Semester Flashback

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As I look back through my pictures, keepsakes, and postcards I realize I have ventured. Of all the words I could use to describe these past 16 weeks, I know that “wasted” is not among them.

London, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge – England.

Aix-en-Provence, Marseille – France.

Dublin – Ireland.

Geneva, Montreux – Switzerland.

Cinque Terre – Italy.

Zadar – Croatia.

Edinburgh – Scotland.

Unbelievable. I’ve experienced more than I could have ever imagined. Dreams that once seemed unattainable suddenly seem doable. I know the possibilities are truly endless now. It’s almost like my time in Europe has given me a second wind. Try new things. Meet new people. Enjoy what I do. Make time for the important things.

While I’ll still probably achieve the near-shameful act of watching and re-watching whole seasons of TV shows, laying in my bed eating dozens of cookies, or relaxing on rainy day, I know what’s out there in the world. I’ve engulfed myself in new cultures and am confident I could do it all over again. Even more than that: I want to do it again.

Who knows when or if that will happen, but somehow in the back of my mind I know my own capabilities. I know the millions of options available. And thank Jesus that I am able to experience and follow-through on them. I’ve acknowledged Big Ben more times than I can count. I’ve hiked to the top of Italian villages and traveled by train through the Alps. I’ve had fresh seafood on the French Riviera and seen the most beautiful sunset in the world. I’d say I’ve lived.

This will be a semester that I will never forget. It’ll be the stepping stone into an exploratory life, lived in full, with adventure at the forefront.

xx

Cathartic Walk

To a runner, walks seem close to a waste of a time. Why should it take me 35 minutes to walk somewhere when I can easily do it in 10 minutes running? It doesn’t make sense. Walks aren’t even an option in most runners’ minds. It’s a sign of weakness. A sign of giving up. Unless it’s at the end of 26 miles, walks are just the middle of the madness.

Me? They’re cathartic. A cleanse of emotions. There’s a trace of rebellion linked to walks that draws me in. It’s taking time in the busyness to rebel and slow it down. I don’t have to fight it any longer like I used to. In the past going on walks meant thinking rather than being.

Being is enjoying the pace, freeing your thoughts, feeling the freshness.

Thinking is panic, worry, mind-racing.

England has warmed me up to the idea. With too much time on my hands, it was the peaceful part of the calm. Unnecessary? Maybe. I had to find something to do with my time and sleeping suddenly seemed like a waste. What was there to do in a place with less than a dozen stores, no warm coffee shop, and no car?

Walk.

I discovered new paths and sought out the best spots. I was lost on purpose. I gained a deeper sense of direction. I stumbled upon treasures. I bathed in the sunless days, the ones with misty rain, and the ones with compelling winds. I thrived in the sun-filled times.

I walked.

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Who Says Street Art Has To Be Tacky?

I agree, there’s a place and time for street art. But It’s not just graffiti – it’s an expression. It’s art. It still takes time. It’s still a talent. They’re still artists. And they’re anything but tacky.

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A few days ago I ventured into an area of London I had never been to, let alone never even heard of – Shoreditch. Shoreditch neighborhood is the less-visited, more lived-in part of London. You won’t find thousands of tourists, or high-end street shops, but instead you’ll discover dozens of thrift shops (the kind with whole racks of various colored denim vests, rotary phones, 8tracks, and antique, floral china), a much younger demographic, and plenty of authentic Indian and Asian restaurants – not to mention the aforesaid “graffiti.”

These are just a few of the hundreds of paintings and taggings we saw, and let me tell you – they are works of art. It was as if we turned another corner onto a street filled with murals and pieces that would have taken hours and hours to complete. I was surely impressed.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t appreciate this on the side of my house or even my place of work, but in a place like Shoreditch, where it belongs – do your thing, Mr. Unconventional Artist.

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When Traveling Meets Studying

There’s a time in every study abroad student’s semester when they must put their wandering, travel heart aside, and focus.

Exams.

I understand this is the whole reason I’m in England, but what. a. drag. How does anyone expect me to study when I’m a two hour train ride away from Paris? When the sun is finally shining in dreary-weather England? When I haven’t had any homework in almost six months?

It’s probably an even harder task than when I’ve been focused on homework all semester and the final is simply a cultivation of my work. This way, it’s my one chance to shine or flop. 

If only two worlds could collide – study sesh on some gorgeous rooftop terrace.

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A girl can dream, right?

 

Surviving a Rainy Day

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With the warming weather of spring and the blooming flowers comes the promise of more rain. I’ve been warned that I have yet to see a hint of all the rain to come. The positives to this? I love rain. (I hope I don’t regret saying this after experiencing “April Showers”) I love the idea of falling asleep to pattering rain. Waking up to rain drops splattered across my window. Walking through puddles. The brighter greens the grass paints. I also love the excuse to stay inside, cuddled up with the essentials.

So, what are the essentials to a day full of upcoming rain?

Tea. Well, obviously. My tea of choice currently is the ever-popular English Breakfast, or the Cranberry, Raspberry, and Elderflower-infused. Keep the kettle on all day, it’s necessary.

A Solid Read. This probably shouldn’t be the book that you’ve picked up dozens of times since the New Year, chances are a full day won’t change your attention span. Your best bet is to chose one that’s interesting, thought-provoking, and one to keep your focus. On today’s list: Forgotten God by Francis Chan.

Embarrassingly Comfy Clothes. I say embarrassing, because I know I have a nasty pair of sweatpants, complete with holes, and a dingy look – but let me tell you they are the best pants I’ve ever owned. A rainy day is a perfect time to skip the shower, and toss on your favorites.

Jammin’ Music. Turn this on in the background during reading time. I’m going for Iron and Wine, Bon Iver, and James Vincent McMorrow. Soothing, talented, and the ideal tunes to pretend you’re in a movie, staring out the window with the rain falling, dreaming of sweeter times.

A TV Series. For when the book becomes dull, your eyes become glazed, and the words blurred. This could also be swapped out with a tear-jerking movie, but I prefer a series to keep me busy for days. This way I feel much more accomplished after completing 7 series of Gilmore Girls, rather than one screening of Dirty Dancing.

Stationary. Snail Mail “rox.” Bringing it back to the days when technology didn’t dominate life. To a time when words were more than a vessel for dramatic misunderstandings, but a way to encourage, cherish, and spread joy.

The essentials.

These are my personal essentials for the day. Lucky enough, I have no coursework to finish, and no plans. Eventually, I’ll probably have to add some snacks to the list, but for now am enjoying the looks of this day.

I’ve come to the conclusion that rainy days in England must be looked at differently. Instead of recognizing the times when the rain will stay for hours and dreading it, I’m finding it easier to expect the rainy days and be surprised by the sun. This way, when the sun comes, it’s more like a gift than a given.

 

 

 

Pseudo-Spring

Is this the real thing? Can it honestly be March 5, sun is shining bright and warm, 60 degrees? I think not. I’m calling your bluff, season greetings. As I ran and ran, doubting the realness of the weather, I saw this. A blooming flower. I know that is real. The purple cannot be fake. Even ignoring the dead leaves near it, there the beauty holds. Spring is near. Spring is upon us. Out with the dirty, cold rain and in with the heavy, sun-is-shining-and-its-still-raining thing.

In honor of spring, I welcomed the changing seasons with A Fine Frenzy’s – Now is the Start, dance party. Join me will you? Spring or no spring where you lay your head, know that it’s coming.

“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.”
― Virgil Kraft

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Town of Greats

Oxford, England.

A true rival to Cambridge and I now understand why. Colleges, hidden pubs, libraries, and a history full of iconic role models.

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll.

Writers. Inspirations. Heroes. If only one day I could be half as eloquent with my words as one of these greats. Even being in areas where Tolkien taught, and studied, and lived was a dream. To imagine a life much different than this is difficult, but to grasp that new “greats” are yet to come is near to impossible. There will come a time when my generation accepts their talents and embraces futures full of greatness. I can only hope it’s a writer rather than a rapper, a playwright over an athlete, a reflection of God’s creativity instead of someone with selfish intent.

Rant over. Food for thought.

In addition and unrelated, I regretfully regret steering clear of Harry Potter. Apparently remnants of films and features and celebrities are strewn about England – too bad it’s just another site for me.  Maybe I’ll begin reading soon, because that’s the correct way any series should begin: Paperback.

Until next time.

xx

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The Day I Was a Princess

If there’s a castle, I’m the princess. See, I didn’t say queen, I’m not trying to step on any toes, like her Majesty the Queen. But from the second I walked into Windsor Castle, I happily imagined myself as royalty. I could be a princess, or even a duchess! No denying that here – I accept my position. (Sorry I’m still daydreaming)

Although I wasn’t able to spend as much time inside as possible or even take priceless pictures of the interior, it was well worth it. Each room in the “Estate Apartments” were breathtaking, one after another. From the three different colored drawing rooms, to the ballrooms and bed chambers each visitor walking through was able to see the meticulous and methodically designs within.

Saddened by not being able to capture the beauty inside the castle, I was awakened by the elegance outside. The gardens were purely perfect. The walls were unreal. And the grass was… well flawless.

It is incredible to believe people fought, protected, lived, and died within those castle walls. Although I can imagine the robes, the luxury, the life of royalty, somehow I don’t believe I would have been fit for that life. I do, however, recognize the strength they were equipped with.

So instead of taking a high political position and throwing on that majestic purple robe, I’ll settle for Princess Allyson.

xx

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Royal Dissapointment

Wednesday held a new day, a new adventure in London. This day we had in mind to tour through Kensington Palace. I did my research prior to leaving and found great reviews. There was also the added bonus of possibly glancing to see a royal.

Upon arriving in London, we meandered towards Hyde Park – miles and miles of green and trees in London’s midst. It reminded me ever so much of New York City’s faithful Central Park. As we walked and walked towards the Palace, the sun came higher and grew warming making it a lovely day. We finally came to our destination with disappointment at the outside. It wasn’t nearly as large as I had hoped. There was a beautiful pond outside and gardens that would have been prettier come spring. As I journeyed inside, I was only to continue with disappointment at this wonderfully and intricately built house that held the historical lives of dozens of Kings and Queens had been transformed to a…museum. One third of the house – the King’s Chamber was gorgeous. The architecture was stunning in each and every room. As for the other pieces to the house, I could have done without them. I was happy to see the Palace, mark it off my list. 

What made the entire trip worth it? The sun, the company, the tree-filled and pond-filled park, the aimless wandering, and the shopping. The list could continue. I would count the day as another success.

 

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Sun Appreciation Day

I don’t actually believe that is a true holiday, but in my book if there was to be a “Sun Appreciation Day,” today would be it. And praise God it was one of my five days without classes. I was able to sleep in and have my window open – allowing my room to fill with sunshine, birds chirping, and peoples’ mumbles in passing. Although the high was somewhere around 54 degrees, that doesn’t change my motivation to literally tour the town on foot.

Something I’ve taken to heart here in England: Don’t take the sun for granted. With the once-a-day rain and then ever-present clouds hovering, the sun receives little face-time (literally). Thus, on the occasion I look out my window to see a cloudless sky, the sun beaming with pride, and the wind no where to found – it’s a day to celebrate.

Take a walk. Go for a run. Explore this relatively new town.

On days like today I can relate to those children staring out their kitchen window, asking their moms or dads if they can go outside and play until the street lights come on. It’s like territory asking to be tread on.

Song inspiration for the day: Ellie Goulding’s “Your song”