05 March 2010

||: Funiculi, Funicula! :||

Disclaimer: Events recounted hereafter occurred greater than three months before they were described. Details may be fuzzy. But it's the best I can do.

They don't have Thanksgiving in Europe, but as Harlaxton for most intents and purposes isn't in Europe, we had Thanksgiving dinner. It was pretty delicious, especially after what we had come to expect from Refectory food, that is, nasty. But Thanksgiving dinner is probably the least important thing that happened on Thanksgiving weekend, because that was the weekend that Chelsey Tompkins, JR Fralick, and I went to Naples and Pompeii (Pompeiiples, if you will), and it was also the best weekend of my semester.

The first step, if you don't count all the research and packing and booking and all that, was to take a streetcar from Harlaxton to the train station for what would be a very complicated train journey to Gatwick airport, where we were to spend the night.  That went smoothly enough, though in retrospect we probably should have left earlier and taken an earlier train. Because of miscommunication, construction on the trains, a useless King's Cross employee, and about four buses, we stepped out of the Manor at 2115, and stepped into the airport at 0045. It shouldn't take four and a half hours to get anywhere in England. On one of the buses, a man with a ponytail suggested we spend the night experiencing London by going to Camden Town and getting "incredibly high." We politely declined. At a 1am airport Subway dinner, we discussed revisions to the British Studies program and headed off to try to sleep in the closed Starbucks chairs, with some success, until we were awoken at 0452.

I've been told that in travel writing you shouldn't waste time getting there. So let's just get there. Flight landed, we called a taxi, and we learned quickly enough that there are no rules of the road in Naples as the cab rushed honking constantly through tiny wet streets curling around each other and cowering beneath tall old cracking buildings. They say Naples is ugly, and there is a lot of trash, and maybe it is ugly compared to the great majesty of Rome or some such, but I thought it was beautiful. It was like the real Old Country.

Our hostel, Giovanni's Home, could easily have been a murderer's trap, but turned out to be completely spectacular. Upon our arrival, Giovanni himself gave us an hour-long check-in Naples information session, complete with color-coded map on which we learned not to go in the purple, because that's where the mafia is. He then sent us out to lunch at a place whose name I regret I did not write down. It was incredibly full but so worth it. We each got a massive pizza to ourselves for about five Euro. In true exhausted lame people fashion, we returned to our hostel and napped for several hours to make up for the zero we had gotten the night before in the airport.

When we awoke, Giovanni was cooking (for the entire hostel) a spectacular Italian dinner of green pesto pasta and potato croquettes that tasted like they were made of clouds and felt like thick cream in my mouth. We all ate together at a huge table, and suddenly there were two guitars out and Giovanni was playing one and the harmonica, teaching us how to sing in Italian. We later learned that Gio has 59 instruments in his possession.

Chelsey with the man himself, chewin' on one a' them croquettes

We all spent the rest of the evening playing music, talking and learning and laughing it up. Gorgeous. The next morning we slept in a little, having been informed that Italians like to get their beauty sleep and the trains don't run until 10am. It was raining but whoever thinks a little water was going to keep up from going to Pompeii is sorely mistaken. We bought little crappy umbrellas for two Euro and were on our way. At the metro we bought breakfast, smallish pizza-like rectangles that may to this day remain the best thing I ever ate. One stop to a train past Ercolano (Herculaneum) to Pompeii Scavi. I kept wanting to call my Latin teacher from high school and tell her I was really there!

The forum, with Vesuvius looming

JR, Chelsey, and I made a pact to break rules, having decided that we will probably only ever be here once, so we shouldn't let a little wooden gate stop us from seeing anything. We may have paid a fortune for lunch—the only restaurant in Pompeii can charge whatever they want—but we made up for it in barely explored terrain. I climbed on the red roof of a 2000-year-old building. We saw the praying man and the other plaster molds. Most of being in Pompeii was incredibly fun, but occasionally we had to stop and recall why all of this was so well preserved. Just because the whole population died millennia ago doesn't mean they're not dead. They are dead.

The praying man

Early in the day, we met a big white dog JR named Apollo, and he followed us on and off the whole time we were there. Pompeii and Naples have a lot of dogs, like I hear there are in Athens. Mostly we wandered around freaking out about how awesome it was that we were in Pompeii. The Pompeii. We lost Chelsey briefly, I climbed the minor stadium through a hole in the fence, and by the end of the day, all three of our cameras were dead. Also at the minor stadium, we encountered an English-speaking man who was presumably testing out its acoustics by singing the American national anthem incorrectly. Bizarre. The reflection of clouds in the puddles was gorgeous. We made so many Pompeii puns, you'd have thought we were in Punpeii. Wacka wacka wacka.

JR and Chelsey, with Apollo nearby as ever

Our plans to climb Mt. Vesuvius that afternoon were thwarted by the rain. How do you close a mountain? we asked, but soon accepted it and headed back to Naples. On the long train ride we eavesdropped on a rich white family and talked about what we are going to do with our lives. We talked about the colleges we got into but turned down to come to UE. That night we visited Napoli Sutteraneo because evidently I have a thing for underground communities (see Scotland). We held candles and squeezed through a 70m-long tunnel 50cm across, then emerged into a huge clear blue Roman cistern. The entrance to the whole thing was through a hole in the floor under a bed in a regular house, and I thought we were going to get kidnapped and murdered, but we didn't. On the stairs down I found a little heart pendant and took it.

Upon returning the Giovanni's home, we played cards in the common room with a Canadian boy called Tristan who was touring Europe alone. Chelsey tried to invent a game called "The Best Game" but it was really just a very conceptualized version of every game. Then we invented "Egyptian War," which is ridiculous and has a page worth of rules in my journal. JR won. Tristan taught us Crazy 8s the Canadian way, which is much more intense. There was a print of a DaVinci in the kitchen, and while Giovanni was making us fried pizza for Chelsey's birthday, he told me DaVinci was the second best Italian of all time, after St. Francis of Assisi. "San Francesco, he understood everything. Leonardo understands some things."

Sunday morning (don't give up now!) began ambitiously with plans to climb Vesuvius and visit Herculaneum, Pompeii's less famous but even better preserved sister in destruction, all before about six o'clock, when we had to go back to the hostel, pick up our possessions, and get to the airport for our late flight back to Stansted. In our excitement, we got to the metro before the trains started, so we decided to kill some time by buying donuts and playing on the nearby playground. That crooked balance beam was tough, you guys.

We are five years old, yes.

Sadly, somehow, somewhere, someway, amidst our play and childlike glee, we missed the first bus, and having looked closely at the schedule on the Vesuvius-Herculaneum combo ticket package we had just bought, we realized that, with everything closing at dark, we did not have time to do both, so we settled on Vesuvius. Chelsey was most disappointed, as Herculaneum had been her most anxiously-awaited activity of the trip, but the day was not lost! Waiting for the bus to the mountain, we bought more pizza and then ran frantically up and down a hill with it, not sure where the bus was after all and terrified we had missed it. We hadn't. It was nearly empty and much too nice for going up a mountain, but we had to get there someway. Note: When you climb Vesuvius, you don't climb all of Vesuvius. You get bussed a large potion of the way up; otherwise you would never make it unless you had a few days to spare. 

Halfway up, the bus stopped at what I can only describe as a gypsy house for a break. There were cats everywhere, every inch was full of items presumably for sale, and Chelsey said the bathroom floor was covered in sand. So naturally, we were excited when it was time to move on, though the view was lovely.

The cat that tried to take Chelsey out

Finally we reached the actual drop-off point and began the still very long trek to the crater. It was steep as a bitter tea but praise God we made it, despite very insufficient safety regulations. There we were, standing at the top of a mountain and looking down at the hole left from when that mountain exploded and wiped out three cities. We took about a thousand pictures, threw stones into the crater, played "Anything" by Mae on Chelsey's iPod, and got free tiny lucky crater rocks from a vendor at the top. For the first time, I legitimately could not tell where the sea became sky. It was breathtaking if anything is. I bought a postcard for Ms. LaFon so I could tell her (read: brag) about my ancient Roman adventures.

Foreground: JR, me, Chelsey. Background: freaking Vesuvius crater

I may or may not have fallen on my face on the slippery way down, but Chelsey almost fell to her death (only to be saved by a strong old lady coming the other way) and JR about missed the last bus down the mountain because he had to go to the bathroom, so we all have our moments. At least I didn't bend the postcard or break the fragile present I got at the summit. We made it down and sat mostly in silence on the train back to Piazza Cavour in Naples. Dying for some savouries, we stopped on the walk home by a little stand and bought some treats I can only describe as unbelievably delicious. Maybe the best Euro I've ever spent, not that I've spent that many. After the Mountain, the 66 marble stairs up to our hostel that usually just taunted us came right out and kicked us in the shins. Ouch.

We had more time than we thought and sat on the terrace in short sleeves in the wind playing Never Have I Ever and waiting for the cab, which got us to the airport in 15 terrifying minutes. Through security and waiting for our flight, Chelsey bought a bottle of water and a box of crackers, because she is insane and panics under pressure. We touched down in London twenty minutes before the last train to Grantham, but there was no hope. Immigration itself was a good half hour, and once we made it through, we settled down with some BK Lounge and watched the BBC before curling up under an "Edinburgh Sparkles!" sign for a few hours and shivering ourselves into delusion. We were awoken at 445 and took a 521 train back to Grantham. That ride was easily the most delirious of my life up to that point. Little did I know it would be trumped the very next morning. 

31 December 2009

Czech Up On It

11 to 14 November was so long ago it hardly feels like it was me, and I see now how hard it is to keep up with travel at Harlaxton, especially near the end. I suppose it’s only fair at this point to be more understanding to those who’ve previously been in this situation. The days really are saturated beyond belief. But regardless of all that, Morgan and I did go to Prague over the second long weekend, and there we had a beautiful time. Fortunately for you, I made it a habit to write everything down all the time in my little moleskine, without which this account would be much less detailed and, perhaps, much less accurate as well.

Prague from the Charles Bridge, which we crossed many a time

After a high-speed journey from Harlaxton to East Midlands on Wednesday the 11th, I met Morgan in the airport and we set off for Prague. Though we made it with fairly little trouble to our lovely (if sparsely supplied) hostel, the exhaustion imposed on us by our many rigourous academic pursuits led us to take it slow for the evening and settle down early to prepare for a lot of exploration in the morning.

Thursday we took the New Free Prague walking tour, having been nothing but pleased with the New Europe tours in other cities, and we were not disappointed. Our guide, Ruth, was American, but knew enough about Prague's surprisingly exciting history that she could have been an alien for all I cared.  She taught us about the Prague rising, for which the Russians took all the credit, and an instance when the Czechs tore down every road sign in their country and renamed every city Dubcek to confuse the invading Communists. Awesome. Later we learned about Prague's love of St. Vitus, the patron saint of actors, comedians, dogs, and epileptics—who protects you from animal attacks, lightning strikes, and that vicious fiend oversleeping. On the way, we stopped at a nondescript bagel shop, where we were met with fine-tasting bagels and the greatest drinks we ever had in Europe: ice-cold Coco-Cola products. You laugh, but nothing in Europe is ever cold enough. It was amazing.

best Sprite of my life

Morgan and I enjoyed the characteristic New Europe Tour biiig finish story, did a little exploring, and managed to basically follow the tour's exact route back to where we started. Not, of course, without buying a few presents along the way. Just before dark we picked up $2 dinner at a little mini-market—a baguette, apples, cheese, and cookies, for less than 100 Czech koruna or about four dollars total—and headed back to our hostel where someone was playing some brass instrument very softly pretty much the whole time. We never discovered the culprit. We spoke to a nice Australian woman who was in our room, checked our email on the Czechernet, talked for several hours, and went to bed early. This is a recurring theme.

on the Charles Bridge again

The next morning, because who could resist?, we went to the Museum of Communism, which is nestled comfortably between a McDonald's and a casino. It was by far the jankiest museum I have ever encountered, and it got consistently jankier as we walked through. The early exhibits were nicely postered and hung, despite some questionable translations. But by the end, there was literally a piece of paper, in a page protector, held up by a bent-open paper clip. Awesome. Some of the better Czanglish sentences were "Timely arrival to work deals the decesive strike against the American aggressors!" and "A young builder of socialism looks different from a decadent swine."

Morgan was concerned, and with good reason.

After a return to Bohemia Bagel, we took the Castle Tour, which is run by the Free Tour people... but is not free. Deception. But our guide, Katka, was Czech, and quite good at the castle tour considering it was only the second time she had done it. On the tour, we learned that the Czechs invented sugar cubes, beer, and... jello wrestling? I am skeptical. But unless you can prove someone else invented jello wrestling, I'm going to keep believing it. There was a weirdly early break on this tour to sample some Czech beer, which was basically disgusting, though I imagine it would have been good to someone who was hardcore into beer. Very bitter and dark, but at least now I can say I've had Czech beer.

Because I failed to write down everything and only managed most things, I can't recall on which day Morgan and I went to the town square market, but we'll say it was this day. Why not? There was a vast array of stalls full of things like "hot mead," "Super Vaffle," and various other delicious-looking foods, but we settled for a little cup of hot mead to stave off the cold that was creeping in with the retreating sun. It tasted like two drinks in one! First a really, really strong alcohol taste, which was then replaced by sweet apple cider taste. Very weird. We were tempted to try the Super Vaffles, but somehow resisted.

Morgan skeptical but optimistic about the hot mead

One slightly more expensive dinner later (we upgraded to better cookies and got some shameful Diet Pepsis this time), and we were headed back for another delightfully relaxing night.

Saturday morning we did what anyone with half a mind would do on their last day in Prague, and headed back to the old town square to eat some food. We settled on the thing it seemed like everyone around us was settling on, a large, lumpy, roundish piece of dough fried and topped with various sweets and savouries. We split one of these "big things" covered in Nutella, and it was certainly an optimal lunch. Also huge. By that time, somehow, it was time to depart from Prague, taking only a few gifts, several pages of notes, and a hefty portion of Czech puns back with us. After a plane ride that was too turbulent for anyone's taste, we parted at East Midlands and I took a very rambunctious train back to Grantham just in time for dinner.

18 December 2009


Prague, Naples, and Ireland updates are coming. I promise.

10 November 2009

The Basic Elements Are Given Back to the Ocean

I've realized that if I don't write about Wales before I go to Prague, I won't write about Wales. So here's Wales, 30 October to 1 November.

On the way that morning, I sat near Bernard and Maureen and (Dr. Ed) Packard and we talked about rivers and how Americans say things wrong and evil cows that go into town at night and take three children and roll on them until they're flat. We stopped in Chester for lunch and a few hours, where Bernard, Maureen, and I sat in a little French cafe called Brasserie Gerard, which played "Eet" by Regina Spektor and served jam in individual tiny glass jars. I kept mine.

When we got to Llandudno, the town on the beach of North Wales where our hotel was, everything was so picturesque. It was cold and grey but the ocean was beautiful, and Jessica's and my room looked directly out over it. After a little exploring and fish and chips for dinner, it rained so we kept a low profile and stayed in, invited some people to our room and watched the X-Factor before going to bed early.

Saturday morning I wore my orange scarf from Kelly in the Halloween spirit, and after a legitimately tasty breakfast walked outside to 10 of the roughly 30 minutes of sunshine we got all weekend. But the ocean in those ten minutes was breathtaking.

Wales is so beautiful I could cry. Let's all go there together.

Who'd have thought I'd wake up on Halloween morning to tea, toast, and eggs, walk outside onto the rocky beach of Northern Wales and skip rocks into the ocean? Getting out of the disease-filled Manor and into the cold clean air, I saw the water that's been on both sides and bridged the gap. Four thousand miles between, but the cotton in my socks was touching shoes that touched the rocks that have been smoothed by centuries of rolling under and around water that's spent millennia rolling and smoothing rocks on the western shore.

Caernarfon Castle was first on the agenda for the day, and it wins the Best Castle Award with no contest. It's huge and all open, no roped-off rooms or carpets you can't step on—just big and old and full of passages and towers to explore. I played Marco Polo with Jessica and her friends (my friends?) Samantha, Ryan, and Danielle. I ran along a wall that was probably too close to imminent death, but it was so fun.

The grass is so green because you're not supposed to walk on it.

After Caernarfon, where I bought my grandmother a postcard because if I were a grandmother I'd want to see that my granddaughter went to a castle, was Portmerion village, a very strange place where everything is in bright colours. There is also a beach there but almost no water... but there is quicksand, which you have to cross to get onto the beach. I made it over safely, but the return journey was less successful and now my Chucks have even more character! I didn't drop my ice cream though, which is good because it was delicious.

Danielle, Halloween, and Sam, with ice cream

Soon we left the strange, strange world of Portmerion and passed fields upon fields of spray-painted sheep to visit the slate caverns, sometimes known as the least fun and least useful two hours of the trip. It was cool and really intriguing to actually see what a mine was like, but it was not worth the 400-something foot descent, and the thought of being surrounded by thousands of tons of rock on all sides just made me want to get above ground immediately. I took pride in being the only one on the trip who didn't have to duck until the very end of the journey... and I would have made that too if it weren't for those pesky safety helmets. I made a point to get a blue one just like spring 08.

That night, after returning to the Ambassador Hotel, we (the general we you'll see named in the picture below) decided to go "out" to celebrate Danielle's birthday, even though it was a week or two previous. It took a while for us all to get organized and ready, which preparation was hindered further by the very confusing design of the hotel. I still don't understand how the room numbers worked or why you had to walk through the restaurant on the first floor to get between two rooms on the second. But eventually we made it down to the lobby to take a group picture and set out. Please note the Christmas decorations and the fact that this was Halloween night.

Kyle, me, Sam, Ryan, Jessica, and Danielle, with some holiday cheer

Since eating at the fish and chips place from the night before seemed too janky for how classy we looked, we decided to eat at Romeo's, an Italian restaurant on the second floor of an unidentified building. There was a big group there celebrating Halloween and a birthday, but in more of the typical Halloween sense (an excuse for women to dress like prostitutes). They were pretty loud but we still had a very good dinner. I mean, quality (if literally boiling) gnocchi after several weeks of nasty Refectory food was certainly worth the slightly more than I wanted to pay.

The plan was to go out dancing at one of the whopping two dance clubs in Llandudno, but we took a detour into a pub at the bottom of a hotel to chill out for a while. There were people singing karaoke, including a girl in a Smurf costume, and once we were all settled and seated, what should come on over the speakers but "Walkin' in Memphis"! It was so weird to be sitting in a pub, in Wales, listening to a song about home that just happened to come on.

As it turns out, "fancy" dress in the UK does not mean the same as fancy in the states, and so as we were not in costume, we didn't get in to the Boulevard for free. But we did get in, even I, who somehow forgot to bring any form of identification (because come on, I didn't have pockets). We were basically the first people at the club, but before long it was bumpin' if a little smelly. Who puts carpet in a club, I mean really. Jess, Danielle, and Kyle were having a really great time and were very into dancing, but Ryan and Sam and I headed out pretty early to make the longish cold walk back to our hotel, a journey made much more pleasant by the ebbing ocean on our right. I watched some TV in my pajamas and went to sleep.

Sunday morning we got to sleep in a little (till 0830), and after another splendid breakfast (which included, to everyone's delight, cocoa crispies), I walked outside to await the coach and was met with cold, drizzle, and the biggest rainbow I've ever seen in my life. It spread from the Great Orm all the way out over the pier, and I could hardly believe it. Such a something at least after some stress the night before.

You walk in a room, you look out a window, and something's there—something's there.

What a way to send us off from Llandudno and on to Swallow Falls. This was a weird detour on the return journey that turned out to be maybe the best part of the whole trip. Since it rained all weekend, the waterfall was raging like mad and swarming over the lower platforms. I took off my shoes and just stood in the overflow, it was so gorgeous. Definitely worth the surprise £1 it cost to get to it, and at least I had dry shoes at the end. In retrospect, I didn't get pneumonia either, so that was a win-win situation for sure.

A final stop in Betws y Coed (I think; Welsh doesn't have enough vowels) tempted me into buying a hat along with my customary Wales (Cymru) patch, but then, who can resist a purple hat? Before long we were back at the manor in time for dinner, by which time I already missed Wales. It was so beautiful and clean and full of spectacular nature, and so lovely to have a trip scheduled out for me so I didn't have to plan anything but still didn't feel busy, especially after three weekends at the Manor. One day, maybe, I'll go again. You should come too.

09 October 2009

Can't Drive Out the Way We Drove In

Only about a week late isn't so bad, especially for a trip as big as Berlin. 1–4 October was the first long weekend, an excellent chance to travel farther from the secondary or tertiary home that is Harlaxton. But first, there was a giant British Studies exam that basically everyone had to take. Tuesday night (the 29th) meant a super study session, which I deemed rather worth it due to the fine company. I mostly studied with Chelsey Tompkins, Ben Deutsch, and JR Fralick, and after ordering pizza with them at 11pm, getting delirious, getting chastised by the RA for being too loud after quiet hours, discovering the significance of the room—it was good to feel comfortable and befriended. More studying with Chelsey Wednesday morning and finally the test, which was by no means easy.

When it was over, I had about an hour to shower, pack for Berlin, and eat dinner before the taxi came to take me and Bernard to the train station. Then we had a fire drill. Terror at not being able to locate our hostel's confirmation email and missing the taxi and generally never getting to Germany subsided when we made it to the station in plenty of time. We were on the same train to Stansted Airport (outside London) as six or eight other Harlaxton students, who were already drinking and would keep it up until midnight at the earliest. I don't know how (or why) they did it.

I'm told that spending the night in the airport is something everyone should do once, and I agree, but only once, particularly in a group of thirty kids from your school, few of whom have any interest in not being big loud drunk Americans. It was, overall, a long 18 hours of travel that went a little something like this: taxi to Grantham train station, train from Grantham to Stansted (changing at Ely), Stansted all night, flight to Schönefeld Airport of which I was awake for roughly 12 seconds, SXF1 Bus to Südkreuz station, S-Bahn train from Südkreuz to Hohenzollerndamm station, 115 Bus in the wrong direction for about five minutes, 115 Bus in the right direction to Pücklerstraße, two block walk (the second of which was in the Grünewald forest) to our hostel, which was really spectacular. We got the tour of the hostel from a man from Buffalo, and I'm still not sure what he was doing working at a hostel in the woods outside Berlin.Totally wiped from the past 18 hours and from wandering through the forest, we took a significant nap in incredibly comfortable beds. There was practically no one in our hostel, except about six guys with whom we watched part of Pulp Fiction, then went back to our room and watched Death at a Funeral before passing out again.

The last block of the road to our hostel

Friday morning, having taken serious advantage of the free breakfast, Bernard and I headed into town. In order to do this, I had to get us day passes for the S-Bahn, in German. But I did it! There are tons of dogs in Berlin, and they all seem to be walking their people. We made it just on time for our extremely intense four-hour walking tour. We saw tons of important stuff and learned plenty of cool stories about Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Parliament, Checkpoint Charlie, and the fall of the wall. Our guide, Michael, was Canadian and his fall of the wall story was top notch. I don't remember a whole lot of facts from the tour, but I do remember that 90% of Berlin was destroyed in the bombing in WWII. In the middle of the tour, it started raining really hard, but cleared up tolerably without too much damage. I realized, that night, that I was wearing a jacket with a hood.

Our guide at the second-longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall

After the tour, we thought about going to the museum with the Nefertiti exhibit, and while we were trying to decide if it was worth the £4 for just an hour, we ran into five other Harlaxton students. Yeah, in Germany, on the Ireland long weekend. We went with them to a different museum and saw some beautiful art from some seriously legit artists, then parted ways to go find some food.

Upon arrival back in Pariser Platz, we discovered that, as the next day was the 20th anniversary of German Reunification, there was a big festival going on behind Brandenburg Gate! There weren't a ton of people there, but there was a Ferris wheel, a huge stage, and a choir of old guys in red jackets singing some very uplifting-sounding German songs. Flanking the street were rows of booth selling Bratwurst, beer, scarves, crepes, purses, pretzels, and donuts bigger than your face (seriously). I ordered Bernard and myself brats in German and, when we finished them, we bought some huge pretzels (auf Deutsch!) to go on our way out. Yet another skillful navigation of the remarkably well organized Berlin public transit system landed us back at our hostel, where we spent twenty minutes or so talking to the owner, who gave us a huge pitcher of water and mugs and touted Berlin's as the best water in Europe. After a Rostbratwurst and a salty, salty pretzel, I wasn't about the challenge his claim. I fell asleep ten minutes into the movie Passengers, and slept soundly through the night.

Downtown Berlin on Reunification Eve

Initial skepticism about Rostbratwurst and the tiny bun in which it was served soon gave way to delight.

Saturday we went to Schloss Charlottenburg because Bernard loves palaces, but I actually really enjoyed it. The audio-guide in the second part was really interesting, and I learned enough about the palace's original owner, Sophie Charlotte, first queen of Prussia, to name my camera Sophie after her. Her daughters, Friederike and Luisa, were Prussia's most famous princesses, and the statue I saw of them in the museum the day before was copied pretty much everywhere. One section of the palace was almost completely reconstructed, since it had been bombed hardcore, and of course pictures were not allowed, but it was awesome to think that Berliners cared enough about the palace to completely rebuild it. There was a whole room full of china that made me wonder how anywhere else in the world managed to have any at all.

Returning to the city centre, we found that hostel man's claim that no one really cares about Reunification Day was completely false. There were so many people gathered to get in on the fun and see the giant marionettes expected later that afternoon that we literally could not get into the plaza we were headed for. After much deliberation and consultation of our three maps, we found our way to Museum Island via train station sandwiches, and it was suddenly five o'clock again and there was no time to get to the museum of our choice. Defeated, we sat on the steps of the Berliner Dom, a giant beautiful cathedral, and fed crumbs of shortbread to the sparrows gathered there.

The Berliner Dom when the weather finally got lovely

Bernard and I had almost given up on the day. We had really wanted to do our touristy stuff that night—buying postcards and gifts and more German food and trying to find some Berliner Weisse, but it seemed impossible to even get near any of that with all the crowds. Suddenly, we discovered that about an hour from then, the Berliner Dom was holding a vesper service with a special organist, so we decided to go. The inside of the Dom was spectacular—huge, ornate, but not tacky by any account, and we were certainly happy enough to be warm for a while. The service was in German, naturally, and if I barely understood a word I'm sure Bernard was completely lost. We were exhausted and I won't deny I almost fell asleep for a bit, but the organ music was beautiful, and we could at least tell when they were doing the Lord's Prayer enough to chime in in hushed English.

Once it was done, the city centre had cleared out significantly. Now it was still very populated, but not so much that you couldn't move like before. We went through several touristy shops and spent more money than expected, but it is worth it even more if you don't think about the money. Getting into the actual festival was much more complicated than the previous night, and we had to go around several blocks to find the entrance and wait while hoards of people had their bags checked. Security was high because there was a possible threat of attack surrounding the elections of the previous week. The news later that night said there had been tens of thousands of people in downtown Berlin, and we were two of them. We got Rostbratwurst (yes again, but from a different stand), and went on our search for Berliner Weisse, a beer mixed with juice that Morgan had suggested to us, the girls who don't like alcohol, as a less disgusting-tasting option. The quest was extremely easy because, well, we were at a giant party in Berlin looking for beer. So we split one and again, initial skepticism led not to disappointment, as it actually tasted much more like juice than beer. Together, we finished our whopping one drink, and departed to public transit, where at the bus stop we met a very talkative man on his way back from synagogue who asked us about religion, food, and America over about ten minutes. Next stop: watching Fanboys and falling asleep.

Proving we actually got it

Sunday was departure day, but our flight didn't go out until nearly 10pm, so we had a long time to wander about and see the rest of what we could. On the S-Bahn, a man with dreadlocks was playing the guitar. A nun on the train who didn't speak English tried to talk to him, and he said he didn't speak German, and she said in German, "Music-playing is international" and applauded him. I wonder if that included the man in yellow trousers we saw playing the guitar, drum, cymbals, and tambourine simultaneously and covering "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" with maybe the worst singing voice of all time.

On the way to Pariser Platz that morning, we faced the strongest winds I may have ever felt—stronger than on top of Arthur's Seat almost certainly, and they came in gusts out of nowhere and were gone just as fast. We finally made it to the museum with the Nefertiti. Too bad Nefertiti was actually moving to a different museum and we couldn't see her, but the old stuff was still awesome, and the weird section that may have been an exhibit about a future museum was also cool, despite how very little sense it made to us, who couldn't read the signs.

Lesson: Do not show up the the airport four hours early. It is a terrible idea, and you will probably just fall asleep on Henry V next to three middle-aged college-style Brits in matching Gryffindor-coloured striped polos. Lesson two: when making international mobile calls to Streetcars so you can get back to Harlaxton from East Midlands airport, remember to omit the 0 at the start of the number because if you don't then the country code doesn't work, and you have to ask a very nice old English man who just used the pay-phone how to do it 10 minutes before your flight boards. But despite all this and eating embarrassingly un-cultural airport food, we made it onto the plane, across the continent, into England, and back to Harlaxton at around 1am to fall asleep and start it all again.

30 September 2009

Hello, Old Friend

On Sunday I took a tall tall coach from Grantham to Nottingham, to see Morgan Stankey who, if you don't know, is my friend, is wonderful, and is going to grad school at NU. Little as it was, it was my first solo independent travel, and I'm a little bit proud. I tried to get bread and cheese (okay, and Diet Coke) at Morrisson's while I waited for my coach to come, but evidently even though they open at 0930 on Sundays, you can't check out until 1000, and I had to leave before then. Still, I made it to Nottingham smoothly and thereupon found Morgan quite well. It's possible that everyone in the bus station thought we were either big lesbians or big loud Americans, as I've found the English don't really touch each other. But that was no concern of ours. It's amazing what a hug will do after a month without one.

We walked casually around one of the UK's largest pedestrian areas and slowly drank tea and ate scones (how fitting) while catching up on the past five months and remembering Indiana and Tennessee. She took me to see her school, whose campus is huge but lovely. It's more fall there than in Grantham, where it seems to be an unknown season we don't have in America. Most of the day was spent sitting in different places and talking, as I hoped. We sat on her bed and talked, sat by the lake and talked, sat on the bus and talked, sat in a pub and ate food with taste for once and talked. Seven hours may not be much for a trip, but it was a truly splendid afternoon out. At six we parted smiling and happy to do it again soon, and back home for work and work, but rather more refreshed than before.

22 September 2009

Land of My Heart Forever

As I seem to have contracted a new strain of the Bubonic Plague, there is little I can do but sit in bed and putter through the internet between extended naps. Luckily, this puttering makes me inclined to write about Scotland, a spectacular place, and one which I visited this past weekend, 18–20 September.

Bernard and I took a very early train out of Grantham, opting for indie travel and economy over six hours on a coach. I watched gulls land all around tractors, eating little bugs out of the just tilled dirt. The train was cold but fast, and before long we were within sight of the ocean, then out of it again, then in Edinburgh. We dropped off our bags at the fabulous hostel, where every room had a theme (ours was "Mr. Men") and all the halls were decorated with Medieval knights and Scottish warriors, then headed out for our first adventure—into Edinburgh Castle, conveniently located right outside our hostel.

The castle could have been better, I guess, if it had been free, but that's about it. We spent several hours there, and went through every room we could, several museums, saw the Scottish Crown Jewels, touched a lot of history, took a tour from a very Scottish-style-friendly guide named Colin whom we could scarce understand, and visited the Scottish War Memorial, which was touching at the very least and heartbreaking at its worst. The memorials all listed the dead like this: "566 officers and 9459 others," and I wonder if the others wish they could be listed the same as their officers. An Edinburgh Castle employee told me I'd get stuck if I climbed into Mons Meg, the giant cannon. "I've seen it happen," he said.

The view from the castle

Having worn ourselves out, we ate scones in the Redcoat Cafe in the castle. I kind of felt like I was betraying my homeland, but the jam and cream made it so worth it. After eating we went back to the hostel to regroup, and established that if we didn't go out any more that night, we wouldn't have to eat again. Now that's what I call frugal. So we stayed in our room and met a doctoral student from New Zealand and a fancy New York chic girl who was taking a tour of Europe for a few months. She asked where everyone was from and what we were doing, but we never exchanged names. We went to bed early, wiped and needing to be rested for the next morning.

On Saturday, after a croissants-and-nutella breakfast (classic Scottish fare, I'm sure) at the hostel, we set out to meet Mary, Stephanie, Elenya, and Erynn to climb Arthur's Seat, the 800-some-foot extinct volcano in Edinburgh where King Arthur is said to have had his throne. On the way to the seat I noticed how much Scotland looks like the Industrial Revolution—everything was lovely, no mistake, but all the buildings seemed to be covered in soot a century or two old.

Arthur's Seat is actually the second of two sort of mountains in Edinburgh right next to each other. We did not know this and, ambitious, set to climbing the first one we saw. A sign said "Please do not climb the steep slope" but, of course, that is more of a challenge than a warning, and we climbed straight up to the path instead of going around the side and taking the way where you could actually walk.

The vertical stripe just left of center is the non-path we took.
The real path goes along the side at the bottom of the rock face.

Having demolished that, and emerged as Mountain Women for sure, we trekked along until we found ourselves going back down hill and realized we had gone the long way. But we were not to be swayed! We found the long rock stair and rambled on. Another group took one picture of all of us about halfway up, but naturally it was on the camera of the only member of our expedition who doesn't have Facebook. As for the rest of the climb, well, we made it to the top somehow, and I can't even tell you. I could see all the way to America, I think. Bernard and I took a picture of ourselves at the summit marker. You can't see much, but you'll just have to trust me.

Not even from the top

"If I had a Top 10 Experiences Ever list, I would probably just scratch it out and start over."

The rest of the day was slow because, really, what do you do after climbing a mountain? We sat at the bottom of the seat for an hour or so, then Bernard and I separated because I didn't want to go to the Palace of Holyrood House and she did. I went to the Our Dynamic Earth museum, which is really ridiculous I know, because they have natural science in America too, but I love it. Too bad it was £7.50 so I just sat outside and wrote for two hours, then wandered along the Royal Mile, where there are lots of pubs and shops selling plaid stuff. Bernard and I got back together for some more solid Scottish food at Pizza Express because all the pubs were expensive and we didn't want to be the tools who go to Subway in Edinburgh. I sucked it up and spent some money on a cashmere scarf because when am I ever going to be able to afford cashmere again in my life? Never, that's when. I love it though. Bernard said of hers, "I feel like God is hugging me." That's pretty accurate.

We turned in early again, though not as early as Friday night, met a woman from Northern Ontario who was so very nice, and on Sunday (after everyone in our room woke up at the same time) we made reservations at Mary King's Close and went to the National Portrait Gallery while we waited. We passed the (Sir Walter) Scott Monument on the way, and it really does look like a Gothic space ship. So bizarre. The National Gallery was splendid and full of lots of really big paintings. The one of Achilles mourning Patroclus (by Gavin Hamilton) was particularly spectacular, as well as the statue of "The Campbell Sisters," which reminded me of a few people. We snuck up to the famous works before being good visitors and looking through the section of Scottish artists. John Duncan's "St. Bride" was my favourite.

Soon it was time for Mary King's Close, a sort-of-underground (but actually just underbuilding) tour of the 17th-century "closes" between blocks of poor, dirty, diseased people whose lives generally sucked. I wonder how a fire drill would have gone down there. Good thing it's all stone.

A little shortbread and some lunch at Chocolate Soup (one of the more bizarre restaurants/cafes I have yet encountered) left us pretty much done with everything we had planned, and we went back to our hostel and drank free tea to kill time before our train. The train station experience was much more stressful than it had been going out, but we made it back home in time to do pretty much nothing before going to sleep, which is what I'm going to do very soon.

In short, I loved that place.

10 September 2009

07 September 2009

How Come Every Time You Come Around...?

This past weekend was the London trip and, best I could, every time something happened I wrote it down in red pen in my little black journal where, I hope, I'll continue to write down everything that happens. Here is a description of things that happened.

The coach ride was long and quite uncomfortable, but we arrived in central London around 3 on Friday and gaped at the huge old things everywhere on the driving tour before being dropped off at our giant hotel. Bernard and I were roommates and we sat on our beds indecisively for a little while before settling on going to the British Museum, as it is free. In an effort to feel closer to those who are far, we looked for things we knew they'd seen. Half an hour of amazement at how old and huge the Egyptian statues were led us to the giant fist, where we happily recreated the Pound It picture from semester 0801.
Soon we met two fellow Harlaxtonites, with whom we spent the remainder of the day. At the National Gallery, I put away everything I thought I knew about paintings and let the art blow my mind. It was spectacular, but like many buildings in England, it was huge, and soon we found ourselves very, very tired and desensitized enough to start looking for a way out. Then, out of nowhere, we emerged into a bustling room full of Van Goghs on loan from somewhere else. What a way to end the visit. The caption on one Degas said, "Degas was fascinated by the female body in awkward contortions."
Having come in at the back, we exited the National Gallery into Trafalgar Square, where a magician had attracted a crowd, and a man with a puppy was playing the wine glasses beautifully. On a statue pedestal with a net, a woman wearing all denim was shouting and waving to cars and singing Old McDonald. The news was there looking nonchalant.
By this time we were quite hungry (probably due to the failure of our sack lunches at the best truck stop in the world to satisfy), so we set out to find dinner. We were hoping for the cultural experience of some solid hearty pub food—but alas, we were less excited about pub prices, so after a long wander and much contemplating, we entered a tiny Italian place with no name and very good prices. The panini I received for £3.30 wasn't huge, but it was certainly substantial enough to be worth saving the money. Though there were people smoking on either side of us and the threat of pigeon attack from above, the owner (and possibly the only employee) was especially welcoming and kind.
Exhausted, we headed back to the hotel early, around 20:30, but stopped at a side store on the way, where I bought a box of strawberry tea that I sincerely hope has caffeine in it. In our room, Bernard and I curled up to rest our feet and watched the last hour of Ghost, which is probably not a good film to start halfway through. P-Swayze backed off into the great white yonder, and we fell asleep.

Saturday was even more full. A rushed morning after breakfast found Bernard and I buying day passes for the tube (though we still managed to walk our feet off) and then queuing at the TKTS booth for discount seats for Avenue Q that night. Lion King was our first choice, but we just couldn't bear to spend £56 on it, so AQ was a worthy substitute.

Our tube passes got their first of many uses taking us out to Portobello Road, one of my favorite roads I've yet encountered. The street market there was huge and packed like clothes in a Space Bag. There were musicians everywhere, two steel drum drummers, and a guitarist wearing all pink. I walked by a man selling bowls made out of scratched up records, some with WWII helmets and gas masks, several with watches, and a whole stretch of beautiful real food. If I lived in London, I would go to Portobello Road every weekend and eat nothing but bread and vegetables for the rest of my life. One vendor sold old, old books, and some were in German and French and Spanish. I looked for Eugene Onegin in Russian to no avail, one perfect gift lost. (When I asked if he had any in Russian, the man said, "No. Absolutely not.") Coming back up the road we bought a basket of apples and hunks of bread for lunch on a dime. A garbage truck came down the street and almost ran over Bernard, and we got separated for about fifteen minutes. I stood on the corner and ate bread and waited for a while, then headed toward out and found her.

We walked down a long curvy street to Kensington gardens, where we sat under a tree eating apples and feeling the sun sneak through the clouds. It was a beautiful and warm day. We were joined by a gaggle of little neon green spiders the size of pin heads, who crawled all over everything black and nothing else. "Why do the green spiders like black? Because they're English?"

After Kensington, Bernard humoured me by going to the Natural History Museum. Everything there was so interesting, I could have stayed all day. But there was so much to do! so we hurried through rocks and giant crocodiles and dinosaurs to the life size blue whale replica. It was the biggest thing I've ever seen. That's not true, but it was the size of the biggest animal ever to exist, and that's pretty big.

Poor planning means we got off the tube at Parliament with not nearly enough time to get to Westminster for evensong, so we took in Parliament, Big Ben in his tower, and the Thames, crossing the bridge intent on taking the closest tube station on the other side to the Tower Bridge. This endeavor led to a fairly long wander on the South Bank, since the station we sought was closed. But we got to to it soon enough, and took in the bridge to the smell of sweet sticky chestnuts being sold on the footpath. We found a tiny door, but I don't think Harlaxton's "If it's unlocked, you're allowed to go in" rule applies at Tower Bridge.
Returning from the bridge, we aimed to take the tube via King's Cross and find Platform 9 3/4, but sadly we found ourselves short of time and thus headed back to the theatre district in a big hurry. We ate our first overpriced meal of the weekend at Pret A Manger, a sort of organic English combination of Subway and Starbucks, and dashed off to make it to the 8:30 show on time (only dashing in the wrong direction for a few minutes before correcting the error). We arrived at 8:26, Bernard in jeans and I in Chucks, both of us sweaty and tired and forcing a dozen people to stand so we could get to seats 13 and 14 in a row of 25. The show, however, was hilarious, and made the stress of getting there very acceptable. When it ended, we took the underground quietly back to our hotel and fell asleep happy.

Getting ready Sunday morning we watched Megananny, a show that is not at all like Super Nanny, and then got back on the coach (which left two people at the hotel despite a five minute grace) and went to Hampton Court Palace, where we learned Diligence and Haste from a genuine medieval master of the house, strolled through Henry VIII's kitchens and William and Mary's apartments, ate the second overpriced meal of the weekend and sat in the lovely sun under the gumdrop trees before heading back to Harlaxton for a power homework session and finally sleep again.

03 September 2009

Write, write, write, you!

It's been a week so far at Harlaxton. The logistics are that I live in the manor house on the top floor in a suite, really, with one roommate, Jessica, and I'm taking British Studies with Dr. Taylor, British Literature, Poetry Writing, and Shakespeare, as well as choir. It's a lot of hours for Harlaxton, but I'm confident. I'll just be very busy.

The obvious is that this place is beautiful. There are rooms everywhere and stairs everywhere and all the doors have doorknobs way too high or way too low. The lift was broken until this afternoon, and I walk the 95 stairs up to my room a few times a day. There are gold and blue and pink and marble and cedar and columns and stone and exposed pipe and doors that lead to tiny brick passages that lead to old books and dusty notes from friends. Outside the grass is still green and goes on until it hits the low clouds lit up dimly by the few lights of Grantham. Grey stripes are all the rage.

Before classes started, I spent my time comparing my mental images of things to the things themselves. In reality the hill from the Carriage House to the Manor is not as steep, nor as treacherous. The Carriage House is on the other side. The refectory is smaller and the tables aren't round. The rooms I had about right, but I saw them in some detail. I'm unexpectedly mad that my friends' pipe signatures got painted over. I want to put them back. The little red knob on the showers to turn up the heat is smaller and brighter. The lights come on faster.

Since the first British Studies lecture Monday morning at 830, my life has been more full than ever. At the end of week one, I am doing okay. Hours and hours of homework a night, but my class schedule is conducive to studying. I spend a lot of time in the library, at the little back corner table, reading, or in my bed reading, or in the Schroeder Lounge. Always reading, Shakespeare or the penguin or British literature, but good, good stuff. I doubled my knowledge of British history the first day. It's hard, but it makes me want to work hard.

Things have happened. I raced the lift up to the fifth floor and beat it. Someone got in trouble on the first night, knocking on doors in town at 1230am. The food is terrible. Rebecca Bernard and I walked up the mile to the Greg for a drink, but it wasn't very good, so we drank water and juice and walked back through harsh headwinds and rain, umbrellas straight ahead, phalanxed. I'm making friends—Anne, Kelsey, Chelsey, Colin. I've met people, I've made plans.

Tomorrow I go to London, to explore the world and combat my fear of spending money ever. I have a tiny journal. I want to write it all down, everything I can, but it's so hard.

Most importantly I am loving it, but I am also loving you. I hope you will make a point to keep in touch, because it's hard for me to, but I am trying. Everything is just big and I'm enraptured.

and we'll take up, where we left off
when we all meet again

29 August 2009

Home! Home! England!

Harlaxton College/Manor Box #69
Grantham, Lincolnshire NG32 1AG
United Kingdom

05 July 2009

"If every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."

Seven weeks of camp cannot be properly explained in the amount of time I have before I have to go back to Lakeshore. I try to trust the people who tell me I am doing well. I judge my success based on the contents of warm fuzzies from my campers. We all work all day all week every week and hear constantly that it's not about us, it's about the kids. It is about them, but it's about us a little too. I've learned so much. I'm tired constantly but I'm changing and I think it's for the better. I can see the other people on staff changing too and learning and getting better. There are only four weeks of camp left before deorientation; it will be weird and hard to leave. For that matter, it's hard to stay, but so worth it. I don't know yet if I'll be back next year, so I'm trying to soak it all in over the next month, before I head off to the next terrifying adventure.

29 April 2009

Semester 0902, or, TFL Goes to England v4.0

830–930: Interdisciplinary H282, British Studies (Lecture)
11–12: Interdisciplinary H282, British Studies (Seminar)

410–525: Writing 206, Intro to Poetry Writing, Dr. Walser

T 515–615: University Choir, Sally Brown

830–945: Literature 232, Masterpieces of British Literature II, Dr. Walser
1015–1130: Literature 350, Shakespeare, Dr. Snow

On Thursdays I will be done with classes at 1130, which situation is seriously advantageous toward travel planning.
I'm scared. But it's going to be beautiful.

04 April 2009

Unedited, Unproofread, Unwarranted

It's humbling to see what people I don't know as well are saying to each other on Facebook when they are separated by Harlaxton. When it was me I was sure no one could miss anyone like I did, but that's ridiculous. Maybe I was more physically affected than average, but there are always people who love each other and are torn apart. It is such an uncommon experience to go to a school where such a huge majority studies abroad. What is the national average? Like 6%? I think here we learn something other colleges miss. How do you communicate over 4000 miles? How do you not drift apart? All college is cruel though and tricks us into believing we can live this way, within one square mile of the people we'd die for, and at the end points and laughs and hires its geographical cronies to interrupt our hand-holding and drag us though we kick and scream away from each other. I am not unique here. We share this, and that is how we stay together. Across the country and the world young people are figuring out what to do with their lives, and once they get it, once they find where they're comfortable, everything changes. Everything always changes. It is a hard lesson. Hard meaning both painful and complicated. I haven't figured it out yet, but it's coming. Some were even more a part of me when they were gone, were closer and more honest. It's been almost a full year since the end of the bad semester, and tonight I spent some time, just a little while, looking at pictures from my friends' travels, and in maybe 15 minutes I forgot they were back. "In some ways it gets worse. That's what I would say." I don't know. I hope this is what I learn in college, besides how to write nonfiction and how Midwestern farmers used to be—how to be apart and still stay together. We'll find out soon; next month or a few after that will be the test, and we'll see. Until then, remember that I am one of many. Other people also have dreams of seeing their distant friends and wake up miserable to find them false. For now we are all together. Let us revel.

(We didn't know—no, we didn't even try.
One minute there was road beneath us, and the next just sky.)

30 March 2009

I Love the English Department

(Margaret, Arthur, Paul, Kristie) The Sigma Tau Delta banquet on Sunday was stupendous. I have rarely been more sure I picked the right school. My English faculty is brilliant.

17 March 2009

Not the Age of Reason

This is not a time when I should be online but I need to say this—last Saturday was my birthday, and I took Jennifer, Maria, Kelly, Kaitlin, Guy, John, Dan, and Kelly's friend Justin down to the cabin for the weekend. On the big day, my mom drove Annebel in from Memphis, and she finally, finally met all of them, saying they were bigger in real life. The point is, before I get back to history, that Saturday 14 March 2009 was maybe the happiest I have been since the Homecoming last May, and it was almost certainly the best birthday I have ever had. Sitting giddy on the bed with Jennifer I thought I would pop with joy. Both nights I went crazy with laughter when it got late because I was surrounded by so much love. A few people I wanted weren't there, but despite that I have rarely felt such unbridled glee.
I love you all.

1. group. 2. proof. 3. ecstacy.

07 March 2009


For spreak, I went to Mexico and built a house. Every day we recorded highlights, many of which are ludicrous, and every night I journaled in incredible detail. Here are the highlights, exactly as written but not numbered. Some days I was more meticulous than others.

Saturday, 28 February (departure)
cat, sharp turn, weaving, Kentucky, Ellis Park, bridge/breath, Henderson, ten minutes!, Bag(s) of apples, Pennyrile Pkwy, 44.8 @4:48, sleep! & the N. exit, Exit 260 gas station --> bass shirts!, Trevor's morning jog, found Hope/Friendship, GIANT SEAHORSE mi91, Fate... for like 0.25mi*, The ocean?/a bay..., TP on the antenna, Giant TX ferris wheel, Dan's 2-Face face*, Matt's house, Biscuit/Ghostgravy, Etch-a-Sketch*, Trevor fleecin' it out, That Southern hospitality*, Macho Man!, Dan sings BSB!

Sunday, 1 March (travel)
Matt pees!, Kent Texas!, Alex's Double OT 3-pointer, Ben in the Thorns, penny on the train track, Xeroxed xylophone, Glass vs. Bass, Makeout Point, Climbing a mountain, The Transfiguration, Victoria's salsa (/secret), Monkey Balloon + Tornado + Throne, Nickarita

Monday, 2 March (work)
Dog pee dog world, 35 dogs, Yonke, 10 Nails! Nansi/Karla/Princessa/"Lucy", Rocksand (El Tango de), $2.25 = 36 pesos, Bip Bip / del Rio / Rapiditos, Dan's Faceburn, Dinner spaghetti, Amazing Grace transition, HOLD UP!, Ben reenacting making-out-while-laughing—by himself, snack boy with a 'tude, Julian Muscle Man, Puppy Lady, Jenna's JimJams

Tuesday, 3 March (work)
Jellyfish [drawing of a jellyfish], WALLS. ROOF., Oreookies, Chicken Wire., Puppy Exorcism, Fransisco joins, Devo time (all), Ladies during Ticket to Ride, Trevor fails at Waterade

Wednesday, 4 March (work)
Carne con frijoles—UNO MAS!, stucco construction, Los Banditos, The last batch (or is it?), Jumble dinner, Soccer with basketball, Drywall beast

Thursday, 5 March (half work, half play)
Keys to house, Spill the paint :(, Bubbles, soccer toss, Alex conq's electricity, Nansi hugs, Ramp construction, Vegetable sandwiches, Trevor: "Hello.", CONQUER THE MOUNTAIN, $4 fee is a scam, 7.44/8.29, Pizza pizza daddy-o

Friday, 6 March (travel)
Mickey D's brekky, Nick sings "Beat It.", Sonic at the speed of sound!, We Didn't Start the Fire, Chili's mishap & recovery, Finchley Central, Definition of Sport

Saturday, 7 March (arrival)
Waffle breakfast, Labyrinth fountain, News: jobs to Rihanna, Memphis: Annebel., Gas station w/o bathroom, Furniture store, Milk $2.99, Ben loves ?, DUMBLEDORE!, Evansville.

*highlights I can't remember because I made the names too cryptic

01 February 2009

Snow Day: A What Happened Post

Wednesday, that is, January 28, was Jeska's birthday. Also, we didn't have school because the worst winter storm in years came through Tuesday night and Evansville was in a state of emergency, which I think is just official terminology for freaking no one has power.

Kaitlin and I woke up at 8, happily with power, and, having not heard any loud obnoxious phone announcement that school was canceled, got begrudgingly out of bed and began to get ready for school, only to find that we must be deaf, because indeed the phone announcement did occur, and indeed classes were canceled. As it was Jeska's birthday, Jennifer planned to make cinnamon rolls for her house for breakfast, but since it was powerless, baking was a no-go. As much as I consoled them and assured them that their power would be back soon when they came to Powell to make the delicious cinnamon-y happiness, I was not so secretly pumped about the prospect of having them all back in Powell. While the rolls rose splendidly in the oven, the Weinbach house, Kaitlin, and I had an impromptu dance party to Beyonce's hit new single (ha ha ha), "Single Ladies."

After eating, we ventured to the Basement Lounge, which is called with a little affection the BFL, rebuilt the boat from the green couch and the red couch, and got in it. Preston and Guy joined the party and it wasn't long before it was time to go play in the snow. All bedecked in our boots and our coats and gloves, we descended upon the terrain to find the snow loose and dry and hard to pack into weaponry. But we did our best; Kelly and I fenced with icicles and they all buried me in the powder everywhere. Some of my friends ate lunch at Brutus: pancakes and casserole and things, but the rest of us (the House and the Galexy as it were) settled for the Ridg, where we played situations and wrote secret notes to each other on napkins.

Back in the BFL after eating, Maria, Kelly, Jeska, Katie, and I lolled about doing what might be considered homework. Maria and I made sugar cookies and brought them from the kitchen in a big pot. We listened to "Single Ladies" some more, all very aware how silly it was. By dinner time, Jen and Guy had returned, and we all spent a good bit of time trying to figure something out. We decided to order pizza but wait until Maria came back from somewhere she had gone off to. By the time we discovered that Papa John's was carry-out only, it was 7 and the Ridg had closed.

Having thought of no better alternative, Maria Jennifer Kelly Guy and I decided to walk to Wesselman's and pick up some grocery type things, and on the way we could see if Turoni's was open and go there if it was. Excellent plan. We set out once again in our boots and our coats and hats and hoods and gloves, and made the not that long but very intense treck to Wesselman's. On the way we found Turoni's not open, and upon our arrival at 813, we found Wesselman's to have closed at 8. Suck. Naturally, we were not to be discouraged, and thought to ourselves, we're halfway to Papa John's already, why don't we just go get some carry-out? On this part of our adventure, we passed Planned Parenthood, which had the most intense icicles I have yet encountered in my life. Guy and I had a battle with them, but I won because I had the width. Also, I am a beast.

As often happens in tragedies and adventures, we came upon yet another complication, as Papa John's, which the internet told us was carry-out only, was in fact nothing only, also known as closed. In a final act of desperation, we called Maria's mom, and we piled unceremoniously into her car, Maria and I sharing the front seat, and voyaged over icy streets to McDonald's, on whose door was posted a sign saying NO DEBIT CARDS. What they actually meant, however, was NO CARDS OF ANY KIND, so Heidi, as the only one of us who was not an impoverished college student with no cash, had to pay for all of us. She is quite gracious.

We were all dropped off at the House to collect supplies in the dark— blankets, mugs, movies, toothbrushes, pillows—and carried them with our dinner back to Powell over fallen tree limbs and downed power lines and vast expanses of still gorgeous dry clean snow. Finally, after 9, we arrived in the BFL and ate our dinner with Jeska and Morgy there too. Over various McProcessedMeats we watched the William McDonough TED Talk, which is fabulous, and then showed those who hadn't seen it the BigDog Robot before it was movie time. I watched Fargo in a cornered room in Powell with the whole Weinbach House, Brutus except Preston, the Quadfecta except Kaitlin, After, and Jamie and Allyson, and it was glorious. [Translation: Jennifer, Maria, Kelly, Jeska, Katie; Guy, Alex, Matt; Chelsea, Bernard, myself; Dan, John; Jamie, Allyson.] With about half an hour left in the movie (and before the woodchipper), I put Maria to bed in my room and told her a bedtime story about RDJ before jumping the rail to the basement for a lovely slumber party and some lovely slumber. In the morning I sat with Jennifer in the little boat for a while and didn't have bio lab.

Brutus never lost power. After still doesn't have it. The House got it back this morning. Until now, Maria, Kelly, and Jeska have been in Schroeder, Katie has been all over the place, and Jennifer has been in my room then the medical room down the hall. I wish I wish I wish I could live with her next year. The hours we spent talking in the dark in the past week have only served to confirm that, as if the thirty seconds of silence followed by both of us saying simultaneously "I want to live with you" weren't enough. I suppose it just wasn't meant to be. Or it was and injustice prevails. But either way it was a dream come true to have everyone gather together on the old familiar couches again, just like old times.