now I don't hate him and his writing anymore. By far the best was the original, still standing grave of your friend and mine, Geoffrey Chaucer. I just kinda walked up silently, laid my hands on his grave, and stood there for like seven minutes. Dude was short (like under 5'5" short), but the man could write. I was all about getting the chance to see his tomb, because he's a freaking legend.

So Westminster Abbey was a great experience, then they walked us over to Trafalgar Square. They set us free after a few moments of explanation and asked us to go to the British Museum, which was very close. But I wasn't about to go to a world-class museum when I could go eat ostrich burgers! So I figured out that Caitlin, Audrey, Macy, and Emma were going to Borough Market as well, so I joined them. I couldn't find ostrich burgers the first time, but they knew where they were. It was amazing, especially because I hadn't had a burger in two weeks (TWO WEEKS!) so I needed to get my fix. So I'm standing there eating my burger way too fast and I figure out that the sign says 'kangaroo burgers' on it as well. So I've got lunch planned for this Friday already. Little joeys here I come. Afterwards the girls wanted to look around, and i'm all about free samples. I found what is known on the streets (aka on the label) as "Whiskey Honey". I decided the best way to do things was to try it and then check the label to see if it's alcoholic. So I did. 4% malt whiskey. And SO good. I almost did the same thing with the Ale jam, but decided to keep my alcoholic tendencies in check. Till this Friday... Post-market I had forgotten that I was with girls, and girls apparently like to shop. So I tagged along till I was insanely bored, then headed home for dinner, homework and all that jazz.

Saturday = temple trip and 39 Steps. I got up early, got into my pretty clothes, and walked through Hyde Park to the chapel. Around 7:45 the Branch President got there in his van and we all piled in. We had all six of the young men from the branch there: Pedro 1 (the first one I met - large brazilian boy), Pedro 2 (tall, skinny, hilarious kid), Daniel, Carlos, and Victor were in the car with Daniel (young mens president), and el presidente. Giovanni rode with his family and Rui met us there. I got to ride shotgun. I hadn't even thought about being in England. I sat down on the left side of the front of the car...and there's no steering wheel. Then President starts driving on the wrong side of the road! Well, actually, it took about one and a half seconds to get used to the idea. After that I kinda just pretended like my car was driving itself and turning when I thought a direction in my head. It's a little over an hour to get there by car, so I had time to talk to President. Dude's got a sweet story: he grew up in Southern Spain and was a really good boxer. So he and his mom moved to Las Vegas where he got to be an even better boxer. He told me that he would do early fights before the giant fights, so he had some big crowds watching him. (PS - His mom is Japanese and his dad was Spanish, so he's pretty cool looking as is). Eventually he turned 19 and decided to go on a mission. He really missed boxing, and his trainer was a bum, but he stuck it out (boo ya) and went home honorably. Once home he decided that boxing wasn't where he wanted to be, but he couldnt' get away from it completely so he decided to study to be a personal trainer. He was at a party later on and a man walked up to him and recognized him. Turns out they were neighbors in Spain and the man recognized President (but Pres didn't recognize him). Also turns out that the man was looking for a personal trainer. Oh yeah, and it also turns out that the dude was a professional soccer player here in England--played for Arsenal. So basically Pres's life fell in to place and now he's rockin' the job of his life in London, England. Great guy. Temple trip was great and I got to do the baptisms for all six boys from our branch.

Naturally, the second I walked in the door (around 3pm) Katie, Kellen, and Britin were on their way to see a play. So naturally I went with them instead of doing homework. I had a crazy crappy seat off to the right side, but we were close so i got to see most everything. The play was called 39 Steps and was a spoof on Alfred Hitchcock movies. It was very funny and very well done. There were only four people in the cast (3 men and a woman) so they switched a lot of roles and only one of the men stayed the same. My favorite part was when the main character is running from the cops. They dropped a white curtain and used shadow puppets to show him running through Scotland. He ran down a hill and crossed some water on the back of a sea monster. Then a deer chases the two cops, stops near the man who pets it and jumps on its back, and then the next scene starts. I really wish I had better seats, but it was a good show nonetheless.

Yesterday (Sunday) was pretty chill. At church Reesa, Jenn, Audrey, and I all bore our testimonies. Now everybody knows that I speak Portuguese, so they opened up even more to me. One of the brothers even told me that he wanted to have me over for Brazilian food soon, so I'm already stoked for that. We were also told that they play volleyball Tuesday and Thursday nights. I'm all about volleyball and Audrey played in high school, so we're more than likely gonig to hit up the chapel Tuesday night. Got home and had Mary take me to the British Library so I could figure out how to get there. Then ate dinner, hung out, and read for 4 hours so I could finish Oliver Twist on time in order to write the class's quiz about it. Today (Monday) was spent in class, going to the British Library to get my "frequent reader card" (everyone is jealous cause you have to have special permission to get one, and it lets you in to more than just the foyer/exhibition of the library), eating dinner, and going to the grocery store. Tomorrow should be pretty low key as well, so that's the end of this novel.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Globe, Jack the Ripper, Stonehenge, and...Bath?


Me and Cameron trying to make Kellen look like Stonehenge. Success.

I'll get to the Stonehenge stuff in a few. First let's talk about Monday.
Monday pretty much was amazing. I got up, helped with breakfast, and sat through the Shakespeare class I'm helping with. Then off to--for me at least--one of the most anticipated field trips of the program: The Globe. For those of you that are uncultured (I mean...not aware), the Globe is the name of the theatre where most of Shakespeare's works were performed (he was writer, actor, and shareholder). The Globe as it stands now is a re-make, roughly 100 meters away from where the original Globe stood. It can't be on the exact site because the Thames now covers the exact spot. Regardless of its unauthenticness (good word), the theatre is awesome. The stage sits about five and a half feet off the ground, the theatre holds around 3000, it's round, the joints are all idividually cut and everything used to hold the building up is wood (including the nails). I won't go in to too many other details, needless to say it's a site to behold. The worst news I've ever received is that there may not be any plays performed here until after we leave (it's an open-air theater and therefore doesn't like London winter weather). However, there may be a few things going on early in April (I will pray that there are). The Globe is still used today and remains one of the cheapest places in London to see a full-length Shakespeare production. Our guide was a younger dude and Shakespeare scholar--great guide. My camera was being stupid, so I will try to get my hands on some of the pics that other people took. Cam took one for me that has a great story. Basically, when they were collecting donations for the rebuild, the man in charge asked John Cleese and Christopher Palin (Monty Python actors, Cleese being my third favorite actors on earth--after Nicholas Cage and Christopher Walken) for money. Both of them agreed, and so they were informed that outside the front of the theater they would have tiles (roughly 2 feet squared) with their names on it. Anyways, Cleese is hilarious and so he told the man that called that he would give even more money if they promised to spell Christopher Palin's name wrong. So outside, John Cleese's tile is next to Christopher "Pallin"'s tile. Hahaha, I guess you just had to be there and know Cleese's work. After going through the theater there was an exhibit that we went to that showed the life of Shakespeare and the various stages of the Globe.

After getting back and helping make dinner, I decided it was high time to go on the Jack the Ripper walk. I ended up with about 10 other people (I had to pay half for Mary to get her to stop being a chicken), and we all headed off. It was about 7:30 pm (plenty of time for it to have gotten dark) when we got there and found our guide Donald. Donald had a rad accent, is the world's foremost expert on Jack the Ripper (he's written two books, one of I would have bought but forgot extra money), and knew all sorts of stuff. I haven't ever known much about Jack the Ripper, but those of you that know me well know that the macabre is my kind of thing (thus my obsession with Poe). A few of the girls weren't thrilled as we got deeper in to East London, but I was all about it. We visited the sites of all of the deaths (5 total), and Donald did a fantastic job of explaining the who, what, where, why, and all that jazz. Jack the Ripper is one sick dude, but you gotta admit that the boy was good--never got caught. Donald even gave us a good list of suspects to think about. We did have a run in with a group of idiot kids that threw some plastic bottles off of a roof at us and cussed up a storm, but we didn't meet any drunks, naked people, or mimes that Donald is used to seeing. So all in all, the Jack the Ripper walk is a must-do if you're in London.

End of Monday. Tuesday I woke up, helped with breakfast, took a jog through Hyde Park (I hate jogging but love that place), went to class, worked for a few hours, beat Katie Bruce in chess (correction: owned Katie Bruce in chess), read till I fell asleep, woke up with a few new Sharpie tattoos from Katie, Brit, and Mary, hung out w/Cam and Laura, slept.

Today (Wednesday) was a full-day field trip. Got up around 6am, packed a lunch, helped with breakfast, got on a bus (called a coach here...still a bus). First stop, Stonehenge. It's been snowing, so we figured it would be too muddy and messy to actually get to go touch the rocks. We were right. I still LOVED the place. I've found the idea of Stonehenge to be awesome for a long, long time and I've wanted to go to there for years. I was a little bummed I couldn't go lick it, but I didn't let that get me down. Terry (Dave's wife/the London Centre caretaker) gave me her audio tour because she had already been and heard me say how stoked I was to be there (love her) so I learned quite a bit: 1 - nobody knows how on earth they got the stones to where they are, becuase the rock was all cut from somewhere in Ireland; 2 - they also have no clue as to how they got the rocks to stand up, because many of them weigh over 35 tons, all of this was done over 4000 years ago, and man-power isn't likely; 3 - 1/3 of each of the stones is below ground, which is insane because they're pretty much massive. Anyways, we took a bunch of pictures...including simultaneous heel-clicking with Cameron, fake engagement pictures with Jenny, girly umbrella shots, and trying to pick Kellen and Katie Bruce up to make ourselves look like Stonehenge (Kellen, fail; Katie, success). The place was still green, a bit smaller than I had pictured it, and a great experience overall. No complaints here.

From Stonehenge we headed back on the bus (coach) to Salisbury Cathedral. I think St. Paul's was more majestic, but this one was most definitely cool. If my sources are correct, it's got the tallest steeple in England, measuring over 450 feet. Like so many other places here in London, there was scaffolding on a lot of the outside, but it was still beautiful. Inside the stained glass was to die for. Did any of you know I love stained glass? Well I do. It was everywhere here, with the best one being five panels of blue stained glass that held mostly-hidden depictions of the crucifixion, Christ's blood making it into the grail, the rooster that crowed during Peter's denial, and others. Our tour guide was very soft spoken and very nice. He also reminded me of the historian from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (you know...the one that gets slashed by a knight while he's telling the story? Golden).

Ate lunch out in the freezing, back on the bus, and on to Bath. Bath is a city built around a hotspring that was built over in 75 AD and used by the Romans. The water is still untreated (so you can't get in), but the exhibits are all built into the ruins. So we got to get right up next to the water, as well as walking around to look at where altars, foundations, stairs, and other parts of the Roman buildings are now preserved. It was quite cool. After looking at the hot springs we wandered over to Bath Abbey. After Salisbury Cathedral, this church didn't seem like it would be up to snuff, but oh my freaking gosh the stained glass was AMAZING. I walked in, saw it straight ahead, and just kinda wandered over to it in a trance. The church is still in use, so it was very quite and very reverent. I didn't have a vision or anything, but I could definitely feel that I was in a place of legitimate worship. There are very colorful windows on all sides of the cathdral, but the main wall is immense. I haven't seen stained glass in such vivid colors, the red especially caught my attention throughout the wall. It was magnificent, that's really the only word that works for it. I didn't look at anything else in the cathedral (it's not that spacious). I just stared at the glass. There were depictions of the angel's annunciation to Mary, the three wise men, Christ's birth, all three temptations, calling the apostles, calming the sea, the crucifixion (don't specifically remember the Resurrection or anything after that, but it definitely could have been up there. Either way, it was like nothing I've ever seen before and I wish we had had more time to stay there.

Ended our field trip heading to the assembly rooms a few streets up from the cathedral. Jane Austen writes about Bath in a number of novels, but specifically in Northanger Abbey, which is what we're reading in the Brit Lit class. Not gonna lie, the Ballroom, the Tea Room, and the Great Octagon were impressive, and I found myself wishing that I had a wig, and accent, a quartet, and some large-dress-wearing babes to dance with. So I just whistled classical music and pretended to be Collin Firth or whatever his name is.

Back on the bus, took Cam, Brittany, Kira, Jenny, Katie Bruce, Britin, Michelle, and Annie to the Thai buffet that I found earlier (SO good), and here we are. More school tomorrow, then Westminster Abbey on Friday. It's been a wonderful few days, and things here are rollin'.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Everybody's Workin for the Weekend

Random Statue? Check. Captain Morgain pose? Check.

Ben's Cookies London
L to R - Katie Bruce, Kalyn, Mary, Cam, Yours Truly, Leslie, Laura, Britin, Kellen

Been having a sweet weekend so far.

Friday (1/15) we had a program field trip to the Tower of London. Basically, it's this awesome prison/dungeon/armory/living space built in the 11th century. It's most famous for being the place where famous prisoners were held (generally people the King/Queen didn't like...especially family). They have and continue to use six ravens to send messages around/guard the premises. We got really close to one and it was probably a good eighteen inches tall. I wanted to chase it, but there's a "Ravens May Bite" sign on the grass and the one we were close to had a wicked sharp beak. Anyways, the Tower of London is also where the Crown Jewels have been guarded for ages. And let me tell you, the Crown Jewels are pretty freaking awesome. Crazy shiny. One of the scepters has the world's largest cut diamond (530 karats) and one of the crowns has the second largest (also a massive saphire and ruby to go along). I was actually most impressed with the punch bowl. It's the size of a small bathtub, made completely of gold, and intricately designed. Intracately designed as in Cam and I spent a few minutes playing 'I Spy'. We spied a lion wearing a crown, a unicorn, some angels, and found a lobster. There's a freaking golden lobster being guarded in the London Tower. Love it. The White Tower houses all of Henry VIII's armor and lots of his weapons. Ok, first of all, I'd just like the world to know that if you wanted me to give a crap about Henry VIII years ago you would have showed me a documentary on his armor. Yeah, he had all the shiny knight get-up, but that's far from all. The dude had gun shields. That's correct, shields with guns built into them. Genius. But the best was the two-handed metal mace with three gun barrels built into it. I was totally blown away. It's like this sick looking spiky ball at the end of a staff that shoots bullets. BULLETS! Henry VIII is officially awesome. Oh, and when he died his son did an inventory and found over six thousand hand guns in the Tower's armory alone.

After we went to the Tower, we headed out walking towards London Bridge. I had already seen it in my own outings, but hadn't walked across yet. The Thames is a pretty cool river, and has a battleship anchored in it. After we crossed we headed to The George tavern. The George is built on the site where the Tabard Inn used to be. The Tabbard is the inn where the Pilgrims stay in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (Grandma will be stoked to hear that one). There's not much to see because there's not much left, but we were then pointed in the direction of the Borough Market. The Borough Market happens Fridays and Saturdays and is, essentially, well, a market. There are places to eat, things to buy, and stands for all sorts of things. A lot of the girls were grossed out by the food stand where you could choose your own dead duck, bunny rabbit, or chicken and have it prepared for you. After South America I was like "as long as I don't have to kill it, there's nothing weird about it." I bought a pork sandwich (I'm so hungry right now, dangit) with stuffing on it and then a huge eclaire that I wolfed down after savoring the first bite. After that we had things to do and reading to procrastinate, so we headed home, watched A Knight's Tale, and went to bed.

Yesterday (Saturday) I slept in till about 11. Between that and sleeping in a bit today I think my body is finally going to start getting used to the time change. I've been a little off-kilter lately (mainly because I'm too busy/mesmerized to sleep). Anyways, the other day Cam and I found a sports store that is going out of business. It's at the end of Oxford Street, which is miles and miles of retail stores (with a GAP like every sixteen yards, I swear). We have been unsuccessful in finding raquetball or basketball courts, so we've finally decided to give up on our lives and try jogging. I HATE jogging--running without some round sporting apparatus to take your mind off the pain is pointless--but I figured that if it's running or nothing I will run. Not excited for it, but I did buy a shirt and a light waterproof jacket so that I'll actually have to use them to justify the purchase. There were all sorts of cool things on sale. If I was rich I would have gone crazy in that store. Kalyn came along with us, so on our way out she decided she wanted to stop by Primark, which is like a clothing outlet. Overall we weren't that impressed (the girls love it though), but we did find bow-ties for one pound and I got some church socks. Then we headed back home.

Since they don't feed us on Saturdays we just ate leftover fish and chips from Friday's dinner. After about three hours we were all starving again so we headed to Khan's for dinner. Khan's is an indian place. Cam and I were both stuffed still, so we split a meal and each got a 'nan' (pronounced 'non'). A nan is a giant tortilla. When Cameron explained it to me Laura got pretty hilariously indignant about it. She's like, "It's not even the same thing at all!" I wasn't having any of that, so I proceeded to call it 'uno tortilla' till I actually ordered it (yes, I considered asking the waiter for a tortilla thingy). So we dumped our Butter Chicken (not even what I was expecting...which was chicken with a stick of butter on it) on top of them and pigged out. I need to stop talking about food, but I'm not done. So Khan's was really good and we'll definitely go back a few times. Anyways, word on the street had it that there was a Pound store (like the dollar store, but 1.6 times as expensive) by the mall. So we grabbed the underground train to Shepherd's Bush station, walked around an enormous ritzy mall, found the pound store, realized it had been closed for about an hour, and went back to the Centre. Once inside the centre Katie Bruce (we've never not called her by her first and last name) and Britin informed me that I was to accompany them to find something to eat because I am entertaining. I'm not one to be flattered and stand still, so I made Kellen decide where to go and we went. The first place we went was closed. I told them that winging it was going to end up in epic failure, but they didn't listen. So we got back on to the Tube, went back to Shepherd's Bush station, walked around one side of the same enormous ritzy mall, and then gave up and went to a place called Costa Coffee (which is like Starbucks...everywhere). But my slice of carrot cake made me feel better and we all went merrily home. The End.

Today has been great. I slept in, walked to church, spoke Portuguese, and now I am home and waiting for it to be 5:30 pm so I can help with dinner crew (every night for a week two times this is a blast, cleaning wouldn't be except we found a radio so we have a rave while we wash dishes). Our reception in church was about like I expected. All of the Portuguese-speaking members were very nice to the girls and once they found out I speak Portuguese I was automatically their best friend. I recognized the guy sitting next to me in Sunday School from somewhere. Turns out the dude is from Goiania, in a ward next to one of the wards I served in. He pointed out two other guys who are also from Goiania, one who moved into a ward after I had left and one whose mother-in-law fed me weekly. I haven't felt that much at home in church since I left Brazil. They are truly an amazing people and I am overly blessed. We (me, Reesa, Jenn, and Audrey...none of them speak the language) met with the Branch President after sacrament meeting. He put all three girls in Primary (Jenn plays the piano, the other two will teach [the kids speak English but the manuals are in Portuguese hahaha]) and put me in with the young men. I am the fourth young men advisor and we have four boys. We have Pedro and Giovanni (teachers) and Victor and Carlos (priests). The other leaders are Daniel (great Liverpool accent, fluent in spanish), Rui (from Portugal), and Bruno (the dude I recognized, from Goiania). We have a temple trip this Saturday and I offered to go. I'll probably teach, help with fundraising to get the boys to EFY, and be around to answer questions about getting into a university and serving a mission. Needless to say, I am thrilled to be where I am and couldn't have received a warmer welcome if I had died and gone to heaven.

So that's the long update for the week. Things here are going very well. I haven't done any homework or even bought all of my books yet, but there's time for all of that. Tchauzinho!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A couple pics and some goings on.

St. Paul's Cathedral (From Mary Poppins!)
The company car (still working on stealing the keys)

Our place. Guys room is way up there.

Welp, I have now officially ridden the double-decker bus. They're pretty much awesome, and it's nice to be able to actually see where we're going. Not as quick as the underground, but worth the extra time. Last night Cam, Laura, Mary, and I decided to just get on a bus and see where we went. Turns out the one we got on was headed for King's Cross station. The station is beautiful (and huge), but is best known for Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter (yes, I took a few pics, no they're not up yet). But I did find it and there is definitely a shopping cart halfway through the brick wall. It was pretty cool, but it was freezing and the place was pretty much deserted so we headed off to meander. We meandered into an old Greek church, but the lights went out when we got there (I think they knew I was Mormon). So we checked out a few more things and got back on the bus.

This afternoon in British Literature class I gave a ten-point T/F quiz to the class on the Prologue of the Canterbury Tales. I could have sworn that it was insanely easy (Cam got an 80% without even reading or being in the class) but a good chunk of people bombed it. One of the girls later sat down and said, "Hey Calvin, thanks for that quiz today." I wanted to tell her to shove it but she's blonde, so I decided to just let her be an idiot. I'ma be such a good teacher. Tonight a bunch of us wanted to go on a Jack the Ripper tour of the city, but the Circle Line on the underground is a pile and went too slow. So we decided to take pictures of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge (the one from the Sherlock Holmes movie. Speaking of which, I found Baker Street but didn't have time to go see. Later) which were both lit up and pretty cool. Since we're headed there as a group tomorrow we didn't stay long, and the concert that we went to find turned out to be bad advertising, so we hit up the waffle place (white chocolate waffles, SO good) and headed home.
So...I haven't done nearly enough homework so I'm off to the races. More pics soon!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Yes, the play. Last night I went to see Wicked in London. There were about twenty of us, including the other three guys. I actually had to talk Cameron into coming. He wasn't sure whether it would be good but I told him that Dad liked it in Denver and that if Dad thought a play was worth seeing that it had to be special. I was actually blown away. The girl that played Alpheba (spelling?) here in London is black and she's got some pipes. Glinda was absolutely hilarious as well, so between the two of them it was quite the show. At intermission Anna told Cam and I, "I cried the whole time." We're trying to figure out why. I mean, the 'I'm not that girl' song wasn't THAT heart breaking. Anyways, the play was very good and the music was exceptionally well done (much better than the original Broadway CD people have been playing) so it was worth the 25 pounds we dropped on it. Next two on the list are Les Mis and Phantom, but all in good time. Sat through my first class as a TA yesterday and have a list of things to do. Getting paid $11.50/hr to sit through class makes it much more satisfying. Anyhew, off to do homework.

Monday, January 11, 2010

St. Paul's Cathedral

This morning I woke up, ate breakfast, and headed out for our first class fieldtrip. We went to the Museum of London, which was fascinating but under construction. So I have no idea what happened between 1550 and my arrival (the Calvin invasion of 2010 AD). Then I went to a pub with Cameron and Kalyn, my two new best friends for the day. Cam is the kid I sat next to for the prep course. He's from Utah and way cool. We see eye to eye on most things. Anyways, I had my first legit fish and chips. I prefer a burger, but not too bad. Now I gotta find some good steak and kidney pie (recommended, but I dunno yet). After that we headed over to St. Paul's Cathedral. I walk around the corner and the dome pops up out of nowhere. Took about half a second to blurt out "That's the Mary Poppins cathedral!" Then I burst out into song. 'Feed the Birds' is still stuck in my head. Long story short the cathedral was breathtaking. Absolutely massive, huge murals, Florence Nightingale is buried there, and a stained glass memorial to the Americans who died fighting in WWII. Only problem was that we couldn't go up on the dome to overlook the city. We did get to go up 300 of the 597 stairs to the Gallery of Whispers, which is a ways above the middle of the cathedral. The gallery got its name because the way it was built made it so that if you're leaning up against the wall and someone whispers against the wall in your direction, you can hear it perfectly for quite a distance. Mary whispered sweet nothings into my ear (literally, she said, "Sweet Nothings.")

After we were finished a few of us headed to Ben's Cookies. Ben makes an amazing cookie, and cookies are my favorite, so I was pretty much in heaven. Got home, took a nap, ate dinner, and then had a meeting with the London Centre director, Dave. After it was over Cam and I were talking in the classroom and he came in. I asked him if he knew where I could get my hands on a guitar (I've been dying to play). He told me that the last director was in a bluegrass band and bought one and left it here. So he's going to find it for me. He also heard from his wife Terry that I'm planning to do graduate work in poetry, so he asked me if I can teach him poetry and told him that he spends a while every semester looking up poetry workshops, groups, and events but never gets around to going. But I now have at least one companion for the nights I decide to venture out and check out the contemporary poetry going on in London. He also gave us some tips for travelling, because Cam and I found a plane service that goes to about 50 cities for under ten pounds. So if we can be frugal we're going to be able to take some awesome weekend trips. For our extended weekend in February I'm trying to plan a trip to Istanbul. Dr. Macfarlane said it may not be possible, but to write up a proposal anyways. If it falls through my backup plans are Athens and Morocco, so I won't be too heartbroken if I can't make it to Turkey.

Anyhew, that's the news. Classes start tomorrow. I have to go to the classes that I TA for (Shaky and Brit Lit) plus meetings with Dr. Howe to iron out my syllabi and research details, plus actually do the research, write the paper, produce poetry, immerse myself in London, travel Europe like a dreamer in poverty, and stay alive. Not in that particular order.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


The last two days of my life have been absolute insanity. It feels like I've already been here for a week, and (thankfully) the days feel like weeks. I got in to the country just fine. The Chicago airport wasn't the most fun I've ever had, but there was a silver lining: the toilets. Matt Baldwin told me about them before I left, told me to go check them out. So I did. Long story short, there is a ring of plastic around the toilet seat to keep things sanitary and there's this magical sensor on the wall with three little red lights on it and if you wave your hand in front of it the plastic on the seat rotates to the left until all of the plastic is new. Needless to say, I waved to the sensor for like forty seconds straight just to watch. SO cool.

Anyways, the flight was pretty chill. The guy across the aisle from me was french and really tough looking but couldn't figure out his little controller for teh TV things we had. He would keep tripping it so that it would snap back into its holder and he caught me laughing at him more than once. The dude next to me didn't say a word, so I spent my time watching The Office and The Simpsons episodes that were available. I can't really sleep on planes, so I played tetris for a few solid hours and then watched "Shorts" which is a kids movie that was pretty good. Getting into the country was almost a breeze. I told the customs agent that I was gonig to be working as a TA. Big mistake. She grilled me about it. I hadn't even thought about just not telling her, and it's not in actuality a big deal because I'm getting paid US dollars through a US institution. Eventually she let me through and actually gave me a special provisional visa that lasts longer than the other visas. So now I can come and go as I please for six months.

Once I was through customs I had a few choices to make as to how to get to the BYU Centre. I decided to jump into London head first and so I took the cheapest, longest, most involved way of commuting: The Tube. The Tube is an underground system (the oldest underground system) that works very well despite its age. Except for on Saturdays, when certain parts of certain lines are down for construction. PS this was a Saturday so, naturally, the two lines that could get me closest were both down. So after an extra half hour of lugging my suitcases up and down stairs in stations trying to find a way around the system, I decided to leg it. Up the station stairs and out into the freezing London air, suitcase and all. First thing I did was draw myself a map of major streets from the bus route, then stopped to buy a copy of the Times and ask the stand owner for directions. I swear on my life the man sounded JUST like Michael Kane (the second greatest actor ever). Roughly three miles later I was at the BYU Centre and head-over-heels in love with London, England.

London is...a phenomenal city full of fabulous women in fur boots that speak French and Italian. The architecture is out of this world (I'll post pics later), the diversity is incredible, and the accents are beautiful. For an idea on the diversity, get this. Today at church we were told that in the Hyde Park Stake there are roughly 1800 members, 800 of which come on a regular basis...and there are over 100 nationalities in this stake alone. Speaking of church, I've been assigned to work in the South Kensington Portuguese speaking branch. I skipped out third block to attend their sacrament meeting. Just from what I've collected we've definitely got Brazilians, Portuguese people, and a number of Africans (could be from any number of countries), and at least three people that speak Spanish (probably more). I'm relatively sure that I'm the only one assigned to the ward that speaks the language, so I may be doing some interpreting for my fellow lost students (not sure who's assigned with me yet), but I am gung ho for this ward already.

Back to London. The Centre is a gorgeous building, built back in the times of Brigham Young. It is made up of three flats (one for students, one for professors and families, one for the family that cares for the place) each made up of five floors. Of course they put us four guys on the top floor, basically in the attic. We were supposed to have six guys, but things didn't work out for two of them and so I get my own bunk bed. So my roommates are Cameron, who I had already met in the prep class and is way cool; Kellen, who is eighteen, a genius, and a know-it-all in a good way; and Jake, a texan who--although he roots for the cowboys--seems pretty legit. I've met a few of the 30+ girls, but names are going to take a while. After arriving at the centre I settled in, met with Dr. Macfarlane (our directing professor), and took a nap. When I woke up, everybody was gone. Like, the entire flat was deserted. I had no clue what time it was, but it was getting dark. I decided to go for a walk. I grabbed the little "London Walks" book that we were given as part of our class, read through the directions about our surroundings, and took off into the dark.

Remember how walking to the Centre was enough to have me hooked? Yeah, I'm addicted for sure now. Our neighborhood is pretty lively, and pretty rich. First thing I noticed was the cars: lambourghini, bentley, mercedes, BMW, lotus, etc. We even saw a Ford GT on the way to church (just the fact that the guy has it in London is a testament to his wealth). First thing I came across was a relatively large Greek Orthodox church that was built in the 1800s when the area was being settled. Rumor has it that the inside is covered in gold, so I'ma have to get into it soon. Walking the cross streets from Notting Hill Gate road, I walked by and entered a massive building called Whiteley's. Basically, it's a mall with all sorts of stores, a grocery store, and a movie theater. Turns out it was Hitler's favorite building in all of London and he had plans to use it as headquarters if he took London (which he didn't). So far it's my favorite building as well (that's right, Adolf Hitler and I have something in common). I left Whiteley's and stopped in some Italian shop, pointed to something that looked good because I didn't know what it was called, and finished my walk with some type of warm sandwich full of spinach that tasted like it had been made with love for sure.

When I got back to the center there was a group of people headed out to grab dinner and go see a play called The Woman in Black. I had no plans and was still hungry, so I put my stuff down and off we went. We ate at a place called Nando's, where I got some chicken in a spicy orange sauce and a soda. We were kinda rushed so we headed to the Tube and grabbed the first train out. The area of the theater we went to was magnificent. We walked by the National Opera House, which is stunning and made me want to see an Opera (that's a first). I also discovered Drury Lane (see the dark picture I put up) but could not for the life of me find the muffin man (but i'll be back). Eventually we made it to the Fortune Theatre and got seated. The Woman in Black is a two-actor horror play about a man that wants to tell his ghost story to the world. He writes it down and takes it to a man that teaches acting, and together they act it out. The teacher plays the man and the man plays everyone else. It was SO well done and really creepy in parts (but I never jumped. Cause I'm awesome). If I didn't have a million other things on my list of things to see, I'd go watch it again.

Anyways, time for dinner. Things are great, London is unbelievable, and time can keep crawling for all I care.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Picture Practice

I'm just practicing putting up pictures. This one pretty much speaks for itself.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

It Starts

Welcome to my European blog!
Huge thanks to Elizabeth for making it awesome!
That's all for today.