Friday, December 21, 2012

home, sweet home.

Life is just getting started.

So finals are over. I think I did well, but until I get my grades, I’ll just pretend. On Monday, half of the program went to the Nutcracker and it was amazing! I’m not super into ballet but it was wonderful and definitely getting me in the Christmas mood!

Outside the Royal Opera House!

Some lovely ladies and I waiting for the ballet to start!

I brought this jar of peanut butter at the beginning of the trip and finished it just in time.

King's Cross exists and so does this picture.

Tuesday (the last Tinseltown Tuesday we had) night two of my friends and I walked to the east end of Hyde Park for the holiday carnival Winter Wonderland! It was packed with people, music was blasting everywhere, there were lights, rides, and stands that were selling food and trinkets everywhere, and it was freezing! It was SO fun! We went on two rides that I wish I could explain without visuals, but basically I was reminded that on carnival rides, I am a screamer. No shame.
It looks like it's snowing, but my camera just picks up mist really well.

The ride where I switched to be on the outside and got squished by these two Texan ladies! Couldn't breathe but I could laugh.

In front of the ride of death that never ended!! It was really fun, I would just never do it again.

Wednesday we went on the temple trip and it was amazing, of course. This time it was really cold and frosty, the grounds looked covered in snow! It was beautiful!
Our lovely group that went to the temple with us!

The grounds are so gorgeous and one of the ponds was even frozen over!

One of my favorite places.

On our way back to the Centre, I stopped with one of my friends at the Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner. Before leaving for Europe, my grandmother told me a story about her father on his mission in the British Isles. He and his companion had been preaching at Speaker’s Corner, as many people did/do, and a mob formed and he and his companion were almost killed. So she asked me to get a picture at Speaker’s Corner and so I did!

Thursday, as I predicted, I spent packing. It took most of the day but I was able to go out on my last night in London with three of my friends to get dinner, a last hoorah for gelato at Snowflake, and to see a showing of The Hobbit. It was so much fun and a night I’ll never forget!

The group of us on our way to dinner and gelato!

Last minute packing with my bunk buddy!

Nobody slept that night, at least not any longer than a couple hours. I was able to get 2 hours of sleep—thank goodness. We all made our separate ways to the airport (I took the Tube which wasn’t that bad at all) and then waited for my 8 hour flight to Minneapolis. It was quite the adventure. With the time difference, I was chasing the sun and was up from 5am London time until about 10pm Seattle time, making it a full day of 25 hours? After 2 hours of sleep? Needless to say, I was really tired.
View from the London Eye.

And that’s that. I am home with my family, anticipating what this next year has in store for me. Many people who I have seen have asked “How was it? What was your favorite place you visited? What did you learn from it?” etc., the questions continue.
After the London Eye, just next to the ice skating rink!
It was amazing and life changing. I am so grateful for all that I experienced, all that I saw and visited, the people I got to make these memories with, and all that these few months of my life entailed. I cannot tell you in a few words about three months of my life just as you probably can’t do it either. It’s a long time and a lot can happen; a lot did happen. My favorite place cannot be contained to one particular geographical site—I enjoyed it all. I am glad to be back, but I do miss it. It was wonderful, indescribable, and I wouldn't change a day of it.
More London Eye pictures to get you to keep reading.

I learned a lot about change. The most important part about change is that you remember why and how you change. It’s changing for a righteous cause, to better yourself and to help those around you better themselves as well. If you aren’t changing for the right reasons, you’re just going to go back to how you were before. Change is hard to accept but it is the most consistent thing in our lives. We must allow others around us to change; otherwise we hinder their growth just as much as we hinder our own. Surrounding ourselves with people who will let us change, help us change, encourage our changes, love our changes, those are the people we want to be with and the type of person we should be.

Some amazing people I got to spend my time in Europe with!

I was in Utah for a couple days to get some things done and stayed with a dear friend of mine in Orem. She really is wonderful and I am so blessed to have her in my life. One night we watched Dan in Real Life, and now I can saw I’ve seen it! If you haven't seen it, see it. It makes me feel better about the title of my blog, too. It was very fitting, as I’m probably not going to blog anymore. Maybe, but we’ll see.
If you want to request more pictures from certain places, let me know! This one here is one of the happiest places on earth.

In these next few months I will be working on my mission papers to turn them in as soon as I can. I'll also be turning 20. I’m getting my wisdom teeth ripped out of my face a week from today. I will be back at BYU; however weird that will be after all that has happened this past year, especially these last few months. It will have been about 8 ½ months since I was there for classes. Crazy.

I hope the holidays find you as content, grateful, and as happy as I feel. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and best of luck with whatever you’re trying to accomplish in life!


There ya go.

Monday, December 10, 2012

eric and ted.

 Life is full of wonderful people--get to know them!
Eric Whitacre Concert!
This is at the hill where we searched for the horse for about a half an hour. It was so windy!
Blenheim Palace!
Ted East and part of awesome group three at Oxford.
That's all I can get uploaded right now. Hopefully more this weekend! 14 days until Christmas!
There ya go.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

st. paul's, oxford, PRB.

Life is going by so quickly.

So there was a project, 40% of my grade for one of my classes, which was due this past Thursday, the 6th of December. So that took up a lot of my time this week. Yay late night homework parties due to a refined procrastination-- I’ve had years of experience, I’m pro.

The 3rd of December, this past Monday, I went on my last walk! All twelve of them are finished! It was along the South side of the Thames River.  It went past a bunch of bridges (obviously, we’re going along a river that is right in the middle of a big city) such as the Millennium Bridge, Tower Bridge (often mistaken for London Bridge but they’re actually different), and Hungerford Bridge. London as a whole has a lot of glass buildings and they are so gorgeous. It was a rainy day so it looked even cooler, in my opinion.

On the 4th, as a program, we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is the 5th cathedral to be built in that same spot under the same name, the current one having been designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Our tour guide was one of those old, snarky British guys who know way more than three of us university students would ever hope to know. It was terrifying climbing to the top of the cathedral dome though—if you didn’t know that about me, I’m scared of heights. It didn’t help that some of the stairs were metal and you could see how far you would be falling down if you slipped. It was great. But really, the view was fantastic and all 528 steps were worth it.

On the 5th, a small group of us ventured out to Wesley’s Chapel, an LDS church history site that our religion teacher asked us to go see. It’s not officially a church history site I don’t think, but it does have significance in the British Isles and the beginning of the church being established here. It’s where some of the brethren first preached the Gospel, by invitation, taking the majority of the Methodist congregation with them by the end of it because of what the brethren shared with them.

Let’s see, the 6th was really awesome! I didn’t do too much, Thursdays are mostly taken up by classes BUT that was my last day of classes for this semester!! AND that night, I went to an Eric Whitacre Christmas Concert at Union Chapel! He directed the Eric Whitacre Singers, a group less than 20 singers, and I was able to hear one of my favorite pieces that I’ve even performed, composed by him, Lux Arumque.  Listen to it, it’s awesome.

Look, I even made it super easy for you to get to. You’re welcome. It was crazy to see the man who composed the music that I helped bring to life at one point in a cathedral in San Francisco with my high school choir at a competition almost two years ago. I love that song. But seeing the man behind the music was surreal—he’s so young! And actually alive!  I miss choir but seeing that made me feel better about it. And plus, it got me really excited about Christmas! Only 17 more days, not that anyone is counting.

The 7th, yesterday, we took our LAST day trip to Oxford!! Now that was a treat and a half. We stopped at two other sites first. One of them was a Neo-Lithic site, a white chalk drawing of a horse on a hillside. It was a super windy day in general but walking around on top of a hill for almost a half an hour looking for some chalk that we couldn’t even distinguish was a horse because it was huge and we were above it, it got a little chilly. There were a lot of sheep roaming around so when 40+ people are walking in all different directions, they tend to get a little confused. We had fun with it though. And the view was spectacular.

Our next stop was Blenheim Palace, a site known to be associated with Winston Churchill because it is where he was born and near where he is buried. We didn’t have much time there so the history of the estate was kind of thrown at us rapid fire, so if you want to learn more about it don’t ask too much from me. It was a very grandiose, beautiful palace and I enjoyed going through as much as we did.

Once we got to Oxford, we split into three groups and each had super awesome tour guides—except my group had the best one. Ted East, who used to be the Marshall of Oxford! That’s a big deal. Before that he was a superintendent of one of the colleges, and before that was in the Scottish Regiment! Basically, the coolest old guy ever. The best part was that after the tour was over and all the groups kind of ended up in the same area, he went up to one of our professors and told him that we were one of the best groups he’s ever taken around Oxford and that he loved us. That really meant a lot and we were sad to say goodbye to him. Oxford itself was ridiculous—I have no chance of ever going there myself, but how cool would that be! Ted took us around to see different quads and colleges within the university, showing us where different famous people lived, different movies were shot (there were two Harry Potter spots that we got to see, just sayin’—embarrassingly enough, I called which scenes they were before he even told us). The experience was unforgettable.

What made it even better was knowing that one of my high school English teachers somewhat recently got accepted into a Master’s program at Oxford! She’s been a big influence in my academic career and one of the reasons that I’m an English major, that I love literature and art, and that I got into this Study Abroad! So basically Ms. Duffy, you’re awesome.

Today, I went to the Portobello market for the last time! Got breakfast, fought through the thick crowds of Christmas shoppers, and enjoyed a clear, crisp morning! After that, one of my peers and I made our way to the Tate Britain museum to see a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition as part of one of our English classes. I really like the Pre-Raphaelite art, probably another thing I picked up from Duffy’s English classes. I got to see Ophelia, by Millias ( , in real life! And a few other ones I really like, The Lady of Shalott, by Hunt, ( ) being one of them. We also got to see a collection of Turner paintings, an artist we studied in our Music class.

We stopped by the Christmas Market on the South of the Thames, right under the Hungerford Bridge. Then, a couple other girls joined up with us to go up on the LONDON EYE. It was so much fun!! If you’re ever in London, go on the Eye, otherwise you don’t experience it fully. It was so amazing. We went in the mid-afternoon, when the sun was beginning to set, and the views—oh the views. Cameras do it no justice. And just so you know, I am still scared of heights.
I spent my last Saturday night at the Old Swan pub, across the street from the Notting Hill Gate Tube stop, where I go on a daily basis. No worries, I just got a burger and chips. Well, and water.
Sorry about the lack of pictures, the internet...I'll try to get some up next week!

This next week is my last week here! Monday and Tuesday are our finals and one of those nights I will be attending the Nutcracker! Wednesday is the program’s scheduled temple trip that my friend and I are heading since we’ve already gone. Thursday will basically be an all-day packing extravaganza. Friday, I’ll be heading to the airport early in the morning to fly back home for Christmas!


There ya go.



Sunday, December 2, 2012

oklahoma city, oklahoma.

Life isn't just approaching quickly—it is right here, right now.

“Family Home Evening is the only argument that begins and ends with prayer” –President Kerr (you’ll know who that is by the end of this post)

 Thanksgiving break happened November 19th-24th. No classes, no food provided, no structure, or anything! I stayed in the London Centre and it was really fun! Well, I didn’t stay IN the Centre the whole time, but instead of Ireland, I was here. Either way, I had lots of fun.

Monday, the 19th, we went on another walk, this time through Chelsea. It was brisk, windy day that was warmed up a bit by dinner at a pub around the corner from the Centre, called the Champion. I love pub food, just so you know. I mean food is great in general, but pub food is wonderful.  That night a few of us had a makeshift FHE (Family Home Evening) and made a ‘thankful chain’, where we made a paper chain and on each link, individuals would write personalized notes on what they are grateful for. It was a great bonding experience and I really appreciated the time that I was, and am, able to spend with these wonderful people.

Tuesday, the 20th, we went on another walk through Mayfair and it passed the US Embassy! That was really cool to see, considering I hadn’t seen it yet. That night I went to the Queen’s Palace Theatre to get FIFTH ROW SEATS to see Les Misrables. It was really good; I’d never seen it before. Actually, I’ve never been to any of these shows before, but the majority of them I’ve done choir medley’s to, this one included.

Wednesday, the 21st, we went to the Lyceum Theatre to see The Lion King, the most exciting and interactive musical I’ve seen yet. The props were the best part—they had all sorts of crazy animal props including giraffes, elephants, birds, antelopes, etc. Some of the birds were at the end of strings on the top of really long poles and were swung around above the audience. Some of the antelopes were small wooden figures that were attached to a bicycle wheel and when it was spun, the antelopes moved as though they were galloping. It was way cool!
First row in the Royal Circle! This was our view and it was perfect.
Thursday, the 22nd and Thanksgiving, a group of about six of us were able to go to the London Temple to do Baptisms. It took about an hour and a half via train to get there and about an hour to get back. It was beautiful. The grounds are apparently the third largest Temple grounds in the world, after New Zealand and Oakland, if I remember correctly. The Temple workers were wonderful and I think we were the only members there who weren’t working at the Temple. They picked us up and drove us back to the train station, making it easier and cheaper for us. It was wonderful and we even get to go again on the 12th as a full program!

We got to the Centre just in time for Thanksgiving dinner, prepared by my music professor and his wife! It was all soo good and I loved it. Yay food.

Friday, the 23rd, a few other girls and myself got dinner at Byron’s (which if you ever are over here, go there) and then meandered to see Tower Bridge. It is so gorgeous and right next to the Tower of London. It’s not a particularly large bridge but we took our time to cross it. We struggled navigating the buses since we usually use the Tube but eventually were able to find our way back to the Centre.
There would be more pictures...but the internet hates me.

Saturday was mostly uneventful. Went to Portobello Market and then that evening accompanied my friend to her Stake Conference. Even though I’m technically assigned to a different Stake, she didn’t want to go alone since the majority of the other students had other plans or were travelling elsewhere. I am so glad I went—the last two speakers, the Kerrs, were a couple from Scotland and OHMYGOODNESS if I wasn’t already a big fan of the Scots, I sure am now. They were both so feisty, hilarious, and had such strong testimonies. I would’ve loved for them to keep going for another hour each of speaking and I would’ve been fine with that. If you’re interested in hearing more about it, email me or something. I would love to tell more about that meeting here, but I need to catch up. I’ve been slacking hardcore.

Sunday was church—my ward is still wonderful and I love attending with the members.

The 26th was a scheduled day trip to Hampton Court Palace, known for having housed King Henry VIII. It was a lovely estate, very large, and very pretty gardens. It was all the way out in Surrey! Any Harry Potter Fans out there? This is just a pre-curser to what is about to come your way. Just keep reading.

The 27th, that Tuesday, was a day for another walk, through Whitehall and the Pall Mall (pronounced pal mal). It ended in front of Buckingham Palace, which I had yet to see! So now I can say I’ve actually been to London. That evening a few other girls and I went to Tinseltown for Tinseltown/Temple Tuesday to get our weekly milkshakes.

The 28th, we went to Westminster Abbey! It’s so amazing how dense the city is, how close everything is to each other. It’s a completely walkable city. Anyway, I say that because you can see Westminster is within sight of the London Eye, Big Ben, and the Thames. That night, I went to the Prince Edward’s Theatre to see Jersey Boys! Another musical where I did a medley in choir for in high school, so singing along was so much fun. It’s the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and it was not only really exciting but also informational! It was awesome and there was a standing ovation at the end which led to an encore performance of one of the songs. This is one of the biggest things I’ll miss—just going to shows. It’s so much fun.

The 29th, Thursday, I went with three of the other students to, wait for it, wait for it…

Warner Bros Studios Harry Potter Tour.

It was literally magical. I would go again. It had full sets from the movies, props from all eight movies, costumes worn by a great number of actors and actresses, and so many other super awesome things. I had butterbeer! Again. I had it in Florida at the Harry Potter world in the summer of 2011. It was still delicious. But here they had the Dursley’s house, the bridge at Hogwarts, the Knight Bus, Hagrid’s motorcycle, the chess pieces, the model of Hogwarts Castle that they use for shots that would be ‘flying over’ the school, and even more than that. It was crazy and I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time. I was in complete bliss—this is my childhood. Harry Potter was my first chapter book and I remember I would reread them SO many times (an undisclosed double digit number) and one time in 2nd grade my mom wouldn’t let me read them again until I read something else. My 2nd grade teacher asked me why I had a different book on my desk and I remember her laughing because of how sad I was explaining what happened.

Anywho. It was life-changing.

The 30th, Friday, we took a day trip to Chawton and Bath to see Jane Austen sites and the Roman Baths. It was actually really cool because we’d just read Persuasion for our English class and then went to where Austen lived for a decent amount of her life! In Bath, we went to a fashion museum, going through a couple centuries worth of fashion. And the Roman Baths were really cool even though they smelled funny and there was even a spot where you could try some of the clean water and it tasted like nasty. Apparently that’s what water tastes like before the minerals are taken out—it was mostly iron that I could taste and it was warm. Double nasty. I prefer good old Northwest glacier water. Bath had a really cool Christmas market, and I walked with one of my friends to see the Royal Crescent just down the street from the Royal Circus.

The 1st, yesterday, I went on another walk (I only have one more I need to do!) and visited Pollock’s Toy Museum! It was small but showed toys from all over the world going back even to ancient Egyptian times! At least one stone mouse with a moving wooden tail and mouth. It was really interesting to see how much toys have changed and how much styles and time periods affect those kinds of things.

On the walk, we came to a shopping area called Leadenhall Market and there was a little stage and microphones in front of some of the Christmas decorations. There was music from the Harry Potter movies going on from the speakers but there wasn’t anyone on the stage or anything, so we didn’t really know what was going on. I was getting a picture with the tree and market when an actor dressed as Dumbledore comes out of nowhere and hops in the picture with me! Turns out it was a local group doing little shows in the area and they were doing a skit and a lady was dressed up as McGonagall and a guy dressed as Harry Potter. He mocked me while they were doing the show, mainly because it was super interactive anyway, but I felt special.

Today was the first day that the Victoria line, the metro train that I take to church, failed me. It was fine when we left and then we were halfway to the stop where our building is and it got suspended. So we ended up going back to the Centre and then attended a later meeting at a building we could just walk to. AKA the Singles Ward. Yikes.

So, I apologize for the excess of words and lack of pictures. I come back the 14th, 12 more days. This week will be fairly busy, but we’ll be done with classes on Thursday. Friday is a day trip to Oxford. Saturday I am planning to go to the Portobello Market for the last time and then the London Eye with a small group of other students. Sunday will be my last time in my ward here. Next Monday and Tuesday are finals and one of those nights I will be going to see a ballet, the Nutcracker. Next Wednesday is the big group Temple trip and Thursday is going to be packing and any last minute priorities.
I would like to make a quick shout out to my dear friend, Preston Pierce. He just got called to the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma mission, Spanish speaking! He reports to the MTC on January 23rd, 2013! I am so excited for him and know he will be such a wonderful missionary! I am proud of him and can't wait to tell him that in person!

Time has always been an interesting concept to me. I feel as though I’ve been here for a very, very long time but at the same time, it has flown by.


There ya go.