Saturday, January 10, 2015

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Well, better late than never, right?

I know you might have thought for a split second that I had completely forgotten to write a blog about my Thanksgiving abroad, and everything else that has happened the month or so before/after I left London. Well, I haven't, I have just been insanely busy.

It's been a long haul since Prague, which was the last you heard from me. I got my portrait painted by an artist. He does two hour oil portraits and wants to have like a thousand or more done by some point in his life. He has 60 right now. Which is already impressive. 

I started my Christmas shopping. Looking back now, it wasn't the best idea to do ALL my Christmas shopping in London, as I had to pack it all home, leaving no room for any of my clothes or Harry Potter books I planned to bring home. (Don't worry, I ended up checking two bags so it all worked out).

And I LIVED in the library. Literally. The last two weeks of classes I got up early with another girl in my program, Tara, and we would get to the library right when it opened and leave when they closed. Unfortunately, London closes between 5:30-7:30, which tends to be very frustrating when you're a grad student and all you want to do is work on your paper in a nice quiet comfortable space for a few more hours. Is that so much to ask for London?... Well, apparently it is. Thankfully, my university's library stayed open till 11 every day the last two weeks of school, so we defaulted to there, which also happens to be where ALL the undergrads think its cool to hang out and talk about how wasted they got the past weekend. Yes, I know I only graduated in May, but grad school is so different and I do judge those undergrads who act like that. It's a library for pete's sake, go to Burger King if you want to cry about your love life. 

ANYWAY, sorry for that tangent, now on to Thanksgiving, gotta start somewhere to catch you up.

Thursday 27 November: Thanksgiving!

It did not feel like Thanksgiving here in England. No advertisement for the holiday, no talk of American Football games, no smells of pumpkin pie cooking in the oven or turkeys sizzling in the deep fryer.

In fact, people walked through the streets completely oblivious to the fact that across the pond an entire country sat on their sofas with their eyes glued to the television watching football after eating so much that their stomachs might burst.

I ended up going to Birmingham for Thanksgiving. 

beautiful sunset at I arrived in Birmingham (the sun sets at like 4 in the UK...)
You know Blake by now, well his university had a Thanksgiving meal for their American students and I tagged along. It was a very odd Thanksgiving. It was weird to think that everyone I saw walking around London and Birmingham had NO CLUE it was Thanksgiving. So. I slept in, took a train to Birmingham, made pumpkin muffins and ate turkey at Birmingham University.

Yes, you heard correctly, I made the famous pumpkin muffins!! (thanks American Food Store). It was probably one of the highlights of the semester. Okay, maybe not, but it was the ONLY pumpkin thing I had all day, so it was pretty epic.

The Thanksgiving dinner was interesting. They had the 2013 Macy's Day Parade playing, and the room was decked out in red, white, and blue... 4th of July anyone? But it was awesome that Birmingham University did that for their American students. I am very disappointed in my university, Richmond University, the AMERICAN International Institute... I mean, come on, give the students a Thanksgiving, you're calling yourself an AMERICAN institute, prove it!!!

Blake and I at Thanksgiving Dinner at Birmingham University
So, after the dinner, we went to the German Christmas Market in Birmingham, which was the main thing I was excited about (I was able to have my dad's deep fried turkey on Christmas). It's the biggest German Christmas market outside of Germany. It was so much fun!!

I stayed with Jess that night (sadly she had stuff to do so she couldn't hang out with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas market), and I left the next morning. Gotta write those papers...

And that's what I did. For the next two weeks.

It was broken up by Christmas shopping, my friends' concerts at Royal College of Music, and Netflix.

Christmas lights on Oxford street! I LOVED christmas shopping in London, it was so festive and happy and beautiful.

My friend, Lynn, had a Big Band concert. It was incredible. The conductor was AMAZING. The students' talent was PHENOMENAL, and I was the youngest person there by about 50 years. It was so awesome. 

I sat between two elderly couples and the woman beside me asked why I was there. I told her I loved this kind of music and was born in the wrong era, that I took ballroom dancing lessons and loved a good fox trot (not that I can quite remember anymore, however if a guy knew it and I danced with him I'm sure I would pick it up again super quick). Every time the conductor introduced a new song or talked about different musicians the woman beside me would verbalize her approval and remenisce the good ol days. 

The woman and I danced in our seats to the music and my hopeless romantic heart was in a sweet sweet place. Then I began to think of my grandma. I don't actually know if she went dancing or listened to that kind of music, but I'm sure she would've loved sitting next to me in that concert and sharing that wonderful experience with me. In that moment, the lady next to me was the biggest gift I've had in a while. I miss my grandma immensely and crying through the different songs and thinking of precious memories with her is one of my favorite moments of the semester. 

My grandma was a curator, and when I was homeschooled in 5th grade she was my History teacher. She took me to many an obscure museum throughout the Texas panhandle and I loved every minute. That was probably when my love of visiting museums was cultivated. And now, living in London and pursuing a masters in Art History, I think she would be very proud of me. 

After an evening out at an amazingly well-done concert, there was more researching and writing for my final paper.

Some friends and I attempted to go ice skating one evening, but it was all booked, so we defaulted to Winter Wonderland. We walked around eating chocolate drenched churros and cheesy pretzels.

I FINALLY finished my last paper (and was actually quite pleased with the product) and had my last class in the British Museum. I finished my Christmas shopping, and took a really really quick trip out to Reading for my final class project, an interview, and then packed up my entire room.

Yes, my ENTIRE room. Very inconveniently, my housing makes you totally move out of your room even if you are coming back after break for another 9 months. So, all that bedding and all those books I bought the past four months had to fit into four bags. I fit them in three very shoved-and-tucked-and-sat-on-top-of bags. My fourth bag I had to use for my second checked bag.

That night I got to hear my roommates final concert at the RCM for the term and (as expected) it was phenomenal. Those RCM students never disappoint.

So, I dont know if you heard, but London airspace was completely grounded the evening before I left due to a power outage at their control headquarters. They cancelled over 50 flights and delayed even more, and as my flight was due to fly out first thing the next morning you can see how this gave me a little anxiety. But, I made it to the airport, I sped through checking my bags and security with no lines and my flight was on time. A big shoutout to all the people my mom had praying for me and my travels back to America. And an even bigger shoutout to my dad who got me a direct flight into Houston. I honestly think it was the easiest travel experience I've EVER had.

I got home and was instantly caught up in my mom's last minute Christmas shopping, friends' weddings, and family Christmas' with 40+ people. I also got to catch up with some high school friends and my sorority sisters, which is always a breath of fresh air. Where did my month at home go?! 

Me and my bro twinning like pros!
The WHOLE fam in Dallas!
Art Major winning with museum visits in Dallas!
The New Year came and went, and with it an amazing reflection on everything I've done this year.

Bungee jumping in Canada, Graduating from Undergrad, Hiking the Golan Heights in Israel, Visiting Chicago, New York, Paris, and Prague, Moving to London, and finishing my first term of Grad School!
It's been a crazy, wild year filled with God's sweet provision in my life. Going back to London after completing my first term of Grad School gives me a little reassurance that I actually can do this and will finish in September. So, here's to a day of traveling back across the pond to good old London town. 

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