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12.31.2009

My Year of Weddings

I think I probably hold some kind of BYU record. I married off five roommates in one year. From December to December, Shauntelle, Sandee, Julie, Kory and Caitlin all tied the knot. They were all beautiful brides.






12.12.2009

London: The Rest of the Story

After Paris, life got a little crazy. With only three and a half weeks left there was still so much to do on my list! The week after Paris we attended an opera, 'The Tzarina's Slippers,' which was weird/mildly inappropriate. Good call Dr. Soper.

Some of the opera singers...it was so weird.

We took a day trip to Greenwich (pronounced gren-itch.) For those who don’t know, Greenwich is the home of the Prime Meridian. We visited the Royal Observatory and took pictures of ourselves in two hemispheres.

In two hemispheres!

The Prime Meridian (see the stripe on the wall!)

We went on a day trip to Oxford and Blenheim Palace, home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and birthplace of Winston Churchill. (Churchill was a politician, not a poet, just to clear up any misunderstandings...)

Blenheim Palace

On Thanksgiving, I attended a mass at St. Paul's Cathedral that was held in honor of all of the Americans in London. It was a very nice gesture. An American pastor gave the sermon, and he told a lot of jokes. Unfortunately I was surrounded by British people and none of them were laughing. The old lady sitting next to me kept looking at me with disapproval when I didn't contain my laughter. But they were funny jokes!

Outside St. Paul's at Thanksgiving

In honor of the biology classes we took at the London Centre, we attended a play called 'Inherit the Wind.' It was about the Scopes Monkey Trial held in the American South. The play itself was very humorous, but one of the funniest parts was listening to the British people doing their very best Southern accents. There was more than one time that we all laughed and no one around us knew why... After the play, a few of us hung out by the stage door to meet Kevin Spacey (the American actor) and have him sign our ticket stubs.

With Kevin Spacey

As a group we toured Parliament. It was really cool to learn more about their government systems and traditions, and to hear the history of how those traditions came to be. Our tour guide was the sweetest little old man. He even gave Caitlin his coat because she was cold. Apparently Reese Witherspoon was also touring Parliament that day, but my group didn't see her.

At Parliament

Between group activities and school, I also did LOTS of Christmas shopping, took walks around London, visited more museums, studied at the British Library, went to the play 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' did more shopping, visited Platform 9 3/4 (yes it really exists), indulged on as much European chocolate as I could, and stayed up late talking with friends.

Zebra at Abbey Road

On my last day in London I went to the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, walked across the Zebra on Abbey Road and signed the wall outside the Beatles recording studio, packed, and took a long walk that night along the Thames one last time. As I stood outside Westminster station looking up at Big Ben and the moon, I had the thought 'I live here.' I am so grateful for the amazing experience that living in London was for me. I made a list of the top ten things I learned while I was in London [although, they're in no particular order and the list is nowhere near comprehensive.]

The Top Ten Things I Learned in London:

10) Sometimes it’s good to just sit on the counter in the bathroom by yourself for a while to collect your thoughts. This can be invaluable.

9) Just because someone else said something is special or wonderful doesn’t make it so. You have to look for things that are meaningful to you, even if no one else thinks so.

8) It’s important to approach everything you do in life with an open mind. You never really know what experiences are going to take you by surprise, and to close yourself off to those things before you get a chance to experience them is to do yourself a horrible disservice.

7) While elevators and escalators are nice, they are not mandatory. Sometimes in life it’s good to take the stairs.

6) Laughing should be one of the most important things on your to-do list every day. Especially when you live with 40 other girls. Taking yourself too seriously in a situation like that is a very bad idea. Laughing at other people should be kept to a minimum however, unless they are laughing too.

5) I am not very patient. This is something I need to work on.

4) I would rather be one of the people who do more than their share of the work than one of the people who do less.

3) I can be happy for my friends when they’re happy, because everyone gets a turn.

2) I am braver than I thought I was.

1) The thing about London is, going once in my life is NOT going to be enough!

In the (slightly modified) words of Gertrude Stein, 'America is my country, and London is my hometown.'


11.20.2009

Paris!

View of the city from the Sacre Coeur

To start off, Paris was pretty great. I had a really good time. We were only there for two and a half days, and I felt like I was going at a dead run the entire time. Even still, I barely scratched the surface of the city.

To get there, we took a train through the chunnel. I was looking forward to that, but I ended up falling asleep on the train, so I didn’t really see it. I made a point to stay awake on the way home though, for that exact reason. It turns out the chunnel was pretty anticlimactic since it was just long and dark like every other tunnel in the world. Disappointing, I know. But the rest was good.

On day one I went to a huge church called Sacre Coeur (or something…pardon my French) which means ‘sacred heart.’ I climbed up a bazillion stairs (please note, this is the beginning of a pattern) and got an awesome view of the city of Paris. Then we climbed back down, did some window shopping on the way back into the city. We walked down the Champs d’Elysses (this huge street that’s famous for all of the expensive stores on it) and saw the Arc de Triomphe. It was amazing. More to come on it later. That night we ate steak and frites (those are legit French fries) for dinner and saw the Eiffel Tower all lit up. At the steak and frites place, our waitress was incredibly rude. It was the most expensive meal of my life, and she charged us for an extra plate. But most of the rest of the French people were nice so I am trying not to judge the whole country too harshly. After the Eiffel Tower we were exhausted and accordingly returned to our hotel rooms.

Allie and Me at the Arc de Triomphe

Outside steak and frites, prior to rudeness.

Tour Eiffel at night

On day two we went to the Palace of Versailles first thing in the morning. It was huge and grandiose and adequately gilded, as all palaces should be. The grounds were also quite huge and immaculately manicured. So bottom line: I really liked it and would like to live there someday. After Versailles we went to the Latin quarter (a small part of the city, much smaller than a quarter, where they’ve been learning Latin for centuries. I was expecting Mexican food. I was wrong) and ate crepes (so good) and we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was beautiful on the inside. I climbed about two bazillion stairs to the very top of the tower and, once again, got an awesome view of the city of Paris. Also, I saw the one of the bells (it was huge) that Quasimodo used to ring. No wonder he had back problems. All those stairs, plus having to move those bells? That must have been before fair labor laws. After the cathedral I bought a painting from a street vendor and then we went to the Louvre for a few hours, which, by the way, is not nearly enough time for the Louvre. But I saw the Nike Winged Victory of Samothrace, and I almost cried when I saw it, so it was a great experience. That night I took a boat tour of Paris on the Seine river. We even floated past this huge obelisk that has been erected on the site of the guillotine. Cool, but a little bit creepy.

Inside Versailles, the Hall of Mirrors

Notre Dame Cathedral

A Gargole, or something like it

On a bridge over the Seine

Inside the entrance to the Louvre

On day three I went to the Musee d’Orsay which is a giant train station that’s been converted into an art gallery. It was also, very cool. In the afternoon we went back to the Arc de Triomphe and, after climbing a bazillion more stairs (please don’t ask me what the French have against elevators. I don’t know.) I got an awesome view of the city of Paris. Shortly thereafter we returned to the train station and came speeding back home through the chunnel.

The Musee d'Orsay

11.16.2009

The Sleeping Beauty

Tonight we went to the Royal Ballet Company's production of The Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Opera House. It was pretty amazing. We got a great deal on tickets, only six pounds! But you get what you pay for...and I paid for about 1.5 feet square of standing room on the top balcony. On the bright side, we had a really excellent view of the overall production. Plus, about halfway through the people sitting in front of us left, so we migrated into their seats. It was a lot of fun.

11.11.2009

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" - Winston Churchill


For a couple of weeks now little red poppies have been popping up all over London. Today at 11:00 all across Britain people were silent for two minutes in memory of all the people who fought and are still fighting for freedom.

I am so grateful for my freedom. I hope you also take a moment to pause and remember those individuals that have helped to secure your right to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'


11.07.2009

GLEE!

I have a roommate named Jennifer. She is so great.

One day we were bored between dinner and family home evening...so we watched an episode of the TV show "Glee" that she had on her computer.

My life will never be the same. It's hilarious, weird, awkward, and full of great musical numbers. My entire room is now so hooked on "Glee" that we spend inordinate amounts of time contriving ways to get our hands on more episodes [Hulu doesn't work in the UK.]

I felt like no account of my life in London would be complete without making some mention of this habit that we just can't kick.

And now if you'll excuse me...I'm off to download episode seven...

11.03.2009

Les Miserables

On Tuesday night I got all dressed up and went to dinner at Zizi's with Jennifer, Allie, and Andy. After dinner we went to watch Les Miserables at the Queen's Theatre.

It was an amazing performance. Our seats were to DIE for...front row of the first balcony. Les Mis is arguably the best musical ever written. I am so glad I had the chance to get to see it while I was here. I might just go again before I head for home!



10.30.2009

BARD-A-THON!

We were required for our Shakespeare class to attend two Shakespeare performances outside of class. Allie and I heard about this event...the Bard-a-thon...that featured fifteen plays in twenty-four hours. The actors and actresses were given twelve hours notice to prepare their plays and each company performed three plays. There was no set an minimal props. The plays were performed at an outdoor amphitheatre called the Scoop. It was pretty cold, but we bought hot chocolate between the weirdo performance of Macbeth and the not quite as weird performance of Much Ado about Nothing. Actually...they were both pretty strange, but you really can't beat free. Especially when you're a starving student on a budget.

The dinner scene of MacBeth...like I said, minimal props.

10.28.2009

Herefordshire

In the morning we left Cardiff and drove back across the border into England to Herefordshire county. There we visited church history sites. Wilford Woodruff opened the Herefordshire area for missionary work and had incredible success with the people there. We visited the farm of one of the main families he baptized, the Benbow family.

Eating our chocolate cake for lunch.

We also visited Herefordshire Beacon, a large hill that is recorded in Wilford Woodruff’s journal as a place he liked to go to have alone time. We all climbed to the top and sang “High on the Mountain Top” as a group.

Atop Herefordshire Beacon

After climbing back down the hill we got back on the coach and drove to the Gadfield Elm Chapel, the oldest LDS church building in existence. To get in the door you have to answer some LDS trivia-type questions and use the answers as the code in the keypad on the lock. The questions were things like ‘How many chapters in the Book of Enos?’ and ‘How many Degrees of Glory are there?’ Fortunately we were able to answer all of them without much trouble :)

A tree outside Gadfield Elm Chapel

10.27.2009

Wales

We left in the morning and took the coach to Wales. We went to a village that has been converted into a museum. We walked through old houses and a small castle. It was a beautiful day to be outside. Fall here really is amazing.


When I saw this tractor it reminded me of my friend Gus. He loves tractors.

When we left the museum we drove a little way to Cardiff, the capital of Wales. We checked into our hotel and then we had the whole evening to walk around and explore. Allie and I went to Pizza Hut and then we met up with our group to go watch a play based on Roald Dahl’s book The BFG. The ticket man was really nice to Allie and me, and even though I didn’t have my student ID he gave us both really good student tickets in the fourth row. It was an…interesting play. I guess that’s Roald Dahl for you though.

10.25.2009

Barcelona: Day One

We left for Barcelona in the afternoon on Tuesday after spending the morning at Charles Darwin’s house. There were six of us travelling together. We almost weren’t allowed to get on our flight because of a slight passport misunderstanding: we didn’t get our boarding passes stamped at the visa desk. When it looked like all hope was lost, one of the girls at the gate grabbed our boarding passes and ran all the way back through the maze of hallways and security to get stamp them for us. I take back every mean thing I’ve said about bad customer service in England. We were so grateful for her help!

We landed in Spain late that night and giggled like twelve-year-olds when we were greeted with ‘Hola’ and Spain stamps in our passports at the customs desk. After a long bus ride, a ride on the [ghetto] Spanish Metro and some slight room issues, we finally settled into bed in our hotel room(s) sometime after midnight.

Barcelona: Day Two

It was raining in the morning when we woke up. I bought a cheap umbrella from a man on the street. After grabbing some breakfast at a Starbucks we walked around trying to orient ourselves and figure out the lay of the city. We were so excited when the sky cleared up around noon. We walked up a hill at the edge of the city and had an amazing view of the whole city and the Mediterranean Sea. We also stumbled across a palace and some museums. It was a beautiful day. A Spanish lobster..or en

EspaƱol: LANGOSTA!


Barcelona: Day Three

It poured all day long! We set out in the morning with high hopes that the sky would clear again, but the longer we were outside, the more evident it became that the rain was there to stay. I was so grateful for my cheap umbrella. We walked to the Arc de Triomf and a huge church called the Sagrada Familia. It’s been under construction for ages, and they don’t plan to finish it for like fifty more years. It was beautiful, but really strange. There were lizards and snails carved on the outside?

Arc de Triomf

Sagrada Familia

We also walked around for a while in search of some gardens we’d heard of, but gave up because of the excessive rain that was no longer falling down, but sideways. Later that evening I set out from the hotel to meet up with Allie and Kirsten at the Picasso museum, but they’d gotten lost so I went through the museum by myself. Picasso was kind of a weird guy. I got in trouble in the museum for letting my wet umbrella drip on the floor. I’m not really sure where I was supposed to let it drip though, and if the irate museum employee told me I didn’t understand her.

Wet jeans in the hotel room