Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pergatory Plus Perfection

Oh dear, I've had a busy few weeks. Since I last wrote I went to Scotland, Ireland, Germany (Munich), Austria(Salzburg), Italy (Rome, Venice and Verona) and am now back in Germany(Tubingen)! Here are some highlights:

-2. Edinburgh was nice. They had lovely, old architecture all over the place. We also had Pimms and Strawberries and Cream whilst watching Wimbledon. That was nice, to say the very least.

-1. We went to Killin, Scotland for a night. My parents and I woke up at 6 in the morning to hike in the Scottish Highlands. We passed sleepy sheep. (Though they weren't too sleepy after we scared them down the mountain accidentally!) We got to see the sun rising over the Scottish mountains which was nice, to say the least.

0. We got to go fishing in a real fishing boat in Ireland-- think old Irish men sometimes speaking in Gaelic, black rubber floor(easier to clean that way!), cutting board complete with half-cut up fish, and buckets to throw the fish in. It was really cool! And the girls got way more fish than the boys. I got 10 Mackerels, mom got the only 'proper' fish, and Andrea got something like 5 fish. The boys probably got a total of 5 fish. They try their hardest.

1. I, like a complete human, sent my passport home with my parents. Fortunately the next day the embassy was open in Dublin at the perfect time and, a few hours and around 100 dollars later, I got a neat little temporary passport. Later that day Jaime and I went to the Guinness Museum to learn a little and drink a little to forget our problems. It was fantastic!

2. I got to see Sabine in Munich. Since she lives there she took us around, and we even went to Salzburg, home of Mozart, for a day-trip. While there I also got a tantalizing view of the Austrian Alps. Later I'll be able to compare them to the Swiss ones.

3. I slept on a Eurostar Train. It was alright, but cost 20 euros extra. And, of course, we had to pay 24 euros each way to get through Austria because our passes don't cover Austria. Still, it would have cost around 30 euros to spend the night at a hostel so it was alright!

4. Rome was nice, but a bit too hot and full of people. That being said, the Sistine Chapel was amazing--I want to be Michelangelo when I grow up. The food was also great, of course, and the usual sights were cool too, though not quite breath-taking.

5. Venice was lovely! It was my favorite city in Italy. The street was the ocean! The buses were boats! It was also less expensive and they had beautiful glass sculptures and intricate masks practically dripping from all of their stores. The night we stayed there Jaime and I got a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers, and enjoyed it while sitting in front of the hostel and watching the lights play on the water. It was amazing.

6. Verona was nice as well, but a bit warm since there wasn't water to keep it cool. While there we watched Carmen at the Opera Festival. It was great, and we got to watch it in a centuries-old open air arena. The seats were stone and not extremely comfortable, but it was definitely worth it.

7. After the opera, which ended at 12 30 am, we rushed to get our 1 00 am train to Munich. We didn't get beds there and the snoring, somewhat smelly men in our compartment made sleeping slightly impossible. Then at 6 00 am we got off that train and got on another and then another to make it to Tubingen at 10 00. So now we're here finally, but we're a bit tired!

With all the train riding we've done, and all the walking we sometimes feel like we're in Purgatory, and that we'll have to keep walking and catching trains and drowsing for hours before walking more and catching more trains and... well, you get the picture. But then we get to where we want to be and it's all worth it again. And, from today on we don't have to catch trains (well, maybe we'll have to catch two.) But Jaime's parents will be driving us. Hoorah! No more lugging cumbersome and clumsy back packs for entire days around priceless glass sculptures in shops since there's nowhere with cheap storage! No more sleeping with a towel for a blanket and a jacket for a pillow! But then, that's what makes for good stories and fond memories.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day Fun Doings!

Well, the past few days my metaphorical cup of things to do has been overflowing. We went to Colchester, the Kew Gardens, the National Gallery, the Courtland Gallery, the British Museum, Trafalgar Square, the London Bridge Experience, Covent Garden, Oxford Street... For a more in depth view of what happened you can visit my father’s blog. So, I’ll try to find some highlights instead. Firstly, my sister arrived a few days ago, so the family is together in its entire zany, somewhat frightening glory.
Yes, I think we’re related.

On the way to pick up my sister my mom and I stopped at Kew Gardens. We stayed for about 13 minutes because we were late to pick her up. (We ended up getting to the airport five minutes before she walked out of customs. Our timing was impeccable!) During that glorious 15 minutes we saw lovely and interesting flora.

Here’s a pineapple. Two words describe my feeling about this: Hokey Pete! I mean, wow! That’s a sight and a half, eh?

Today we went to Windsor Castle. That was really cool. Here are two things that stood out especially:

1. We went to the room where the queen knights people during the tour of Windsor Castle. My brother and I took turns kneeling to “tie our shoes” (I had a harder time as I was wearing sandals) while the other hit the one tying shoes on the head with a coke bottle. We have thus been knighted, however messily, in the official knighting room!

2. We went to Evensong at St. George’s Cathedral. This blew St. Paul’s Evensong out of the water, to use some nautical wordage. The queen definitely knows how to run a church. The choir was great, the organist was amazing, and the whole service was flabbergastingly lovely.

By way, St. George is the patron saint of England. They even have a holiday in his honor. Why is he their patron saint, you may wonder. He’s pretty famous for slaying a dragon (yes, a dragon) and so, if you see dragons around England they’re probably in honor of St. George. He’s also mentioned in Shakespeare, and it seems like he was sainted because everyone thought he was so darn cool, chivalrous, and brave. (He did, after all, kill a dragon.)

Tomorrow is the last day for sight-seeing in London, so I have to get a good night’s sleep. I hope everyone had a good Father’s Day! (Especially the fathers!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

'N Now: News News News!

Well, the past few weeks have been mind-numbingly wonderful. But you’ll have to trust me on that because I am having so much fun now that I don’t have time to recap about my previous experiences in detail. I did go to London twice, I got a root canal, jumped in a fountain in Trafalgar square, asked random people for pennies to see if they'd give random girls pennies, fed an elephant and giraffe, and *gasp* went to a school-wide party which around 2,000 people went to, went to the school’s Summer Ball (which had carnival rides), stayed up for a few sunrises, played chess, trivial pursuit, Cranium, Scattergories, Monolpoly, Snooker, English pool and tennis and watched some James Bond movies. Etc.

So. Yesterday was my birthday. I left the University of Essex and said goodbye to my new and wonderful friends after an astounding fry up and a nice lunch by the lakes. I got to London to find my father at the tube station. We then went to see my mother who had found my grandfather and brother. It was great to see everyone after half a year! First we had to find the flat my parents rented. That wasn’t the best part of the trip since we had all our luggage and had to navigate the Underground encumbered. We went to a “Mexican food” place for my birthday dinner and then had Battenburg Cake for a birthday cake. Then John and grandpa passed out from exhaustion. The rest of us didn’t outlast them for long.

Today we went to London. We visited the Courtauld Gallery first, where we saw a lovely Van Gogh, a striking Boticelli and some neat-o Manets. There were even a few Seurats! After a few quick peeks at the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey we went to London Bridge Experience and the London Tombs. These were cute! Afterwards we went to get tea at Southwark Cathedral and listened to the evening prayer while enjoying the Gothic architecture. We strolled by the Thames and decided we were too tired and hungry to do more, so got Cornish Pasties and took the train to our cozy flat. Then we found to our joy and delight that we could use wireless internet here. Hoorah! There should be more adventures tomorrow since we’re heading to Colchester to see where I lived for the past six months!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Plaintively Pondering Pushkin's Poetry

I have my last exam on Monday! Hoorah! First, however, I have to revise like a mad person. Perhaps I'll revise like Poprishchin in Gogol's Diary of a Madman. Or I could end up like poor Phaedra in Racine's work. She was a bit off too. If you couldn't guess already, my final exam is on European Literature. It's fun! Today I read Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. Have you heard of it? Almost the entire thing is written in "Onegin Stanza," which has iambic tetrameter and AbAbCCddEffEgg rhyming. Interesting!
Here's a painting by Repin. (Don't worry, its copyright has expired!) This could be interpreted as Onegin's and Lensky's duel... or as the men doing all the things that are more enjoyable than studying!

I first read a translation where it faithfully translated his exact words, but I switched to and enjoyed one that used that stanza form, and had pretty rhyming. This sort of worries me when I think of the saying that translations are like mistresses-- the faithful ones aren't pretty and the pretty ones aren't faithful. What does that say about my literary choices? Shame on me!

So. Back to England. I played tennis today in the lovely sunshine. Apparently there's a heat wave going on. This means that the temperature might just clear the 70 degree mark. I think I'm going to melt into a blob of irritation when I get back to Arizona. Although I do sort of miss the feeling of deliciously dry heat. But after tennis I revised for my exam. (And watched a movie, but that's irrelevant.)

My exam is on the first. On the second I'm going to London. On the third I'm going to find the scene of a nice painting. More details should follow about that one. And on the fourth I'm going back to London! Now all I really have to do is get through tomorrow so I can get through the exam. Then? Frighteningly Fantastic, Fun-Filled Freedom!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Radically Cool Root Canals

I took another exam today. Want to know what the subject was? Do you think I’ll tell you? Well, think again! Since the last one was a bit easy, here’s a (hopefully!) more difficult version of the fun puzzle game from last time. The rules are the same. But to recap: For each pair, fill in the blanks with THE SAME two letters to make the top word read forward and the bottom word read backward. Then write the two letters added to each numbered pair (in the order given) into the blanks at the bottom.

1. _ _ ugh
suol _ _c

2. s_ _ ll
el_ _ t

3. In_ _ te
cit_ _ rf

4. _ _ nial
erehpsi_ _ h

5._ _ nk
eta_ _

6. en_ _ se
k _ _ lb

7. i_ _ ubstantial
pa_ _

8. re_ _ rn
re_ _o

9._ _ ary
_ _ uqs

10. se_ _
se_ _ (yes! Another palindrome for the final one. Though this one’s a bit obvious.)

Answer to what the class was: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _!

It went quite well! Yesterday I had a root canal and so had to ask the invigilator if I could take drugs of the pain-killing variety during the test. I liked this guy a lot more than the previous invigilator because of his response. He said “yeah it’s fine as long as you don’t take out pot and start smoking it or anything like that.” Oh well.

The root canal also went very well. I asked my Endodontist if he’d done a lot of root canals. He said that he had. I then asked, like a nervous patient trying to keep her mind off the coming procedure, if he had always wanted to be a root canal specialist. “Did you want to be a root canal specialist when you were a kid?”(Yes, I did actually use those words.) Surprisingly his answer was no. He only decided 10 years ago that root canals were the thing for him after becoming a bit bored with general dentistry. “Was that because you wanted the challenge?” I then asked with a mini fist-pump to accentuate the “challenge” part. That was the reason, or so he said. Maybe he just wanted more money.

Either way he did a wonderful job. Today at 8 49 a.m. I had my first drink of cold liquid in 5 months without either protecting my tooth or wincing in pain. It’s like a magic trick every time I do it! It’s so fun! Speaking of fun, today I get to celebrate my completion of another exam by seeing Night at the Museum II, and then having pizza and relaxing with friends. Hokey Pete. Life is good.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Exams? Excellent!

Well, today was pretty lovely. That’s not completely true. It began with studying, worrying, calling the dentist to get an appointment to irrigate my tooth’s nerves(or something scary sounding like that), dancing because I get to go in tomorrow at 10, some more studying and some more worrying. Then, after a quick lunch and a perusal of a lovely letter my grandma sent me, I went in to my exam.

Exams here eclipse finals in the states when it comes to uptightness. To get into the room you need to show your official Examination Entry Form and student id to the invigilator. (Yes, the people who preside over these exams are called invigilators. Can you imagine? Excuse me, invigilator, could I please use the toilet? And, yes, you must be excused to go to the bathroom.) After this you sit down and cannot open your test booklet, or even write your details on the outside of the form.

Interestingly, I almost got a zero on my exam because I didn’t realize that I couldn’t have my bag by my chair and, a minute before the test, asked if I had to move the bag to the front of the room. The invigilator took it, rolled his eyes, and asked if anyone else had bags “mysteriously hidden behind their desks.” Needless to say, this did nothing to help my nerves.

When the test started, though, everything went right. It wasn’t too bad! I actually took the full two hours on the test, though I finished 29 minutes early. Why is this, you might wonder? Well, students cannot leave during the first 55 minutes or during the last 30 minutes. (Why? Why!?) During the time left I redrew my graphics beautifully. No exam will be prettier than mine, I’m sure.

After that I “studied” at the SU Bar, had dinner, played quiz machines, and then played English Pool. Well. That part of the day, and the actual exam, were grand. Tomorrow I will have no feeling left in my tooth. Life is good!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Umbrella Etiquette, etc.

Hokey. Pete. this is the answer to the question "How is that new Star Trek movie?" I almost wept. In one of the first scenes there's an explosion from a ship to space. Guess what? The explosion doesn't make noise in space! It's like they know! I'd recommend that you start trekking to a cinema as soon as possible to trek it out! (I know I don't get any star for that trek pun.)

Unsurprisingly enough, the weather was far too gloomy today for me to go to the castle park. I thus just went to town at 3:30. My umbrella got to enjoy freedom for only the second time in its admittedly pathetic life. I found out about umbrella etiquette. When an umbrella holder(who shall henceforth be referred to as Sue) passes by a non-umbrella holder, (who shall be called poor-soaked-guy) Sue should lift up her umbrella to kep from hitting poor-soaked-guy. when sue passes another umbrella holder, though, there are no definite rules. The two must non-verbally negotiate the easiest possible way to pass without getting an umbrella spike in the jugular.

To be honest, the world of umbrella etiquete was a bit daunting for a desert-dweller. I also felt a bit chilly and, after stepping in a few puddles my shoes became somewhat damp. I also had to walk uphill. Both ways. I was miserable. And I loved it.

Now, since I should be studying, I've made a word puzzle. Here are the rules:

For each pair, fill in the blanks with THE SAME two letters to make the top word read forward and the bottom word read backward. Then write the two letters added to each numbered pair (in the order given) into the blank at the bottom to complete what I should be doing. (Note: it's a British thing to say!)

1)CA_ _ FUL

2)RE_ _ LE
YLE_ _ L

3)_ _ NK

4)TA_ _
TA_ _ (ooh! look at that! palindrome for the last one!)

What I should be doing instead of making puzzles: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Good luck!