A Hop Over the Pond

A Hop Over the Pond

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Trip Anticipation

 

Hello, Friends and Family!

 

I cannot believe the time has come for me to embark upon this journey! As many of you know, I will be spending five weeks in Grantham, England, studying at Harlaxton College. While there, I will be taking a theatre course, where I will travel throughout the United Kingdom, viewing various theatrical productions. Though one purpose of this blog is to keep you informed of what I will be doing over the next several weeks, it also fulfills the requirement for one of my honors experiences for Bethany’s Honor’s Program. I promise to keep my writing interesting and reflective although I may occasionally go off on a tangent and share some “intriguing” historical facts that I pick up along the way.

Life leading up to this trip has been a whirlwind. Not only did I have some demanding classes this last semester, but I worked three different jobs in order to cover all the expenses for this excursion. I still am not sure how I survived, but somehow I managed. With only a few days before I leave, I have mixed feelings of excitement and apprehension. I am definitely thrilled to see places I have dreamt of, but I am also anxious about flights, managing money, and being in a strange country, living with people I have never met before! However, this uncertainty also makes this journey very thrilling. I have no set expectations, which will make the trip that much more exciting.

While I am not typically viewed as the adventuresome type, I have had numerous opportunities to travel, which I am extremely grateful for. I know many have not been as fortunate as I have in terms of travel experiences. I have taken the subway from the Bronx to Manhattan at midnight, swam in the Baltic Sea, ridden a streetcar through Chinatown in San Francisco, and sprinted down Pennsylvania Avenue in the pouring rain (which is a long story). Though it seems as if I am an “accomplished traveler,” the fact is many of these adventures were taken with my closest friends and family, and I merely followed others like a lost sheep. Days were planned out from sunrise to sunset, and I simply followed the established itinerary.

            In taking this journey, I have more control over what I see and do. This freedom is not only frightening, but very exhilarating at the same time! As my friend Kara told me a few weeks ago, “You never really grow until you’re forced out of your comfort zone.” This statement is very true. In addition to gaining academic knowledge, I hope to gain a new sense of confidence.

The next time I post I will be in a historic manor in the English countryside. Stay tuned for more updates!

 

Alyssa

 

P.S.-Below are a couple of pictures from past trips.

 

Old Town, Stockholm, June 2008

Lincoln Memorial, June 2009

 

My brother and I in San Francisco in July 2010.

 

I've Arrived!

Hello from Harlaxton Manor!

Today is actually my second day at the manor, but I spent most of yesterday catching up on sleep (a full 13 hours, which was greatly needed) and unpacking. My plane ride was very long and tiring, and being a light sleeper, every little cry and cough kept me wide awake. Fortunately, I had a very kind travel companion from Oregon who was flying to London to visit her daughter and grandchildren. She was literally like a surrogate grandmother, giving me grapes, cheese, and other snacks over the course of the flight. We had great conversations regarding travel in the UK. Though the flight was not terrible, I breathed a sigh of relief when my plane landed in Heathrow Airport. After making it past the British immigration officers, who were perhaps the sternest people I have ever encountered, I successfully located my luggage and met my group.

Though most students studying at Harlaxton this summer are from the University of Evansville in Indiana, I was surprised to meet students from California and Georgia. We were all completely exhausted while waiting for our coach to Harlaxton. My flight arrived at 5:45 a.m. at Heathrow, and the coach did not arrive until 10:00 a.m. However, I had an interesting wait. While sitting with our luggage, a sketchy man with a thick "cockney" accent tried to make conversation with us. He immediately recognized we were American, and then tried to coax us into going to the pubs with him. While we didn't take up his offer, he was our source of entertainment during our long wait.

Our ride by coach was absolutely beautiful. A crop called rapeseed is in full bloom right now. (I know, the name is terrible!) It is a yellow flowering plant, which is supposedly a large source for vegetable oil. After a two-hour drive past quaint villages nestled in the countryside, our coach pulled up to the grand entrance of Harlaxton Manor. I was immediately shocked by its enormity. The Elizabethan architecture is simply breathtaking, and our first day could not have been any better. It seemed like taking a step into the setting of one of Jane Austen's novels, specifically Mr. Darcy's home, Pemberley, in Pride and Prejudice.

Yesterday and today have been packed with mandatory orientations and exploring the manor and grounds. Right now, I am blogging from my bed. Classes start tomorrow, and I am looking forward to learning in such a historic setting! Tonight, Carolyn, my roommate, and I are planning a trip to Dublin for our free weekend. Hopefully, everything works out as planned. I'm trying to experience all the UK has to offer, while still establishing new friendships and keeping in contact with loved ones at home.

Take care,

Alyssa

 

First Encounters

The last few days have been quite uneventful. Classes began Monday, and I have been searching online databases as well as the Harlaxton Library for sources regarding the English Renaissance. However, I do not mind researching this subject, since I've been passionate about this period in history since I was little. It has been a typical, dreary English day with rain coming and going, and this weather only encourages reclusiveness. I've decided to stick with research as well as updating this blog for "time-filling" activities.

On a lighter note, I finally left the manor to make a quick stop at Morrison's in Grantham to pick up some laundry detergent. This quick trip turned out to be the highlight of the last couple of days. My roommate, Carolyn, and I boarded the shuttle to Grantham at 8:10 Tuesday morning  We had great conversation with our driver, Tony, as he weaved through the narrow streets of Harlaxton village towards Grantham. Numerous times, I thought we were going to crash since we hit morning traffic. When I told Tony my name and where I was from, he said, "You Americans sure are adventurous with names." I really do not understand how the name, "Alyssa," is adventurous, but through staying in a country so steeped in tradition, I guess "Alyssa" is a strange name in comparison to "Catherine" or "Elizabeth." I guess my mother thought she was being creative when she saw the name on a bottle of perfume in a drug store over twenty years ago.

As our drive continued, Tony told us his 27-year-old son was in the British military police and had served two tours in Afghanistan. I instantly felt a connection with him as my father just retired from the National Guard earlier this month after serving 20 years. It's amazing to think soldiers from Britain as well as the United States are serving in Afghanistan, both defending their homelands from the threat of terrorism. It's amazing what you can learn in just a short 10-minute shuttle ride.

Tony dropped us off at Morrison's, the UK equivalent to Dillon's. Morrison's literally smells like a Dillon's and has a similar floor plan. I loved watching the people shopping in the aisles. Many high-school age kids were dressed in "Hogwarts-esque" uniforms, buying muffins and pastries before they headed off for school. Old blokes were perched on benches near the cash registers, reading the news and watching the school kids as they flew in and out of the store. I felt I stuck out like a sore thumb in my bright red coat. Everyone else was dressed in heavy winter coats in neutral colors to fend off the 40-degree temperatures. After snatching up my cheap detergent, I approached the counter. The cashier immediately asked me if I was studying abroad, and I told her I was at Harlaxton for the next five weeks. I nervously handed her 5 pounds, we wished each other good day, and then I headed to the shuttle stop.

While a trip to Scott's in Lindsborg seems so insignificant and uninteresting, I enjoyed every second interacting with the British in Morrison's. They are no different than Americans and have the same needs, worries, and desires. We just live on opposite sides of the pond and have different governmental systems.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow because I will be seeing my first Bollywood musical in Leicester, a city with a large Indian population. Talk about culture shock! I'm excited to learn a little more about Indian culture and perhaps mingle with the public. I'm also headed to London this weekend, and hopefully, Carolyn and I have everything planned out. There is so much to look forward to but so much to plan for!

(I hope to add pictures on here soon, but am experiencing some difficulties. If you are friends with me on facebook, I hope you are enjoying the pictures!)

 

Until next time,

Alyssa

 

Weekend in London-Part I

Friends and Family,

I can't believe it's been five days since I last posted. However, I did not have computer access for three days while I was in London, and I've been working on papers and a presentation for the last two. As I am writing this, I'm sitting under the shade of a cherry blossom tree near the Carriage House. There is a heat wave in England this week! It reached about 75 degrees this afternoon, so I am taking advantage of the beautiful weather before it goes away. The weather in London was absolutely dreadful, but the time I spent there was truly unforgettable.

Last Friday, forty students and faculty boarded the coach for London. After arriving at a our slightly sketchy hostel, I purchased my London Underground ticket, and a group of us headed straight towards Westminster Abbey. On the way to our destination, I spotted Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye. I was completely enthralled by my surroundings, and I could not believe I was actually amidst the hustle and bustle of London! Once I stepped into Westminster Abbey, I was in complete awe. Exploring the Abbey by myself with a guided audio tour was so relaxing. The architecture gave me chills. The stained glass, mosaic floors, and glowing candles created an extraordinary ambiance. I could literally imagine monks chanting and kneeling in silent prayer, their words reverberating off the ancient walls. This experience was like a giant step back in time. I still cannot believe I saw the tombs of Geoffrey Chaucer and Elizabeth I! It was heaven for a history nerd like me!

After exploring Westminster Abbey, a couple of my newfound friends and I boarded the London Underground and headed towards Piccadilly Circus to grab some dinner. While riding the "tube," we were rubbing shoulders with some of London's great financiers and businessmen who were headed home after a long day of work. Their suits were immaculate, and their shoes were polished to a high sheen. I felt underdressed in my flats and wrinkled dress. When we reached Piccadilly Circus, we found an Italian tapas restaurant. I tried my first calamari, which was absolutely delicious, despite it being fried squid. Vegetarian lasagna and tiramisu completed the rest of my meal.

Friday evening was wrapped up with the play, One Man, Two Guvnors, performed at the Royal Haymarket Theatre. The story was set in 1960s Brighton and was packed with slapstick comedy. I was very impressed by the actor's endurance over the course of the show. Once the final curtain closed, I was completely exhausted, and instead of heading out to the clubs, like many other students, I headed straight to our hostel to catch up on sleep...

I think I will leave you with this first portion of my weekend in London for today. The second half will be posted tomorrow!

 

Alyssa

Weekend in London-Part II

Hello, again!

Today has been very low-key. My class lasted only 45 minutes, and I have no meetings or excursions planned for this afternoon. Though my theatre class is attending a play tonight, we only have to travel to Grantham, which is about four miles from the manor. We are seeing Grantham Dramatic Society's production of 39 Steps, a comedy, based on Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film. I'm very excited since I'm somewhat familiar with Hitchcock's work. After the show, my class will probably go out for coffee or drinks at local pub, so it will be a very relaxing evening.

If you read my post from yesterday, you are aware that I spent this past weekend in London. Today, I plan to give you a brief "synopsis" of the second half of my weekend. Saturday morning, after eating a breakfast that consisted mostly of carbs, my roommate and I headed to the Tower of London. If you have watched movies such as Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett, Lady Jane, and Braveheart, you know the Tower was a place where traitors spent the last few days of their lives. Fortunately, we had an excellent "Beefeater" who gave us an indepth, but gruesome history of the Tower. We walked the path of traitors who were led to Tower Hill to be executed and were shown the very spot in which Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey were executed. Our Beefeater, Mark, told us some dreadful tales of clumsy axemen, praying lips of severed heads, and brutal torture. Though his stories made me terribly uncomfortable, I was just amazed to be in a place with almost a thousand years of history! Most of my knowledge of the Tower came from numerous films I had watched, but this tour made history come to life!

After completing our tour of the Tower and purchasing some panini sandwiches at Starbuck's, we wanted to catch a glimpse of Buckingham Palace. After a short ride on the London "tube," we were disappointed to find Buckingham Palace was under construction for the Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics. However, we did get a few decent pictures of the palace despite the huge crowds of tourists and construction workers. I guess this experience only gives me an incentive to come back to London to see the palace in all of its glory! The rest of the afternoon was spent on the Embankment, which is a hip theatre district located along the Thames. We had excellent views of St. Paul's Cathedral and the London Eye from this area. My theatre class was attending Moon on a Rainbow Shawl  at the National Theatre that afternoon, so we stayed in the area, browsing through book stores and the international food market. While many of my classmates did not enjoy the play, I believe it had the largest impact on me in comparison to the other plays we have viewed. It dealt with a Trinidadian family, suffering under dire economic circumstances, with the leading male protagonist deciding whether or not to leave his family to obtain a better career in England. The acting was so passionate and realistic!

My theatre class decided to go to a pub located near the Embankment to have "real" English pub food. I had fish and chips and mashed peas. The fish was very good, although I think I accidentally swallowed a small bone. After dinner, my roommate really wanted to go to the market in Camden Town. In the back of my head, I was thinking, "This used to be a poor section of London. Charles Dickens labored in a workhouse in Camden Town. I wonder if it's still a little sketchy." My preconceived notion regarding Camden Town happened to be true. The streets were packed with mumbling homeless people and pickpockets. Carolyn was almost pickpocketed. Two men surrounded her and tried to reach into her front purse pocket, and I barely noticed. However, she was wearing a money belt around her neck, so their attempt failed! She was extremely fortunate, and after that experience, we decided to head back to the hostel for the night.

However, our "fun" for the night did not end there. Once in our beds at the hostel, many of our fellow European "hostel-mates" decided to hold a techno party outside at midnight. We made two noise complaints, and Carolyn yelled out the window, telling them to turn off the music. The clerk at the front desk said she would not call the police because that was a "last-minute" option. So, from midnight until two in the morning, I sat up in my bed, patiently waiting for the party to end. The next morning, I felt like I had been hit by a truck.

Despite feeling completely exhausted, Carolyn and I decided to take in some artwork at the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. While there, we saw paintings by Da Vinci, Degas, Cezánne, and Van Gough. It was so relaxing in comparison to our other experiences. We then grabbed lunch at King's Cross Station and headed back to the hostel to meet our coach. I was ready to leave London! Though I am disappointed I didn't get to tour the Houses of Parliament and see Kensington Palace, I've realized that you cannot possibly see everything in one weekend.

My very long weekend in London led me to one conclusion: While it is nice to visit London, I would never want to live there. I am most content living in a small, rural area away from smog and pickpockets!

P.S.-If you are my friend on facebook, I have just posted my pictures from the London trip. Once again, I am sorry I cannot post pictures on this blog!

 

Alyssa

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