My roommate Jessica and I had signed up to do a Scavenger Hunt through the ESN (the international student society) on Friday, Oct. 29th. The weather was horrible for it! We met several people from different places, including Canada, France, and Italy. Our team name was the Red Devils, and a couple of the people in our group showed up with devil horns and tails. We got a list of places and things to locate within the campus and in the city center. We raced around, catching sight of the other teams, and darted from place to place, stopping at a pub to get a pint of Guinness, which to my delight was on our list of things to do! We documented our journey with pictures (look on my facebook page) and ended up coming in 4th place out of around 13 teams. The others must have been running or something! The last thing we had to get on our list was a picture with the Gardi (police officer). We looked and looked and finally saw a Garda car parked along the street with its lights flashing. We raced up to it just as the two officers were getting in. We had been drenched for a while by this point, and we explained that we were doing a scavenger hunt and the last thing we needed was a picture with them. The driver looked at the passenger and after a minute they agreed. We all kneeled down by the window they'd rolled down and we got our last task finished! If you recall, the umbrella I'd brought from home was badly battered, but since it was all I had and I refused to buy another one, I used it this whole time anyway. It looked so pitiful by the end of the day. And I was soaked anyway, so it didn't really make a difference whether I had it or not.
That Sunday, Halloween, Jessica and I went into town on the bus to go to church. I decided to go to St. Mary's Catholic Church located very near the Spire. It was easy enough to find, and what a beautiful cathdral it was! I got there just as it was starting because the bus that we would have normally taken into the city from campus was discontinued due to "antisocial (aka drinking) behavior," so we ended up having to take a different bus that dropped us off near Trinity College. I stayed for the 11am mass, and since I underestimated how long it would last (I told Jess it would probably last an hour) I stayed for the beginning of the noon mass, which was sung in Latin. I'd never heard a Latin mass before, so this was very exciting for me. The men in the choir were amazing. It reminded me of the movie Home Alone when Kevin is in the church on Christmas Eve with the old man (who Buzz says turns dead bodies into salt) as they were listening to his granddaughter sing. I really really liked it, and wish I could have stayed for the whole thing but I left at the homily because Jess and I were going to meet some other girls for lunch at the Korean market that we all loved. So I walked to Penneys where we were to meet, and I did the unthinkable. I broke down and bought a new umbrella. Never thought I would, but mine was getting too battered. I threw it in the rubbish bin outside Penneys :) Now I have a mini sparkly black one. I don't use it when there's wind. It's not worth ruining it, and with wind you're going to end up wet with or without an umbrella. That's one thing I've gotten used to here.
Betheny ended up getting all gussied up as a cowgirl for Halloween (too bad my boots are still at Purdue). Jessica even did her hair in french braids. Halloween for me was spent inside watching Friends with Jessica as we ate dinner together, a tradition I will probably miss the most from being here.
Monday, Nov. 1st I signed up for classes. After a bit of trouble regarding age verification for Wine Appreciation, and an Animal Science prerequisite issue, I got enrolled for my last semester as an undergraduate!! So exciting! But since it's the last time I'll get to take "fun" classes, I definitely took advantage of it, as can be gathered from my schedule: Ruminant Nutrition and Physiology : ), Biochem 565 and 490 : /, Flower Arranging : ), Wine Appreciate : ), International Economic Development : /, and Medical Terminology : ). 7 classes, but only 16 credits. I tried to convince George to take bowling with me, but I'm not sure how thrilled he was about that lol.
Nancy and I left for London early Friday morning. I'm telling you, I've got the whole get-up-at-2:30-catch-the-Air-Coach-get-through-Visa-check/stamp-go-through-security-wait-at-the-boarding-gate-board-plane-takeoff-land-customs-find-transportation-from-airport-to-city-center-thing down. It's really an art. But one thing that was quite different this time, and for good reason I suppose, was when we had just arrived at London Gatwick Airport, there were security guys with HUGE guns. I mean, these things were monsters. But that's fine with me, if that's what it takes to keep us safe.
We had to take the train from the airport to London King's Cross St. Pancras Station. (In my mind, King's Cross = Harry Potter :)) We got there, found our hostel, dropped off our luggage in their storage room, and went back to the station to go to Cambridge (where Nancy studied last summer), since we didn't want to start the really touristy stuff in London until Betheny got there the next morning. So we took another train to Cambridge (but before we boarded, I insisted we make a stop at Platform 9 3/4 so I could get my picture taken with the trolley as I tried to get through to the hidden platform :)). The weather was pretty nasty. It was overcast, spitting rain, and windy and cold. Nancy showed me around Pembroke, where she actually studied. That's one thing I learned about Cambridge. There are many colleges that make it up. And not just schools (like the College of Ag or Science at Purdue), but actual distinct Colleges. We walked around and she showed me where she'd lived. Then we looked at King's College, and a couple of the others. We ate lunch at Nando's, where we both got a chicken wrap (hot) with a side. I got their famous creamy mash, and boy was it good! We left there and did some more sightseeing. I got to see some punters along the River Cam (oh, I figured out why they called it Cambridge...Cam...bridge). We noticed that everyone in and around London was wearing a red poppy on their lapel. It was in remembrance of those who fought and sacrificed in the wars. It's observed the entire month of November. There were red telephone booths everywhere! We stopped at a little street market and did some shopping and browsing. Cambridge topped the world university rankings in September! What a neat experience to have been there. I really enjoyed it, even if the weather wasn't choice.
That night, Nancy and I decided to go on a pub crawl that was advertised at the hostel. It cost 12 pounds, and we got free entrance and 4 free drinks, along with drink specials at all the pubs and clubs. It was pretty fun. Neither of us had been on a pub crawl before, but it's basically what you'd expect. Drink and mosey from bar to bar with a humongous group of people. We met some guys from the states...of course, wouldn't that be our luck...but yeah, it was quite a fun night :)
The next morning Betheny got there, and we all went out to breakfast at a little diner near the hostel. We decided to go on the free city tour which was arranged by the same group that organized the pub crawl. We started at Wellington Arch in Westminster (not actually London City), and made our way to Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards Parade (where the 2010 sand volleyball Olympic games will take place), Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament. There is something about London that is really enchanting...not sure if that's the right word. But I would really like to venture back there someday in the future. We stopped for a cup of tea at a little restaurant to warm ourselves up after that cold tour, and then we went to Covent Garden (where the pub crawl had taken place the night before) and looked around the various vendors' stands. We even got to hear some live music! It was a really neat atmosphere. And they'd already decorated for Christmas, so that made it even more magical. We ate dinner at the White Lion, where I had the Shepherd's Pie (made with lamb) and Rhubarb and Raspberry Crumble with Custard for dessert. Oh, and a pint of cider :)
Sunday morning we ventured south to where the Australia House (aka Gringotts Wizarding Bank in Harry Potter), Church of St. Clements ("Oranges and Lemons..."), and St. Paul's Cathdral were. Then we took the underground back up to Camden Market, where there were loads and loads of street vendors and things to do and see. There was a mass of people, but I managed to spot a really cute dress hanging on one of the stands. I went over to look at it, and the girls convinced me to try it on. I did, and I loved it, but I didn't want to pay 20 pounds for it. It was just a simple strapless short dress in a flower print with a brown belt (sold separately for 10 pounds) cinched around the waste. I tried to talk the guy down, but in the end I didn't want to pay 25 for them both. So I did what I find so hard to do (and therefore usually don't): walk away. I reassured myself that I could make a dress just like it for much less...or go to my favorite bargain shop back home: Goodwill :) It didn't bother me too much, and he lost a sale. We walked around looking for a little while, and when we decided we were frozen and hungry, we found this Mexican food stand and had lunch. It was really good, other than the fact that we couldn't find any indoor seating and had to take it to a park bench. But at least we were in the sun. After we'd finished we went back to the underground station and took it back south to London Bridge station. From there, we were able to walk along the River Thames and see all of the famous bridges...Tower Bridge (another Harry Potter filming location), London Bridge (is falling down...), and Millennium Bridge (once again, Harry Potter), as well as Shakespeare's Globe Theater. It was getting dark, so we decided to go into the Tate Modern Art Museum since it was free and we were cold. We walked around looking at things for an hour or so, and by then it had gotten dark outside. So we looked for a place to eat. I must say, London at night by the river, in the presence of Harry Potter bridges :) is quite an experience. We passed by Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hinde and the remains of the Winchester Palace on the way to dinner. We actually found a spot that served the EXACT same dishes as the White Lion had the night before. But since Betheny and I hadn't tried true Fish 'n Chips yet, we decided to split a large, with pints of cider for the both of us. It was good, but I mean not like extraordinarily better than any other fish 'n chips I've had. Then again, I was getting a sore throat from not wearing enough layers that day, so I was sort of out of it. That night when we got back to King's Cross, we got Betheny a picture on Platform 9 3/4 as well :)
We got up and left the hostel by 5am the next morning so we could catch our train back to the airport.
Oh, and I'm not sure which day this was, but I did get a care package from Miss Jill Rodenhuis (in whose wedding I'm going to be a bridesmaid :)). It was the perfect care package for me: a Jake's Roadhouse tshirt, a Den tshirt, a Harry's glass, and lots of Milk Duds! It came with a little not saying "A little something to remind you of 'home.'" I was so ecstatic when I went to pick it up at the office. Getting mail makes you feel like you're not so far from the people you love.
Also, just the other day I got a letter from Kim and Brittany Forler, our neighbors on 950 North in Chrisney. They sent me a card saying "Just a note to let you know...I'm thinking of you." They even sent 4 photos of 950 North since they've enjoyed looking at my pictures on facebook. One of them is just the gravel road, another is of Howie (their beagle), our goats, and Jasper, our newest Great Pyrenese in front of the barn. I really appreciated that. It was just what I needed. Here I've been taking all these pictures of far-away places, but I don't actually have any real tangible ones of home. So once again, thank you Kim and Brittany : ) If I've not been homesick yet, that's a good start lol ; )
I got a letter from Aunt Mary, Marie and Will for Halloween/my birthday. It said "Across the miles...thoughts of you bring smiles. Happy Halloween." That was so nice as well. I've really enjoyed sending postcards to people back home, and it's even more nice when I get a letters back! :)
Also, I got a letter from Kathy and Stacey Lee. I sent them a postcard a while back, and it was great to hear their stories of when they were in Ireland. Galway was their favorite place (as it was one of mine), and I'm pretty sure we even went to the same farmer's market while we were there lol. It's fun to compare how different people think of certain places, and I can't wait to see their photos and show them mine!
While I'm on the subject of birthday cards, I should mention that I got one from Mom, Dad, Cody, and Luke, as well as one from Grammy and Poppy.
I just want to say thank you to everyone who has made this experience for me even easier. Thank you for taking the time to think about me. I'm sure thinking of you all.
It's off to Paris tomorrow evening! I'm hoping nothing bad happens. The Eiffel Tower's been evacuated twice and there's still considered to be a high threat of terrorism. Plus, the air traffic controllers have been on strike, so flights have been delayed and cancelled. But hey, I figure what's going to happen is going to happen no matter where I am or how careful I am (I'm not saying I'm not careful)...but it's just the next part of my study abroad experience!
Until then..."keep your stick on the ice." =)