Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wales. Not whales, sadly.

From the top of the Malvern Hills

Benbow farm pond - Site of some of the earliest British LDS Baptisms

Tintern Abbey

We'll keep a welcome in the hillside.
We'll keep a welcome in the Vale.
This land you knew will still be singing
When you come home again to Wales.

For the record, I didn't write that. But Wales was a wonderful experience. We all went as a program to Wales and it was a two-day excursion. We got up at 5:15 Thursday morning, packed our breakfasts and lunches, and jumped on the coach for a few hours. Glynn was not our coach driver. Instead, we had this guy named Terry that the Shulers have talked up. Terry the coach driver is a jackass. And I'll just leave it at that.

The Welsh countryside is so green and so beautiful. In all honesty, it looks a lot like Idaho in the spring and reminded me of home. It was cool to just drive out England. Anyways. First stop, Tintern Abbey. Okay, if you haven't read "Tintern Abbey" by Wordsworth you probably should. It's uber famous. I've also hated it since the first time I read it. It was just not my type of poetry (my poetry is very different from Wordsworth's) and I didn't get why he cared so much. After having visited the site, I am now a "Tintern Abbey" convert. It's a whole different ballpark once you've been there. I took a ton of pictures, and spent most of the time there alone, to contemplate the place (I guess). Most of the trees still have no leaves, but it was gorgeous anyways. The abbey itself is massive and, as you can tell from the picture, not in use anymore today. Part of it is just the foundation of parts of the church, but there is quite a bit to be seen and the actual abbey is great. I can't really explain the spirit of the place. All I know is that it was an incredible piece of earth and Wordsworth was right to love it more than almost anywhere.

Next stop: The Big Pit. The Big Pit is a coal mine, and Wales was quite the coal mining place back in the day. The mine is no longer in use, but they still inspect it every few hours like it was because the tours take you down into it. We got hard hats with lights on them and everything. Our guide's name was Wayne and he had a great accent was hilarious. He called Jenny's boots 'passion killers' and told me the BYU baseball cap I was wearing looked stupid under my hard hat (probably true). Anyways, we went down 90 meters into the Big Pit, spent some time learning about coal mining (which would not have been much fun), and then we came out. Good times. I'm not completely sure, but I'm relatively sure that my ancestors worked in Welsh coal mines (and if not, I'm pretty sure they were farmers...and/or the Welsh mafia).

After the Big Pit we went to the Museum of Welsh Life. It was mostly outdoor, and way legit. The buildings were all old-school. I met a man who makes rugs (he really does), toured a big house that was called a Castell (total let down...what a sucky castle), and petted a cow. Then I went into the inside part of the museum, colored a picture, and headed out. We ended our Thursday trip at a hotel in Cardiff. Cardiff is a pretty good sized city, but our hotel was close to nothing, so Katie Bruce, Cam, Laura, Mary, Britin, and I ordered five Papa John's pizzas and I went to bed early. Jake was my roommate, and we're awesome/silent most of the time in our room in London, so it was a pretty chill night.

Friday we got up at 8, ate our continental breakfast, and got on the bus headed for Caerphilly Castle. Caerphilly castle is freaking sweet. SO freaking sweet. It has a real water moat, which I've been wanting to see. It even had some guard ducks in it. There probably used to be crocodiles in it, but the ducks took over in the fourteenth century. Trust me, it's history. Anyways, one of the towers leans at a steeper angle than the tower of Pisa, because it got shot by a cannon. Speaking of getting shot, they have a hands-on giant cross-bow spear shooter weapon of death thing. I probably spent 10 minutes there shooting pedestrians and making machine gun noises. Cam joined me eventually and we had a good tour of the castle. As usual, I climbed to the top of the castle and quoted Monty Python, because that's what I do. The wind was cold and blowing like crazy, but all in all it was a pretty rad castle. I'ma have a castle when I grow up. With a water moat and...ostriches. They'll mess you up.

Caerphilly Castle was the end of our secular history tour, and then we started the church history aspect of our trip. We jumped the border back into England and picked up a tour guide named Peter who did a fantastic job but talked just a little too much between stops (I have TONS of reading to do). Herefordshire was our first place of interest. Herefordshire was where Wilford Woodruff had tons of success. It's a county with a lot of farms and vineyards, famous for growing hops (which I am familiar with, thanks to beer commercials). It's very green and there is tons of open space. While we were there I couldn't help thinking how much of a sacrifice it must have been for the Welsh saints to leave such a beautiful country to settle in the Salt Lake valley. Anyways, we drove through Herefordshire and stopped at the Benbow Farm (actually called Hill farm, but famous to the Mormons because of John Benbow who was rich and sold all his things to print the BOM and take 40+ people with him to the states). There's not a lot to see besides the farm, but there is a little pond there where a good number of the early British saints were baptized. The location was beautiful (I know, I know...everything is beautiful. Get over it) and the landscape is awesome.

Coach stopped next at the Malvern Hills. You should look them up on Wikipedia, because all I'm gonig to tell you is that they're awesome. It was a good little hike up to the top of them, but the view was to die for. The wind was going crazy (Cam and I could lean back into it and be held upright pretty well) but that just made it cooler. I found some snow and chucked a snowball at Cam while Peter was talking to us. I do remember him saying that Wilford Woodruff came to the top of the hill once and watched a thunderstorm happen below him. He also wrote a poem while he was up there, which was unnamed. He was pretty dang good, and I'm glad Peter did his homework.

Our final stop was a little chapel in...somethingshire. I can't remember the name of the chapel, but I do know that it was the first LDS chapel in Britain. There is generally a couple of senior missionaries there, but not this time. Instead there is a numbered keypad on the door with a piece of paper with Mormon trivia on it for you to figure out the code (what age are you baptized? how many chapters in Enos? etc) so we got in. Inside Peter told us some good stories, then we sang the first verse of The Spirit of God in closing. A good number of people (all girls) had something in their eyes and were crying a little bit. It was a great place and the Spirit was there. I am very grateful for the chance I had to visit Wales and Herefordshire. I don't know much about the places, but I do feel a connection with them just knowing that they make up part of who I am and where I fit in the grand scheme of things. The Church is true.

KFC at a rest stop for dinner, and back into London a few hours later. Boo ya Wales.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shakespeare, Phantom, and off to Wales

Monday my life became complete. I got free (yes, free) tickets to go see Macbeth in the Globe Theatre on March 6th. A little after lunch time I went into the parlor looking for a book I had misplaced. I decided to sit down and thumb through Time Out magazine, which basically lists everything there is to do in London any given Wednesday-Wednesday week. I've never used the thing, but I'm sure glad I did. On the third or fourth page there was a little ad talking about the Globe, which isn't supposed to be open until April 23rd (the day I'll be flying out of Rome). Turns out they're running two days of Macbeth and there are a 'number of free adult tickets' if desired, and you could call in starting that morning. Laura was close, and she just got a cell phone that works here, so I asked her if I could use it. She asked why and needed no coaxing once I told her. All I got were busy signals, but she got through a minute later. We got four tickets and they offered to just mail them to us (we got them Tuesday). Needless to say I was pretty freaking stoked (understatement). Macbeth is far and away my favorite Shakespeare play and I get to see it as a groundling (standing room right at the foot of the stage) in the Globe. I knew that the tickets were probably going to be gone, and obviously I couldn't invite everybody, so I just invited the next two people I saw: Mary and Alyssa. So March 6th can't come soon enough.

Last night (Tuesday) I went to see Phantom of the Opera in Her Majesty's Theatre with (let me go down the row mentally) Rachel, Alyssa, Katie, Brit, Mary, and Reesa. It was phenomenal. Les Miserables was life-changing, but Phantom was phenomenal in its own right. Basically I mouthed the words during every song, grinned like an idiot most of the time, and am in love with the woman that played Christine. And, as usual, I rooted for the phantom, but he lost. Again. Obviously, the singing was out of this world. The set was way cool as well. The chandellier falling was impressive, and there was this part where the Phantom was hidden on a sculpture that descends from above the stage. We were up pretty high in the theatre, but right on the front row, so all in all it was more than worth the money and a great experience. I've always enjoyed the play, but this version rocked. Live orchestras will do that.

Tonight we went as a group to Twelfth Night. It's one of the more entertaining Shakespeare plays, and I saw it at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival (my yearly tradition) last summer (this summer they're playing Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, and even The Woman in Black). Anyways, it was at the Duke of York Theatre and very well done. There was hardly any leg room, and I was stuck next to Dr. Cooper (who is larger than I am), but it's all good. I was at least fortunate enough to be on the front row of the balcony so I could lean over and see the full stage when needed. The fool and Sirs Toby and Andrew were my favorite. They all sang a song called "Hold thy peace, Lady" and marched around banging on the set like drums. Sir Toby picked up a huge platter and smashed it like a gong with a wine bottle. For some reason it just hit me so funny and I laughed my butt off for like five full minutes. The set was pretty basic, but there is a scene where Toby, Andrew, and some other dude are in a tree spying on Malvolio. They actually climbed into the tree that came from the ceiling (it wobbled a lot) and the scene was hilarious. Nothing like a good Shakespeare production. Between tonight, going to see Lear next Wednesday, and then Macbeth the 6th, I'll have three Shaky plays in about ten days. I live a good life.

Leaving in...4 hours for a two-day trip to Wales. Should be good.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Knights Templar, Old Tables, and Mosques

Above: This is what I dress up like when everybody is asleep. Can't help it.

Thursday we went to Middle Temple. Middle Temple is where the Knights Templar were located. The Knights Templar were pretty much wicked awesome fighters that were sworn to poverty. So they got powerful by protecting people's money. They went international and were loyal to no crown, so eventually one of the kings (France, I believe. France would) plotted against them and they were brutally murdered. But you know they put up a fight worthy of a Mel Gibson movie. The building was pretty cool. The dining hall had to be restored after a bomb blew through it in WWII (I stood on the spot they found the bomb on accident). Lunch was crazy good and we got to sit at the main table. This table has been in the building since the 1500s. It was cut from one giant tree (English Oak, I presume) and then floated down the Thames. I thought about sticking my gum under it, just to be funny. But I didn't. Because I'm an adult. Kinda. After lunch we went to Charles Dickens' house. Long story short, it was boring. It was the place he lived before he was famous--he wrote Oliver Twist and other novels there so I wasn't all that blown away with it. I mean, once you've moon walked over a man's grave what's left to care about?

Friday we had classes. Then Dave decided it would be cool to take us all to the London Central Mosque, because we had spent the class period talking about Muslims. The Mosque was beautiful and our guide Omar was fantastic, but I was stuck in the back of the group and could not hear a thing to save my life. When he turned our way and I sat way forward I caught this much: all of the prayers are dictated by scripture and each person says the same one, and they use domes in their buildings because of pure practicality. I did, however, have great seats for watching the prayer. I'm not sure which prayer it was, but it was close to 3pm if that means anything to you. It got very quiet, and everybody prays in rows. A man in a white robe speaks periodically and everyone bows at the waist, then prostrates on the ground, then kneels, then prostrates again, then stands. It repeats four times if I'm not mistaken. I don't know much about the religion at all (still couldn't hear), but it was a wonderful experience.

Today I spent a little more time at the British Library. I finally forced myself to go into the Humanities reading room, which is pretty posh. The seats are huge and cushioned and you get tons of desk space and a sweet lamp. I successfully tracked down the Westminster Review and ordered the issue (July 1852) that most likely holds the article I'm trying to find, assuming it exists. Not gonna lie: it's kind of fun to work giant old-school archive collections for pieces of writing that don't exist in your own country. After twenty years of education, I'm finally fully enjoying my education. I guess London will do that.

Tomorrow is church. If you read this, send money.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Above: Calvin having tea in the Harry Potter Great Hall thingy. Oh, Katie Bruce too.

Whatup world?

Had a good program outing today to Oxfordshire. We hit up the Blenheim Palace and Oxford University. Blenheim Palace was pretty impressive. As you drive up to it the grounds are the best part. There was a very old, very classical bridge that we didn't drive over and there was the world's second largest hedge maze that Katie Bruce, Cam, Laura, and I hit up after the palace tour. It was a lot of fun but by the time we got over to it we didn't have a whole lot of time. I got us out, because I'm awesome. I prefer corn mazes, but it was way cool. Blenheim was a lot like some of the other palaces we've seen, but it is different and very interesting because it was the home of the Churchill family. Winston Churchill is one person I don't need to explain; it's enough to say that he was a gift from God, changed the world he lived in, and lived an incredible life overall.

Oxford was legitimately impressive. The whole city is built around the college (and a lot in it), which was started in the 12th century. The archetecture is beautiful. Before actually going into Christ Church college we had a few hours to just look around. We went to Blackwells bookstore which was ok but not all I thought it would be. Then we went by the giant circular library. It was really cool but we weren't allowed to go in, which ain't right. Then we dropped by the original Ben's Cookies (the girls are obSESSED with Ben's Cookies) and Moo Moo's Milkshakes. I got a lemon drizzle cake shake which was SO good. I love me a milkshake. After that we ran over to the Eagle and Child Pub to take a picture or two. It's not the pub that's cool, but the people that frequented it: J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis used to meet there to eat and talk about their writing. How's that for a think tank?

After that it was over to Christ Church college (the university it made up of individual colleges). I don't need to explain how prestigious the university is. However, I do need to tell you that we had tea in the Hogwarts' Great Hall. The Harry Potter movies are filmed partly at Oxford. We went up some steps that I didn't recognize (not the sweet moving ones), but I definitely recognized the Great Hall. Funny that I don't know if that's what they actually call the room. I've never read a Harry Potter book (never will), but the movies are good and it was pretty cool. Oh, and we got to go to tea because our guide is a Mormon (Bro. Tootill). And it wasn't tea, it was hot chocolate. Afterwards we had a girl who graduated from BYU come answer some questions for us. I'm sure it was good...but I fell asleep cause it was boring. Back on the bus and home. I think tomorrow is another field trip. Should be magical.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Athens. Freaking. Greece. (Pics Pending)

(Disclaimer/Warning: This post is H-U-G-E!)

My friends, I have been to the promised land. Athens is hands down the most incredible place I have ever set foot and I can’t begin to explain how difficult it was to leave it. However, I can explain what I did while I was there. Buckle your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen.

We got to Heathrow airport about an hour and a half before our flight. Olympic is a small airline company, so we took some time getting to the check-in desk. Once there, we were informed that our flight had been cancelled. Greece was on strike. I know. Cam and I aren’t two to complain, so we were good with a re-route through Paris (even toasted ourselves with our Coca-Cola). Then we found out we couldn’t re-route through Paris but would have to wait until the next flight, which was 7am Thursday. If nothing else, at least the girl at the desk (Estefania) was smoking hot with an italian accent to match. Boo ya silver lining. So, we got back on the Tube and headed back to the centre. The Rome group was on their way out the door, but Ali and Allyson were home still, so we went to find a show. An Inspector Calls looked like it got good reviews, and everybody was fine with it so we bought student-priced tickets at half off for the third row. We had about an hour so we grabbed burgers and then were the first ones to get our seats at the theatre. I don’t remember the name of the theatre but it was beautiful. The show was very well done (better be for that price) and totally worth the money. I won’t give anything away in case any of you go see it, but the main piece in the set is a house suspended a few feet off the main stage. Near the end of the play a bomb hit’s the house and the thing tips over, sparks flying, and all the china falls off the table and across the stage, almost hitting people in the first row. Pretty sweet, eh? So we headed back home and went to bed around 1am. And needless to say it was hard to get to sleep.

4am hike from the Centre to Paddington station. Anybody that hasn’t walked through London at 4am really should. Just throwin’ that out there. Jumped on the Heathrow connect, got in trouble for having my feet up on the seat across from me, got on a plane, ate some weird Al-Italia Airlines airplane breakfast, flew over the Alps, touched down in Athens freaking Greece. The passport line was a joke. For most of the time there were only two lines: one for people with European Union passports, and one for everybody else. Lucky for us there was a funny, gigantic Serbian dude in line with us for entertainment. After a while the three of us decided to just jump in the newly-formed line for Asian people. Choosing to let Serbia go first we proceeded through the gate with our new Grecian visas. I loved Greece the second we walked out of the airport. We’ve gotten maybe four legitimately sunny days here in London, but it was going full force in Athens. More international student discount tickets for the train system (I love that little blue card), around green hills, and into the underground.

We wanted to hit the Acropolis first, but we decided it would be cool to get out a stop early to see where we went. Thinking it something would be cool is apparently an act of inspiration, because we walked out of the underground station (which, by the way, had museum display cases and classy music going) and right in front of Syntagma Square, which was revamped for the 2004 Olympics. On the north side is a gorgeous yellow building that used to be the beautiful Grande Bretagne hotel. Winston Churchill stayed there during WWII and an attempt was made on his life. So we decided not to stay there (money was no issue…it was all a safety precaution. As you all know being a janitor and sports camp counselor has made me a rich man). The hotel was built in 1862 an an annex to what was then the summer palace of the royal family. It is now the Vouli, or Greek Parliament Building. In front of it is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guarded by the Evzone soldiers. We got to see a quick changing of the guards, took pictures with the bajillion pigeons there, and headed toward where we figured the Acropolis was. Once out of the way of Syntagma metro station, we came to a big old park with palm trees. Palm trees! So we bought giant sugar-covered donuts from some old guy that only spoke Greek (go figure) and walked through the park. Sculptures, mini ruins, more palm trees, the works. Turns out we were walking through the National Gardens. So it had been roughly twenty minutes and we were already blowing through the must-sees.

We could see the Acropolis way up to our right, so we decided to head out of the National Gardens. So we walked out of the gardens and right in to the Panathenian Stadium. The Panathenian Stadium was built in 1896 when the Olympic Games were revived. It is a giant horseshoe shaped stadium made of stone, with 47 rows of seats that hold up to 60,000 spectators. It was built on the same site where the Panathenaic Stadium--where contests were held for years and years starting in the 4th century BC--was built. The modern day stadium was built from the same plan as the ancient one, which was described by the geographer Pausanias in the 2nd century AD. Needless to say, I was reveling in the life I am living. On our way towards the Acropolis we saw a girl on a four-wheeler driving through the street. Athens rocks. We made our way down a nice little road till we came to these ruins and this arch. The ruins were fenced off and closed for the day, but we were still pretty close to them so we snapped some pictures. The arch was cool, so I took a few shots of it. So as we’re wandering aimlessly we crack open our Athens book and figure out what we had just been looking at. The Temple of Olympian Zeus. Zeus! Figuring that out pretty much made the whole holy-CRAP-we’re-in-Athens-freaking-Greece experience come alive. I’ve always thought that Greek mythology is fascinating (PS - Look up the new Clash of the Titans trailer. It’s gonna ROCK) and Hercules is one of my all-time favorite Disney movies, so I was all about the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Are you kidding me? I was totally there! Oh, and the arch thing? Yeah, Hadrian’s Arch. Same Hadrian that built the wall here in Great Britain. You should look him up on Wikipedia, because I write too much…and there’s so much more to go.

We could see the Parthenon through Hadrian’s Arch, so we headed that way. The hills around the acropolis are gorgeous, and it was a beautiful little hike. The Acropolis was closed for the day (we figured it would be), but we did have the chance to take a few pictures of the front of the Theatre of Dionysus. We promised Dr. Macfarlane that we would actually make this trip somewhat educational, so we hit up the newly-built Acropolis museum. It was a pretty cool museum. They have the pieces of the frieze (the rest of which Britain stole and keeps in the British Museum), and the walkway is made of reinforced glass so that you can see down into the ancient foundations of the building(s) that were there back in the day. Saw lots of sculptures, and some cool pots, and a ten-minute movie that we conked out during, the normal museum kinda stuff. Anyways, enough of the boring stuff. The sun was beginning to set, and that was our cue. Checked the map, found the Hill of the Muses, and started a hike up to the Philopappus Monument through the lush greenery that is the Acropolis. The sun was setting fast, so we booked it up the hill. We made it to a rock face, not huge but not small. Cameron found a path that would probably lead around it. Probably a good idea, but…I’m Calvin, so I went up the rock face. It was a little steep for me and my backpack near the top, but I got a hand up from our first-made friend Raffi. (From Milwaukee, touring Europe for kicks, needed a friend to talk to. Nice guy but we ditched him after getting down the hill. Have you seen Taken? That ain’t happenin’ to me!) What’s important is that I beat Cam to the top and I was about to have an experience of a lifetime.

This experience will merit it’s own paragraph. Oh. My. Goodness. South of the Philopappus monument is the Aegean sea. It was partly cloudy, and the sunset was to die for. I literally could have sat down and died at that moment perfectly content with my life’s experiences, where I have been and where I had come. Thankfully I’ve got some more time in me, so I decided to hang around, and the sunset was out of this world. It is number two on my list of sunsets (number one came walking into a ravine while trying to hitchhike with a mission companion in Aparecida de Goiania, Brazil) and the pictures will never, ever, EVER do it justice. The wind was coming off the Aegean, the sunset was more proof than anyone could ever need to prove the existence of God, and those few minutes were awesome in every sense of the word. Turn around and watch the lights come on across the way at the Acropolis. We got to see them light up the Temple of Athena (Parthenon) and off in the distance they eventually turned on the lights at the top of Lycabettus Hill. We just took picture after picture after picture, sitting on the rocks enjoying the idea of being alive.

Woke up next to Cameron. That’s right, we shared a bed. A double bed, for the record. It was cheaper to get one bed, and we got our own bathroom which is a blessing in a hostel. Our hostel was called Fivos. It was pretty hilarious. Our room was small, but we just slept and left. The bathroom always had hot water, we were next to a club so we got sweet bass to dream through all night, and we were really close to Monastiraki Square. Both Thursday and Friday nights we ate dinner at a place we found just off Monastiraki called Ice Grill. Our first night we sat down because the street guy told us he’d hook us up with free donuts. The second night we went because we were absolutely hooked on the Gyros. I am not even kidding you when I say that all we ate the entire trip was donuts and gyros. (Here’s a corny joke for you to tell Kristy, Chad: Did you know donuts were invented in Athens? Yeah…they were fried in grease. Bwahahaha, yeah it sucks.) Anyways, Ice Grill at Monastiraki. Try it.

Since my life was not absolutely incredible already, we had to top Thursday. What better way to do it than to take a cruise to the Greek islands? So we did. We had sent emails to them telling them we wanted to come, but we hadn’t actually bought tickets (planning is for suckers and missionaries). We just went to the hotel where we knew their bus was going to stop and waited for them to show up. We were three minutes late. They had already split, so Cam called and I went in search of breakfast. I was bummed when all I found open that early was a McDonalds, and it took a year to get our sausage McMuffins with cheese, so the bus came and went again. We weren’t about to not go on a cruise, so we found a taxi guy that spoke English (third time was a charm), got into his Mercedes taxi cab with leather seats, and set off for the pier. He didn’t talk much, but the man did his job. He just kept saying, “We will find it,” and we did--dock E1. We gave him a pretty good tip and ran over to the boat. We were literally the last two on and they were set to pull away as we got on. We told the ticket guy that we hadn’t actually paid and that we weren’t actually staying at the hotel they had passed by, but we had money so he let us on.

Our ship’s name was the Platyteka. It had three levels: bottom level was the dining/entertainment room, middle/main level was the bar, a bunch of tables, and a jewelry store, and the top level was the sun deck. I love big boats, and I was all about the waves. Cameron hasn’t been on any water much in his life, so he was feeling a little sick for the first while but he didn’t barf (he’s a man). Our morning was a bit cloudy, but not cold and the ocean is the greatest blue ever, switching quite a bit between hues. After 2+ hours on the ocean we arrived at our first island: Hydra. Hydra is a wicked awesome little island. Cars are banned there, and roughly 3,000 people live on the island. The main port where we docked is just a city built in to the side of the beach. There’s a big retaining wall around the front of the port, with lots of canons. The water in the bay was light blue, and clear as…well, water. We could see the rocks down in the bottom, even as we got further out on the hillsides. It was so hard not to just jump in. But we were biding our time and had our swimsuits on under our jeans. We didn’t have a ton of time on any of the islands, so we just kinda walked around and took some pictures. I even found a way old windmill. I freakin’ love windmills! We also got pics of a guy riding a donkey up the side of the mountain. Looked through some shops, walked and talked for a few minutes with a girl named Teresa, and got back on the boat. We sat at a table with two ladies from Georgia. One was Renata and the other one’s name I forget. They go somewhere every year together because their husbands hate to travel. They had lots of cool stories about places they had been. When they found out we go to BYU Renata asked, “so…are y’all Mormon?” We pled guilty and they thought it was really interesting, especially when we told them about missions. Cam served in Cambodia and I went to Brazil, so we had our own sets of stories to tell them. It was a great lunch of salad, rice, and kababs, and as soon as we were done we had docked at Poros.

Poros was far and away my favorite island. It’s very small, very green, and the water was the greatest color. We docked right under a hill with a clock tower on it. Again, we didn’t have much time so Cam and I took off up the hillside through the houses. This island gave me a lot of deja-vu back to my mission. I’m not sure if it was the random fruit trees, the steep houses crammed into one another, the lemon trees (we picked one for Teresa, because she hates lemons and yellow is not her favorite color. Can you tell how alike Cam and I are yet?), or the old lady hand-washing her clothes and hanging them out to dry. Regardless of what it was, it was a good deja-vu. The clock tower was sweet, but there wasn’t much besides that to see on Poros. It’s really cool though because the mainland is so close. I believe they said it’s about 400 meters away, 200 meters at the closest point. Again, I really wanted to swim but I decided to wait for the last island. So we slowly made our way down some very steep streets, checked shops (I found you a souvenir mom) and bought some chocolate croissants to accompany us along the little bay and back to the ship.

Teresa joined us on the sun deck for the voyage from Poros to Aegina. She’s pretty cool. She’s from LA, not a Lakers fan but not a Raiders fan, so we could be friends, had been in Germany for a while and was now on a trip with some of the people that she works with. It was cool to have somebody our age and fluent in English to talk to. She’s…20 if I remember correctly. We told her we were going to swim and she told us we are insane (the water, while beautiful, looked freezing). So anyways, we got into Aegina and we had a little bit more time. The cruise company has two tours that they will take you on. Tour 1 goes to a Byzantine-era Orthodox church and then takes you somewhere where you can try the delicacies and alcohol. Tour 2 takes you up to the Temple of Aphaia and over to the other side of the island. We wanted tour 2, but the ship was far from full so they pushed for tour 1. Cam and I weren’t about to throw 25 euros at a tour to one church and a bar, so we said ‘screw you guys, we’re gonna taxi it up.’ So we found another Mercedes-Benz cab with leather seats (first try this time) and bargained with him. Eventually he told me that for 40 euros he would take us up to the temple and give us 40 minutes to look around, then take us to the church for a few quick pictures. So we did it. The Temple of Aphaia was pretty awesome. According to Wiki, Aphaia (Greek Ἀφαία) was a Greek goddess who was worshipped exclusively at this sanctuary. The extant temple of circa 500 BC was built over the remains of an earlier temple of circa 570 BC, which was destroyed by fire circa 510 BC. We got some great pictures, looked across the sea to Athens (far away but visible), and headed over to the little shop. I was not aware that Aegina is the home of world famous pistachios (my fafe-wit), so we bought a bag. No wonder they’re famous…the pistachios were SO good. Anyways, back in the cab and on to the Byzantine church for a few picturse. We waved to Renata on our way out. I was hoping to find the guy that wouldn’t do tour 2 so I could moon him, but lucky for him he wasn’t there. After a relatively short but scenic drive we arrived back at the Aegean sea.

It was time; time to swim. There was a rain storm on its way, the wind was getting crazy, but I was not about to be at the Aegean sea without getting in. I went first. Got dressed down into my swimming suit (well…basketball shorts), had Cam hold my camera and my towel so I could get dry fast, and walked into the Aegean sea. The water was FREEZING, but it tasted like the ocean and I was loving every second of it. Once I got out it wasn’t really cold (compared to that water not much is), so I just put on my shirt and got some pics for Cam. On our way back to the boat we just stayed in our flip-flops and towels. We walked by a lady at her stand. She stands up, looks at me, and says, “What? Shwimming?” I just smiled and nodded. “Where from?” A-freaking-merica. As we got a few feet away we heard her call across the street something that sounded like, “Hey, these two moron Americans just went swimming. How great is that?” We got great looks from everybody (who swims in February? Honestly) and it was a great way to finish a great trip. Got back to Fivos safe and sound after eating gyros at Ice Grill and hit the sack. Athens is incredible, but if you’ve got the time, the islands are really where it’s at. I could have stayed there forever.

Ok, this post is getting ridiculous, but I’m getting close. Saturday we got up before the markets were even open, so we found a donut stand and got our fix. We ate as we headed to the Acropolis. We got there three minutes before it opens, bought our tickets, and headed up to the Parthenon. I’ve been excited for a very few things in my life like I was for the Parthenon. Just so you know, “The Parthenon (Παρθενών) is a temple of the Greek goddess Athena whom the people of Athens considered their protector. Its construction began in 447BC and completed in 432BC on the Athenian Acropolis. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered to be the culmination of the development of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered one of the high points of Greek art. The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of ancient Greece and of Athenian democracy, and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments” ( The view of the sea and the city was incredible. The buildings were works of art. It was a great experience and I had time to just walk and enjoy the terrain and the history of where I was walking. I know the connections are limited, but my mind couldn’t help but think of the Mount of Olives and the architectural setup of Jerusalem. How interesting that the idea to build stunning edifices dedicated to deity has been a part of human creativity since man was created. After some pictures we hiked down to the Ancient Agora where we saw sculptures and the Temple of Hephaestus (patron god of metalworking). Then it was over to the Roman Agora to see the Tower of Winds. Then we walked past but not in to Hadrian’s Library. After that we grabbed some lunch (guess what we had) at a little restaurant, did some souvenir shopping, and hit the National Archaeological Museum, which was very cool even though we got yelled at by a disgruntled old man for posing in front of the statue of Zeus/Poseidon (I took a picture of him, just to remember). The two coolest wings were closed, and we had less than two hours to get through it, so we didn’t make a fuss of heading out.

It was finally time to head out of my new favorite place on earth. We had a little time, so we just laid out in the sun in front of the museum to soak it in before heading back to London. I took a few minutes to write post cards to family members and just relax from the insanity that had been our trip to Athens. Finally I bought us one final ginormous donut, and we got back into the underground. Apparently Greece is retarded and nobody works at the train ticket offices on Saturday, so we had to get out early and take a Mercedes-Benz taxi to the airport. But we got home safe and that’s what counts. As we got off the plane I looked at Cam and said, “Remember how this morning we were hiking the Acropolis?” Yep…my life is unbelievable.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Goodbye London, Hello Athens

(Above) The Parthenon. I'ma be there soon.

This is just a short post made to satisfy my desire to make everyone I know jealous. Read on.

We have been conceded an extended weekend this week, just because the program feels like giving us one. Some will stay, some will go over to little Ireland, a number have chosen ye old attached-to-the-country-we're-already-in Scotland, and a select few are getting closer to coolness by venturing to Spain. But two brave men are flying on a 1500 mile pilgrimage to the cradle of Western civilization, the birthplace of democracy, the city with 3,400 years of history behind it. As you watch a Canadian broadcast of the 2010 Olympic Games I will be walking the ground where olympic seeds were sown. When you all wake up Friday morning I will be on a one-day three-island cruise in the Mediterranean Sea. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Can you say Athens? I knew you could.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Runnymede, Windsor Castle, Stoke Poges

Above: Stoke Poges (House in front of church...I actually took this one) Way above: Me and David Arnold (I think it was Arnold, I know it was David)

Today was a pretty sweet program outing. Woke up, made me a sack lunch, moved to the back of the bus (my homeboy Glynn [i learned how to spell his name today] was our coach driver again), and stepped out on to an open field at Runnymede. Runnymede is "the birthplace of modern democracy." In other words, it's where the Magna Carta was signed. History lesson: the Magna Carta basically made it so that kings could no longer claim that God wanted them to be king. It was freezing, and I didn't have any battery life in my camera, so I didn't take any of my own pictures. We came, we saw, we took pictures, we left. I'm glad the Magna Carta was signed; also glad that we didn't spend too much time there. Oh, there's also a JFK monument there. Go figure.

Short bus ride to Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle is pretty much a fortressed city. At first I thought it was going to be a place for pansies: the moat has always been dry and has a pretty garden in it, and the first thing we saw inside the castle was Elizabeth's was some dolls. But then it got cool. Next room: Leonardo Da Vinci drawings. According to the plaque there are over 600 sketches of his at the castle. I saw roughly seven. But they were beautiful and I was happy to see that at least they had some cool displays. Then we went through the royal housing area. Windsor Castle is the oldest still-inhabited castle on earth. The Queen and her consorts live here during parts of the year (not now) and it's quite the setup. I was a big fan of all the decorative swords and guns, which were everywhere. I even liked the curtains. And there was this rad glass/gold clock that plays music which was pretty sweet. All in all, the whole place was pretty impressive. On our way out there was a samurai short sword that a samurai general gave up after a defeat. The Samurai were freaking awesome. I gotta go see them one day.

After getting out of the royal bed chambers (can you tell I don't remember the actual name of it) we walked over to St. George's Chapel. It was a rad building, built cathedral style, with some nice stained glass and plenty of donation boxes (full of dollars for some reason). Most of the way through the chapel I realize that I'm standing on top of Henry VIII's grave. So...I moonwalked over it. So good old Henry the Eighth has joined an elite club of people (2 to be exact) whose graves I have moonwalked over. I hope I get to meet him so we can be friends. Dude was a tyrant when he was alive, but you gotta admit...the boy could brawl. Once out of the chapel it was time to find some food. I tagged along with Caitlyn and Katie Bruce. Caitlyn decided we needed hamburgers, and I never turn down a hamburger. All we found was a McDonalds, but McDonalds are basically legitimate restaurants here (This past week Leslie got hit on by a guy that bought her a Big Mac meal. How great is that?) and Fanta Orange here is the greatest drink since Mexican Coca-Cola.

On the coach again, to Stoke Poges. Stoke Poges is the name of the place where Thomas Gray lived and wrote. Thomas Gray is a poet, famous for having written "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." He wrote it sitting in the graveyard at Stoke Poges. It's an incredible poem, most renowned because it was written about commoners, and at that time it was not kosher to write about commoners. Essentially, the poem deals with Gray thinking about the people that were buried in Stoke Poges cemetery: how they were not given many opportunities for social ascension but that they still were noble people who could have been great if circumstances were right. Anyways, long story short, Gray only published about 1000 lines of poetry in his lifetime, but he still changed the world on a pretty good-sized scale. Nice to think that maybe my poems about seeing old guys naked in showers or firing my guardian angel could move mountains one day. Probably not, but definitely maybe. Our guide was David, who is a poet and lives across the street. I took a picture with him. Dr. McF and Dr. Howe both informed him that I am a poet (I wasn't gonna say it...'cause I'm really not. yet) and a graduate student. I wish that I had known we were going to be doing this because I would have gotten one of his books and had him sign it for me. Anyhew, he took us through out to Gray's monument which isn't very pretty, through the graveyard which is beautiful, and into Stoke Poges (the actual church). Part of the church was built by the Saxons, and I found an imbedded stone coffin in one of the corners (looked kinda like the one Indiana Jones finds in the sewer). Walked around the grounds, took some sweet pictures, asked David for a photo op, back on the bus, and back home, where I have done nothing short of absolutely nothing for the past few hours.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rubens, British Museum, Another Play

Me and the Black Prince

Hello world. Not a whole lot to go on about in the last few days. Friday we had an in-London excursion. The first place we went was called the Banqueting House I think. We got there at ten, and they were still cleaning up from a party the night before, so we were given an hour to go do whatever we wanted. I wasn't feeling overly social, so I took of by meself and headed for the Thames. I could spend days walking along this river, there's so much to see. I took pictures of the London Eye (giant, hugely expensive ferris wheel that I may go on one day), the houses of Parliament, Big Ben, etc. On my return trip I ran in to Sarah Marshall and Britin, and we found a sweet little park and took a few pics. The Banqueting House was one of those places that is really interesting for about twelve minutes and then it's time to be done. It's the place where one of the kings was beheaded (a George, I believe), which is kinda ironic because his father was the king that commissioned the building. Architecturally it's sweet because it's the first classical (aka renaissance) building in London. The lower level wasn't much to look at, but the actual banquet area is impressive. There are a number of big murals on the ceiling painted by Peter Paul Rubens (yeah, cool). They depict Minerva (Athena) in a few places, and show a baby being given two crowns (one for England, one for Scotland) signifying the coming together of the two countries. They were beautiful, but really high up. Can't fault Rubens though...the man was good.

Headed out and grabbed some American food. My order of ribs was really small (America just does it right), but life sucks and then you die, haha. Then we headed over to the British Museum which is freaking SWEET! I played paper rock scissors with a giant hand statue, saw the sculptures from the Parthenon (England really knows how to plunder), got to hold a flint knife from the late ice age (5000 years old!) at a hands-on booth, saw the Lindow man (one of the bodies preserved by peat bogs that I've read about and wanted to see ever since) and some mummies (dead ones, thankfully...although killing them with that knife would make for some sweet pics). There are like 1.5 million pieces at the museum, so I'ma have to go back a couple of times.

Saturday I went to four libraries--the British Library for some research and three local libraries to get more reading material for other research. Then at 645 I headed out with Cameron, Dr. Howe, Katie Bruce, and Laura to go see The World's Wife which is a play based on a collection of poetry by Carol Ann Duffy (British poet laureate) of the same name. It's a one-woman play where the actor acts out (I know...I'm eloquent) the poems one by one. The poems are written from the perspective of wives of famous men (i.e. Mrs. Freud, Mrs. Midas, Queen Kong, etc). It was very well done and Trafalgar Studios was a very small theatre (like...four rows small) so the actress was right in front of us the whole time.

Yesterday was church, today I finished the first half of Northanger Abbey and wrote a quiz for it, now it's off to class and then probably doing a little more planning for freaking ATHENS! And that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dover and Canterbury (for Grandma)

Above: Calvin and Cameron at St. Augustine's Ruins (Canterbury)
Way above: Dover Castle

What's good folks? Yesterday (Wednesday) was our program field trip to Dover and Canterbury. Glen was our coach driver again (I gotta write him a theme song) so I knew it was gonna be a good day. The bus ride to Dover was pretty sweet, except when we got there Dr. MacF informed us that we were not going to see the white cliffs. That's right, he thought we'd just go to Dover and not go to the world famous White Cliffs of Dover (made out of chalk). I was like, "Yeah right," but Dover ended up being pretty cool so I was ok with it (that, and we were told we'd drive by as we left, which was good enough for me).

First stop was Dover Castle. Pictured above. This place was freaking cool. Before we hiked to the castle we went into the secret underground wartime tunnels. They were about as cool as they sound...which is pretty cool. As wars came and went they were added to, but I believe the oldest ones date back to the Napoleonic war. Dover is the closes point to France (we could see France across the English Channel) and so it was always an important post. It was a sweet underground fort, although it would not have been nearly as cool if you were stationed there. Nasty hot in the summers, freezing in the winters, and according to our guide (put on your English accent caps) "precipitation literally trickled down the walls." My personal favorite was the giant room that had 18 tons of computer technology in it, including two engineers constantly overlooking the machinery in case of a problem. Today those 18 tons of machinery do about what we can fit into an average laptop. Technology is cool.

Once out of the secret underground wartime tunnels we hiked up to the castle. The castle was freaking awesome. First of all, it's in a perfect spot: close to the beach, on top of a gigantic hill, and with lots of big guns. As you can see from the picture it's pretty legit. The best part of the place was the Roman Lighthouse. I like lighthouses almost as much as I like windmills, and this lighthouse dates back to 79 AD. If you look in the picture I've provided it's at the very top of the castle complex to the right of the highest square tower (so, from left to right at the tippy top...Square tower, St. Mary's Church, Round Roman Lighthouse.) The view was incredible, and after the lighthouse we climbed to the very top of Dover Castle. Naturally, as soon as I was on top I became the french guard from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (I waved my private parts in their general direction). Took some pictures, headed to the bus, drove past the white cliffs of Dover (very nice...still woulda liked some time to taste them), and on to Canterbury.

Grandma, when you read this I want you to regret never having come to England, but just a little. Because you would have loved every second of it. Canterbury is a pretty sweet little town. We had a little while till we were due at Canterbury Cathedral, so we went to the ruins of St. Augustine's Abbey. According to the internet and/or history, it was founded by St Augustine in about 598AD to mark the success of his mission to restore Christianity to England. Many of the Kings of Kent and early Archbishops of Canterbury are buried there. All in all, it was a sweet place to climb around and have a little fun. The picture up at the top is of Cameron and I hanging out in the hardest-to-get-up-to-but-best-picture-spot arch. I tried going up the side of it (left side of the picture) and got a little finger full of glass protecting the mini vineyard (I didn't look) which hurt a bit but didn't even bleed, so it's not even cool. But I dug the glass out of the wall and kept it. Did some more climbing around and eventually it was time for Canterbury Cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral isn't spectacular compared to St. Paul's, but the history of the place is pretty sweet. It's the place where Thomas Becket was murdered by some of Henry II's knights. There is a sculpture of three vicious looking swords on the spot where he died. It used to be a place to which people made pilgrimages (you can see where the stairs are worn) but Henry VIII decided to have Becket's body removed and his bones destroyed. So now there is a candle where his memorial used to be. Also buried in Canterbury Cathedral is Edward the Black Prince (he's the dude in A Knight's Tale) who in my opinion was awesome. I took a picture next to the Black Prince, but I have yet to put it up. While I was looking at it this Chinese tourist comes up to me and says something about a picture. I thought he wanted me to take a picture for him so I was like, "Yeah dude, anything for China." He hands the camera to his buddy and stands next to me. Hahahaha, turns out the guy just thought my ski jacket was awesome (the white one with the colored stripes that is freakin sweet). So by now I'm probly the most famous man in China and if I ever go there I'll make millions on endorsements. Remind me to hit up China soon. Down in the crypt of Canterbury we're not allowed to take pictures, but they do have a little stand with sticky notes on it for people to leave prayers that are put on the altar every day at 8 AM. I figured if there's anywhere that Grandma would like to visit in her beloved England it would be Canterbury, so I waited till our little group moved on and I wrote one out for her and stuck it on the board. So Grandma, if my prayer comes true you're stuck on this side of the veil for a few more years. Sorry :) But you've made your mark on England and me whether you've meant to or not. (And fellow extended family members, although you already knew that I was Grandma's favorite, now you gotta top where I was plus a prayer in Canterbury Cathedral.)

I have the greatest grandmother. If anybody out there needs one, you can share mine.
End of story.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oliver and Arrin

This is going to quick. Seriously this time. Here's my review of the play "Oliver!": it sucked. Firstly, it wasn't that good. Maybe it's 'cause I've seen Wicked and Les Miserables already, both of which kick the trash out of Oliver, and I'm freakin' stoked for Phantom. It didn't help that our seats were terrible: I dubbed this play the wide-screen version (it had been formatted to fit my tv) because we were on the floor but way in the back so the balcony cut off the upper half of the stage area. I enjoyed the Artful Dodger, Fagin, and the little tiny kid with no lines. Beyond that it was a bit painful. But hey, it was free of charge thanks to the program, and I was free to sleep. Through most of the second half. Chalk one up for the book being better.

On to the story I promised about my pipe. I have to tell you what I use it for. Here there’s this girl at the Center named Arrin Manning. Arrin has a small case of the OCDs, and made the huge mistake of telling me and the enormous error of informing me that it's worse on days that we don’t have class. So, my new game is to wait for her to sit in the parlor at night so I can bug her to death. First, I pull out my pipe, a pen, and some paper (alliteration. unintentional) and find a watch so I can keep time. Then, I stand up (making sure she sees me) and walk over to the wall where there are shelves with vases and sculptures. Following said location change, I proceed to move one of the vases over to the right about a foot, then sit down again. I start the timer, let her glare at me, and then count how many times she glances over at it before going over to fix it. Hahahaha, it’s SO fun! After she sits back down I pop back up and choose another item for my control group. I usually put one of the candles off balance or move a the random internet cord in the fireplace to stretch across the floor. It’s pretty much the most entertaining thing I’ve ever done. And my pipe makes me look scientific, so I have an excuse when she gets perturbed. I'm pretty sure he hates me for real, but science must be...scienced.

The end.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Becoming a Sikh and Other Religious Endeavors

So, basically, I'm a Sikh. For anybody that doesn't know what a Sikh (pronounced 'seek') is, I'll enlighten you to the best of my understanding. As a disclaimer, I was in the back of the group all day and couldn't hear/spaced out a lot. So maybe you should look it up. Anyways, the Sikhs were a group of turban-wearing, butt-kicking, tofu-eating soldier-saints out in the Punjab (a region between India and Pakistan). Some time in the...1500s (maybe 16?) this dude named Guru Nanak decided to make a religion. So he led his people and ten Gurus later the tenth Guru (don't ask me what his name was) decided that the people wouldn't need any more Gurus (the inspiration for their words had run its course) so he wrote everything down in a book. So now, very long story short, they have temples built around copies of these books. And I went to two (one way cool, one ok) and a Hindu temple. Story:

Saturday morning we woke up and got pretty and went in to the classroom where Dave taught us a little bit about Sikhi (proper name of the religion). Lucky for us we spent an hour listening to it and it was later repeated by our guide. So we got on a sweet train with see-through overhead luggage compartments (I know...sweet). I sat with Cam, Macy, Audrey, and Caitlyn (for the record, that is not in order of how much I favor them...but I don't want them to fight, so I'll move on). Got off the train, turned left, walked over a bridge, stepped on Caroline's shoes (fifteen year olds are so fun to tease, especially when they're more mature/smarter than you. Oh, and peronal note: I've decided Caroline should/must marry Chase.), and made it over to the Gurdwara (temple). Took our shoes off, covered our heads (I looked like a pirate), washed our hands, and entered the main part of the building. First stop was upstairs at some awesome stained glass. The stained glass depicted a bowl full of water, being stirred by a double edged sword, which causes five orange gases (ribbon-looking things) to come from the bowl. It was pretty awesome. This depiction has to do with how one becomes inducted as a Guru, which involved sugar being put in to the water by the Guru's wife to make "nectar" which is drunk (haha, drunk) by the Guru-to-be.

Let me really quick go on to tell about the Sikh symbol. It's sweet (I bought a bandana, in case I ever go back). Pretty much, it looks like the picture I put up. It has two knives, split by a double-edged sword, along with a circle. From what I caught, the circle represents the idea of the One Almighty God and his (its?) eternal nature. The swords represent kicking butt. The Sikhs were like ninja warriors withouth the throwing stars, and it was difficult for even the British army to defeat. They don't cut their hair or their beards (my favorite part of being a Sikh), so they'd ride horses in to battle with their hair a-flowin' and a sword in each hand. How freakin' sweet is that?

After the stained glass we went in to the actual temple. Women sit on the left and men on the right, but we all just sat down in the back as a giant group. Our guide took a few people at a time to go through the process of bowing to the book (better yet, the word...interesting concept). You take the little carpet path up to the book, remembering to keep your hands close together and near your chest, and walk up to the book. Zealous believers bow their forehead to the ground, but they said we could just walk up, bow a bit, and reach toward the ground. I totally wanted to prostrate myself, but Cam pointed out that it may be better to forego said motion because I was in street clothes wearing an orange bandana and visiting. So I listened to him. You walk up to the book, which is all up on pillows and being sporadically fanned by a guy holding a giant feather (to keep the air pure). It is also under a big golden canopy. So we walked up, bowed, walked around the back of the canopy, and then retook our spots in the back. The temple was beautiful, but also very plain. We came on a Saturday, so instead of music they were in the middle of a 48-hour non-stop reading of the Guru book (i don't know what it's called. Sorry). The reading is ceremonial, very proper, and sounded a lot like singing. On your way back down the stairs you get some of this pudding stuff, to invite you to come back. There's only four things in it: wheat, sugar, water, butter, and fire (aka, it's cooked). There's not much to it, but I was a fan.

Once out of the temple our guide sat us down and then proceeded to tell us all about Sikhi. He had a binder that he used to flip through pictures. This time I was in the front, but I was really tired and he kinda went on and on. So I'll jot down a few things that I remember. The Sikhs are monotheistic (they believe in one god), and almost always keep their heads covered. They respect all people and religions (although our guide took a few prominent cracks at Christianity which made me giggle...that's right, giggle) and there is no reason to convert. Sikh means learner, and therefore I am now a learner of the religion and a Sikh. Calvin the Mormon Sikh...has a nice ring to it. I'm starting immediately to grow my hair and beard (just kidding Mom, but seriously). They believe in battling five evils (one is anger, one is greed, three are something else) and they have five different items that they have with them all the time. They have a little comb (generally worn under the turban), uncut hair, a special undergarment, a metal bracelet worn on the dominant hand, and a knife. Yeah, these dudes still carry around knives. The guide said they're blunt and more for cerimony than for show, but I'll bet that's not true in all cases, just because that would be awesome. They call these things their articles of faith. I vote we make our articles of faith awesome as well.

Anyhew, that's some information about my new sub-religion. After getting some free food (didn't recognize it, but it weren't too bad) we were set free and told to go to one other Gurdwara followed by a Hindu temple before dinner. Cam, Laura, and I stopped at a second Gurdwara which was smaller but I got more pudding (success). By the time we got to the Hindu temple I was kind of churched out, but it was pretty cool. There was red carpet, all sorts of gods depicted up at the front, and poorly timed Christmas lights setting the whole thing off. It seemed much more like a place to just come and chillax, which is basically what I did. After that we went shopping through some stores (that was profound, wasn't it?). I didn't find much besides the bandana and some chips ahoy, but Cam and I talked Laura into buying a Sari-like dress. It's green (matches her eyes), hand-sewn with all sorts of embroidered bead things (I dunno...I'm a dude), and SO HOT! She looked really pretty in it, but Cameron and I learned very quickly that Laura cannot take a compliment without getting kinda/way embarassed. It's funny. So in all honesty it looked great, but we sure ham it up. Today I made up a new game called try-not-to-think-about-Laura's-dress. Basically I tell Cam to not think about Laura's dress. And he loses every time. [Speaking of games, remind me to write about Arrin Manning and my pipe.]

So that was Saturday. Sorry for the novel. Sunday (yesterday) was pretty cool. I went to church, stayed at church because we ate free food (spaghetti made by Claudio...I LOVE Brazilian spaghetti), hung out till 4:30, got in the branch president's car, and drove an hour to stake priesthood meeting. It was a phenomenal meeting. The stake president of the Hyde Park stake is gonna be an apostle for sure. The bloke is proper brilliant. Afterwards I got to be there for Carlos' ordination to the Melchizedek priesthood. Got dropped off at home, read a Shakespeare play, bought plane tickets for my long weekend coming up (details pending), and slept. Today I went to class, skipped homework, went to the science museum with Laura, Cameron, and Katie Bruce, ate dinner, and now I'm typing. In about three minutes we're leaving to go see the musical "Oliver" which should be good.

Sat sri akal (it means hello or something like that, and I've decided that it also means good-bye. Kind of like aloha, but with a much cooler beard).