Category Archives: UK

Flowers in an Aching Void


I had a nightmare the other night.  There were no specific images, no specific sequences, no specific fears.  Only a feeling.  I shattered back into the waking world out of breath, my heart in an ice cold knot, trembling; my eyes were wet with the stinging salt of tears.  The nightmare hasn’t come true, but I know it will.

I’m not ready to leave London.  I’ve seen a lot of things and done a lot of things, but there’s always more.  There’s all of England outside of London, all of Scotland, all of Wales, and half of Ireland.  And then in the rest of the world, there’s the other half of Ireland, there’s continental Europe.  There are Asia and Africa and Antarctica.  There are places that would change my world if only I could find them.  If only I had time to find them.

In Wales there’s a mountain in Snowdonia National Park called Cadair Idris.  Ages ago, according to the local lore, the giant Idris made his throne there, and the lakes surrounding Cadair Idris are said to be bottomless.  There is magic there, in legend, and if you spend the night on the mountain, you’re likely not to wake up at all.  If you do, you’ll either wake up a madman or a poet.  If I wasn’t a student, I would spend the night, but I am busy with classes, finishing up final exams and papers.  If my budget was more generous, I would find a way to get there, but traveling can be expensive.

I had a nightmare the other night, and I woke up with a knife in my heart—a knife of regret.  I don’t regret not having done more in the time I’ve been here; I don’t regret not filling my remaining time with more adventures despite my classwork.  I regret not having more time, and I regret not yet having the means to see more of the world.  I know I’m privileged to be having these regrets, but the privilege does nothing to ease the ache of the emptiness the knife has torn into my heart.

In my dream I was home, and everything was over.

In Celtic folklore, there is a race of immortal beings called the Aos Si (the Fair Folk), and it is claimed that they can be found in the proximity of earthen mounds called Sidhe, which are located all over Ireland, Scotland, and Northern England.  The Sidhe are sometimes thought to be portals into the fairy world, but I don’t have the means to find them.  I can’t rent a car, and, unless I care to fail my classes, I can’t take a weekend-long hike.

City life in London didn’t bring me any closer to the rich mythologies of the United Kingdom.  It showed me the world—influences of every culture can be found in London—but it did not let me understand it.  The city is a city, and in a city, everything gets diluted by commerce.  Everyone wants to experience everything, but few people care to understand even a single thing.

I had a nightmare the other night, and it’ll soon come true.  I worry about the elusiveness of understanding and my inability to catch it without having more time to experience this new world.  I’m afraid I might not have another opportunity to travel.

Fear in dreams is strongest when you know it’s more than just a dream.

What happens to the memories when you’re finished making them?  And what about the memories you never had time to make?  They are nothing you can touch, nothing you can relive, nothing except your imagination.  They are only a feeling—a flower blooming from the knife wound in your chest that will wither and die come winter, and all you can hope is that it will blossom into a garden come spring.

Even the photographs will fade with time, but at least I had the opportunity to take them:

tower bridge.jpg

Tower Bridge:  My Final Affair with the Temptress Tourism


Shakespeare’s Globe


and finally some comic relief:  “Spot the Hazards.”  Thank you England for a wonderfully dark sense of humour


No Time to Think: Home


I wish I could sit down for a week and think about everything I experienced in London.  I wish I could write about it and learn from it.  But when my plane landed, I jumped right back into doing stuff.  It’s marching band stuff, so it’s my choice and I enjoy it, but marching band stuff is nonstop all day every day from barely after dawn to just before midnight, and my brain exhausts itself before each day is halfway through.  All I can think about is water, what drill is up next, and how long it’s been since the last cloud rolled by.  Sometimes, when I get the chance to close my eyes to the white light of day, I can see the yellow eye of Big Ben peering at me across the River Thames.  The last kiss of the Temptress Tourism lingers on my lips.

I can still smell the streets of London—nothing bad, just the indescribable scent that characterizes the city.  It sneaks up on me and reminds me of where I’ve been before leaving me grasping for more.  Sometimes I wake up convinced that I’m in Palace Court, that I’ll leave for class in an hour, jammed onto the tube with thousands of other people heading to work, and that, if I’m hungry enough to make an unwise decision (given a college budget), I might stop somewhere for some tasty English food after class.  American accents sound out of place now, not because they’re unfamiliar after weeks in London, but because I miss hearing the English accent.

In marching band, I am around the same people every day, just as in London, I was always around the other students in the program, and I am unsettled by how one group of people you spend so much time with can so suddenly be replaced by another.  It’s easy to fall out of touch after there’s no program to keep you together, but I was fortunate enough to forge a few friendships.  In my new friends, I will always have a reminder of London.  In my memories of London, I will always have a reminder of home.

The world is all around us, and London taught me that I don’t have to travel to experience the world.  I think about all the people living in London who don’t care that they’re living in London.  When I boarded my plane from Philly to London, there was a group of English people who vacationed in Philadelphia.  There are people who come from all over the world to see America, and yet I, like the people who don’t care that they live in London, never cared that I live in America.  Everything here is so familiar that I forget to look around me and experience my homeland.  What life changing experiences can I have in America?  In Pennsylvania?  On my own street?  I miss London, but the experience of living in a foreign city for six weeks, trying to make as much out of my time as was comfortable, and staring in awe at everything I passed, made me wonder what awe-worthy things are hidden just beneath my nose in America.


aliens invade Macbeth



Streets of Sad Art


(please forgive any oversimplifications or generalizations of stuff and things due to space constraints)


The “Last Days of Shoreditch” have arrived, according to street artist Ben Eine (pronounced like benign).  Shoreditch and the famous road Brick Lane have been homes to Jewish and South Asian communities, most prominently the Bangladeshi community, since the 1950’s, and, moreover, they also boast the richest collection of street art anywhere in London.  Unfortunately, these areas are dying due to the arrival of entrepreneurs who take advantage of the cheap property value to open unique independent businesses such as cat cafes, cereal stores, and expensive chocolate stores.  They clean up a bit, attract upper-middle class consumers to help their businesses grow, and, when they succeed, the area is more promising for other entrepreneurs who want to open up new businesses.  One section of Shoreditch has developed such promising  businesses that it is even proclaimed to be London’s Silicon Valley.  Soon rows of chic modern stores line the newly renovated streets, and tourists flock to clog the sidewalks and streets with their clueless and careless standing around.

Except for the tourists, it might not sound so bad, but hence arises the controversy surrounding gentrification.  What many people either ignore or don’t understand is that this renovation and commercialization of poorer areas, particularly those that house immigrant communities, comes with a severe tradeoff:  you end up shoving these communities out of their homes and closing their own businesses by making it too expensive for them to live.  Where are they supposed to go?

Gentrification is the cause of the “Last Days of Shoreditch,” and it is evident all throughout Shoreditch and Brick Lane.  Where once stood Jewish and Bangladeshi homes and businesses, now fancy stores rear their flat, black-painted fronts (the black paint is to deter street art, because it’s easier to clean off).  Immigrant families who can still afford to own businesses in the area are forced to live in the far outskirts of London (like Zone 6, if you look at a TFL map and find it means anything to you) because the residential rooms on the floors above their businesses are now too expensive for them to rent, and food is no longer so affordable (unless you’re a fool and consider a £5.50, or $7+, bowl of cereal cheap—for real, ‘Cereal Killer Cafe’ is a tourist-attracting cereal cafe, and, although it’s cool and prosperous, such an expensive bowl of cereal really messes with the economy).  Along one stretch of Brick Lane, the only evidence of its former Bangladeshi community is a single Muslim trust company.  It was closed.


new businesses all along the right, and one remaining Muslim store on the left

The street artists, however, fight against the rush of entrepreneurs and ensuing gentrification.  They paint murals on the sides of buildings (not unlike the murals in Philadelphia) whether they’re appreciated or not, they place little mushrooms on top of buildings, and, along walls beside the streets, they reflect the culture and opinions of the South Asian communities.  If opposed by the black-painted buildings of newer businesses, they find other surfaces to paint on, such as little pieces of flattened gum on the sidewalk.  Via their art, they ensure that, despite the growing presence of wealthy businesses, the South Asian presence in Shoreditch and Brick Lane will not be forgotten to capitalism and gentrification.


the mushroom on the left is some dude’s street art






A Fairyhunter’s Hunger


I like the taste of fairies.  It’s like fruit and honey with a little bite of hot pepper on the tip of the tongue, and it pleases my tummy.  You put a fairy in your mouth, and it just dissolves, melts like European chocolate—not any of that chalky American garbage—and it buzzes the brain with the electric of a thousand cups of coffee, without the crash.  You’d think because fairies are these little humanoid creatures, there’d be a certain crunch when you bite into them, but no, they’re perfect little humanoid creatures of fudge.  I’ve developed a distaste for the wings, though.  The wings are like lettuce.  I don’t eat vegetables.  I like the taste of fairies.

I carry my fairy-catching net around London with me all the time.  I figured that, because this is the United Kingdom with all its Celtic and Arthurian myths and legends of magical beings, I’d basically be walking into an all-you-can-eat fairy buffet, but little did I know, imperialism and industrialization and urbanization (and tourism) seem to have scared the fairies into hiding.  I’ve looked up where to find them:  way up north in England and in Scotland, or over in remote regions of Ireland and Wales—they’re all inaccessible on my limited budget with limited means of transportation.  Being a fairyhunter for a living, I could make some big bucks selling my catches on the black market, but unfortunately, I eat everything I catch.

Until I can summon the willpower to sell a fairy instead of eating it, London’s parks are my only hopes for finding fairies.  Not the big parks like Hyde Park, whose fairy potential have been torn to shreds by commercialization, but rather smaller, lesser known parks, out of the way of Central London.  With my fairy-catching net slung over my shoulder, I ventured on an hour-long bus ride to Battersea, where I got some Chinese food in case I didn’t catch any fairies to eat, and went on a hunt in Battersea Park.

There were buttloads of ducks and geese floating in the huge pond that greeted me upon entering the park, but, as far as I could see, there were no fairies.  The only sign of fairy activity I found was a floofy little white puppy running and jumping everywhere at nothing in particular, which made me wonder if the fairies were all vibrating at a frequency invisible to my eye.  Upon walking deeper into the park, humankind’s shaping of the natural landscape became apparent—the park was confused.  It seemed the only pure nature was around the pond by the south entrance; deeper in, the park became a weird hodgepodge of attractions.  In addition to the forested pond, there was a garden, a lawn, a pool, a zoo, and a pagoda, among other things.  Nothing made sense.  It was like someone dumped together twenty-three different puzzles, removed seven-ninths of the pieces, and blindly put them together.  It was interesting, but there were no fairies.  I did, however, find what was presumably the vomit of an ogre or a troll.  It was green and chunky, but not nearly as tasty as a fairy.

Peace Pagoda.jpg


ogre and/or troll vomit served on a platter of water

My other excursion for fairies was to Kew Gardens in Richmond, but the only tiny edible critters I found there were mosquitoes and tons and tons of bees.  They don’t taste like fairies.  I didn’t want to waste the adventure, though, so I frolicked through the park like a gleeful moose, swinging my fairy-catching net at whatever I felt like, and admiring the largest collection of plants and trees in the world.  I almost ate a peacock, but I decided against it.  I didn’t exactly realize before I went to Kew, but the Gardens themselves are symbolic of the bane of fairies in England—imperialism.  Kew features gajillions of plants from all around the world, representing the imperial prowess of Great Britain, so basically, Kew, next to museums of stolen artifacts (such as the British Museum), is one of England’s many ways of bragging about itself.

Bumpy Tree.jpg

bumpy tree from China

Treetop View.jpg

totally-not-anticlimactic treetop view of London’s skyline

I just wish I could have munched on some fairies, but instead I had to settle on eating Cadbury chocolate, which, fortunately, tastes and feels similarly enough to a mouthful of fairies that I’m convinced it has some fairy chunks in it.  It makes Hershey taste like chalky rubber.

Fairy Prison.jpg

either a greenhouse, or a high-security fairy prison. I like to think it’s the latter


“The Hive.” It buzzes with the deep rumble of a ginormous beehive

Some Wizards Went to Oxford


(Disclaimer:  I am all the wizards.  Also, on a side note, a bunch of iconic Harry Potter scenes were filmed here.)

Pretty Oxford.jpg

The wizards were dummies. They just called themselves wizards because they were a bunch of goonballs. They went to Oxford and immediately got lost amongst the beige medieval spires and the beige stone walkways—it was actually quite marvelous once they were able to discern the beige buildings from the beige everything else.  There were tons of other dummies, too, wandering around and making it difficult to traverse the streets—tourists, of course; Oxford, for a city built by smarties, sure caters itself to dummies nowadays.  The wizards didn’t like being grouped in with the tourists, especially since they were on a class trip and not actually tourists, but, dwarfed by such great smartness and advanced magics, they didn’t really live up to Oxford’s non-dummy standards.


beige, beige, and more beige

A quasi-arch-mage (a.k.a., tour guide, whom the wizards, slightly jealous of all the smartness, kind of doubted to be a true Oxford man, because I don’t think you can specialize in tour-guide-ism at Oxford—but maybe he is actually super duper smart and just spends his time bragging about Oxford to tourists as a side gig, because, admit it, if you had an Oxford degree, wouldn’t you want to spend your free time bragging about it, too?) met them after they stopped being lost, but he almost lost them again as soon as he started the tour.  His shoulders were hunched due to either years of slouching or years of prolific magicking (depends whether he was an actual Oxford man-wizard or not), but, despite his age and his wizardly long grey hair, he had long legs, and he moved way too fast and never looked back to check if the dummy wizards were still following him.  They were, but only barely.  It was very difficult to keep up with his fast pace and shove through static gaping tourists blocking the streets at the same time.

Grand Oxford.jpg

Oscar Wilde specialized in making fun of people at this college

As the mage-of-questionable-merit sped along, he pointed out all kinds of intricately crafted beige blurs along the way—the wizards, hustling behind him, could see his hands pointing and his mouth moving in the distance, but they couldn’t really tell what he was saying because he was so far ahead of them.  Whenever he paused a sufficient amount of time for the wizards to catch up, he would mention some historic Oxford-mage or some great piece of magic conceived at Oxford, and he would be all like, “You know this man/spell, yes?” and the wizards would nod and be all like, “uh sure?” and the tour-mage would be all like, “of course you do, everyone who’s anyone knows this man/spell” and the wizards would smile and continue not knowing what the heck man/spell he was talking about.

The last thing the mage bragged about was how all the academic buildings in Oxford are themselves so smart and magical that they each, in their design and architecture, symbolize some transcendent moral value or whatnot.  Then the wizards were let free to roam the city, so they went to a book store and looked at all the legendary books of magic that were beyond both their magical abilities and their wallets’/purses’ abilities.

At the end of the day, the wizards went to an old tavern where Bill Clinton reportedly “did not inhale” any illicit greens in the 60’s.  They snagged an empty table with someone’s abandoned, but barely touched pint on it (don’t worry, it was definitely abandoned and not awaiting the return of whomever had been drinking it; the wizards waited to make sure nobody came back), and, after purchasing their own drinks to wind down from all the sprinting, they felt bold enough to push the limits of stupidity.

The universe must have balance, and the scales of Oxford lean too far in favor of genius.  It was a valiant sacrifice for the greater good that the wizards, driven by sorcerous intoxication and, once again, a lack of cash in the wallet/purse, decided to finish off the abandoned pint on the table.  Their ghosts haunt the tavern to this day, daring natural dummies, who might feel pressured by Oxford’s smarties, to give in to their nature and be dumb.  For the universe’s sake, be dumb sometimes.  But also, still be respectful.  The dummy wizards were respectful.  The end.


where little boys sell their souls to be in the famous boys choir until their voices crack


where smart people go to lather themselves in butter when they’re bored

The Temptress Tourism


The affair began on Thursday, July 13th, at approximately 9:10 pm (UK time).  I had just emerged from the National Theatre after seeing Yaël Farber’s Salomé for class, and, upon stepping out, I was greeted with a cool evening breeze flowing along the River Thames.  The sun’s blue impression still marked the sky to the west, while to the east, the purple shades of night wiped clear the light’s trail.  I stood at the edge of the river and witnessed the awakening of the night’s crowd, starting beneath Waterloo Bridge and spreading along the southwestward curve of the Thames beyond sight.  I heard a mysterious song then, sweet and seducing, drifting toward me from the other side of the bridge.  It brushed my cheek and kissed my neck, and pulled me along, a helpless romantic lost in spontaneous love.  I followed the song past a riverside saxophonist playing for spare change and a BBQ street vendor blaring music, and, as the gathered crowd along the river transitioned from local teens to frenzied tourists, I found its source:  the temptress herself.

She manifested as a sight across the river, the glowing yellow eye of perhaps the world’s most famous clock tower and the ornate spires of Westminster Palace.  On my side of the river, the London Eye towered before me, revolving slowly as tourists less frugal than I crawled in and out of its carriages.  I forgot how to breathe.  I had been on my way to meet Josie, but now I couldn’t move—I was in awe.  When I finally rediscovered my legs, I walked onward into the arms of the temptress.  Bent to her will, I moved with her worshipping tourists, following her song and chasing after my breath.  I felt like a fool as I filled my phone with photos of her; I never wanted to be counted among the tourists, but, faced with sights of such grandeur and breathtaking beauty, how could I not?



My affair with the temptress didn’t last much longer that night, for it was getting late.  As I crossed Waterloo Bridge to find the underground, she fastened her marvelous lips, glittering with the lights of a city both old and new, against mine in a farewell kiss, and sucked my breath away.  She still hasn’t given it back.  I don’t find myself easily awed (except by fathomless heights and really really big things), but I have never been quite so literally, and consistently, breathless.

I met with Josie later than I’d intended that night after a little debacle involving Google lying to me about train and bus departures, and, being an honest person, I immediately told her about my evening with the temptress and showed her my scandalous photos.  Josie smiled at me and nodded.  I awaited punishment for my crime.  Then she suggested we go meet the temptress together, and I got all excited and grateful that she’d be so enthusiastic to welcome the temptress into our relationship.

Josie and I spent the 15th, the Saturday of our second anniversary weekend, walking hand in hand with the temptress around the City of Westminster (within London).  We started at the National Galleries, where annoying people who just wanted to be able to say they saw some art pushed and shoved through people like us who genuinely wanted to experience the art, and we made our rounds past St. James Park (where we found an isolated little hut I like to think is a witch’s den full of hapless children who came for pretty flowers, birds, and candy, but got a whole lot more) to Big Ben, Westminster Palace (the Houses of Parliament), and Westminster Abbey.  To conclude our adventure, we took a trek (guided by yours truly, me, without the use of mobile pathfinding apps) to spy on Her Majesty the Queen herself.  We used our X-Ray vision to see through the gates and walls of Buckingham Palace (which was actually quite boring compared to Westminster Palace).


super uncomfortable thumb


good ole Monet


the witch is roasting up some children inside


Admittedly, it was somewhat embarrassing being a tourist for a day (although, unlike many other tourists, who think the world is all about them, we were considerate and un-intrusive), but there’s a reason tourism is a thing.  Sometimes life isn’t truly lived if you don’t go and see the sights.  Every wanderer will one day behold the Temptress Tourism, and she will call to you, plucking your heartstrings with her lovely song.  Don’t resist.  Embrace her.  Bring your friends and lovers, too—she’s totally into that.


Queen Victoria statue in front of Buckingham Palace



Mild Culture Shock for Dummies or Something

Mild Culture Shock for Dummies or Something


Walk into a public bathroom to the suspicious greeting of silence.  There’s a buzz in the air, like a rawness, and a tang tickling your nose that hints you may not be alone.  The stalls all appear closed.  If any is occupied, you cannot tell.  Let’s say you’re in America, so the gap between the stall door and the floor is like anywhere between 3 and 15 feet high, but you don’t see the legs of any squatting person to signal occupancy.  And yet, all signs point to someone other than you being in this bathroom.  No silence is so thick unless someone is hiding nearby.

A smile crosses your face, and you interlace your fingers diabolically.  As a certain English sleuth would say, the game is afoot!  You pull a clay pipe, already lit, out of a mysterious pocket somewhere on the overcoat you’re suddenly wearing, and stick it in your mouth.  Get down on your hands and knees and crawl to the first stall.  Peek your head underneath.  Nothing.  Scooch over to the second stall.  Peek your head underneath.  There’s a person standing shivering in fear on the seat of the toilet.  You yell, “Surprise!!!”  The person spontaneously combusts (medical cause:  overload of public-bathroom-anxiety, and also fear I guess, because you’re dressed like Sherlock Holmes and grinning all wide eyed up at them from underneath their locked bathroom stall door.  Just so you know, that’s not a cool thing to do, no matter what country you’re in).  Good times.

Yeah, so sucks for you, because you’re actually in England (I lied about America), and English public stalls are impenetrable to fun-loving sleuths like you.  The stall doors and walls go all the way to the ground, so it’s like you’re sitting in your own little mini dungeon, except not made of stone, and with toilet paper.


very private


Imagine a character named Jordan (oops, that’s my name).  Jordan is walking toward an intersection, a hot coffee steaming in his hand.  Traffic is flitting by, all kinds of boring silver and beige colors, with the occasional flashy red sportscar designed for rich men trying to compensate for something; Jordan can feel the gentle push of the traffic’s wind as he steps up to the edge of the streetHe looks left.  No traffic.  He sips coffee and scalds his mouth.  His tongue feels itty bitty blisters already forming.  Then he steps out and gets squashed by a car.

Why?  He looked the wrong way.

112% of Americans will look the wrong way when crossing traffic (statistic courtesy of My Butt, a very, very scholarly journal with authority on all kinds of relevant things).  On the contrary, Londoners never look the wrong way.  The streets have your back.  They tell you which way to look.


the road saves people from getting run over


It’s a shame I’m over 21 because otherwise purchasing certain liquids with inebriating side effects (legal age in the UK to purchase is 18) would be much more exhilarating.  Pubs are everywhere, and after work, Londoners flock to them like cat hair on a dark sweater.  Apparently it’s the thing.  Americans go out at night.  Londoners go out after work.


I found Baker Street and Fleet Street.  On Fleet Street, although I couldn’t find the infamous Demon Barber, there’s a smashing pub, converted partially from a 13th century monastery.  Apparently Charles Dickens was a regular at this pub, as well as at 7.2 million other pubs located around London.  In other words, many of the older pubs here brag about Charles Dickens, but really it’s nothing special.




Air conditioning isn’t too common in London, so everyone ends up shrouded in sweet, sticky sweat and packed like mules in the underground or in a pub.  Despite that, London still smells infinitely better than Philly.  If Philly is a toilet clogged with rotting fast food, London is a half full trash can equipped with an air-freshener.  I don’t have to pinch my nose shut walking around here.


Before Jordan got squashed by a car, he was just thinking how he really likes London.


taken from the top of a bus


King Henry VIII’s Royal Pooper


Hampton Court Palace Gardens


The Banqueting House, where King Charles I had his head chopped off.


My Ungrateful Cat


(Distant thoughts from March)

The world slips between fantasy and reality more often than we know, every day.  One day you’re slathering butter on toast, fending off the hungry glares of your ungrateful cat and waiting for your delicious and delightfully unhealthy Spam to finish frying, dreaming of seeing some part of the world beyond your water-stained apartment, and the next day, your dream is reality.  You’ve been accepted into a program through which you will begin your first steps to journeying the world.



It’s real, but it doesn’t feel real, even though I’ve completed every pre-departure requirement, made all my payments, signed all my signatures.  It’s as real as it can legally be, yet I sit here pestering my ungrateful cat as if it’s any other day, back when reality was still fantasy.  It doesn’t feel real, but in the distance I see it stampeding towards me.  Its vanguard, the empty horde of time between now and July, still feels so massive, even though, sitting amidst its onslaught, I can already see the last line of attack.  I can already feel the ground quaking beneath the footsteps of this fantasy become reality.  Yet all that roils in my chest is excitement.  Excitement to face the unknown.  Excitement to leave behind my ungrateful cat (in the care of those she loves more than me), and find my place in a world wider than my water-stained apartment.


Stinky Evil Kitty



But excitement forgets my fear.  It’s a fear I don’t have yet, but I foretell its growth as the departure date grows nearer.  I need to purchase flight tickets soon.  I fear doing this.  I need to figure out how to move stuff out of my apartment.  I fear doing this.  I need to make sure all the money I need will be ready.  I fear doing this.  Researching international cellular things.  I fear it.  Anything that makes this real.  Fear.  But why?  I look at my ungrateful cat, and she trots through every day fearlessly.  Her greatest fantasy is her next treat, which she’ll accept without gratitude.  Why are we so different (minus species)?  Well, I’m grateful.  My ungrateful cat would never be so excited and thankful to have the opportunity to study in London.  My ungrateful cat would never be so dedicated to making the most out of travelling to London.  My ungrateful cat also doesn’t have any responsibilities.  I do.  All those fears I mentioned—fear of responsibility.

This trip presents me with some of the greatest responsibilities I’ve ever faced, but facing responsibility is crucial for independence.  Today I conquer one responsibility.  Tomorrow I’ll conquer another.  Every day London will become more real, and, as I tackle these responsibilities, my fears will dissolve.  But I’m not yet ready.  I live like I lived before, shamefully unimpacted by any of this, even though I know I will be soon enough.  I cook my breakfast, I chase my ungrateful cat, I write my stories and procrastinate on writing my stories, and I imagine the thrill of adventure in London.  It’s all very unreal.  It’s fantasy.  But not for long.  Soon I will be ready, and I can’t procrastinate on that.  We can’t be like our ungrateful cats.


She can be cute sometimes, I guess

Day Trips & Day Dreams


What’s the meaning of Stonehenge?! A few classmates and I wanted to know, so we decided to make the pilgrimage to Stonehenge and Bath in the form of a bus tour. We woke up early on a Friday and caught our bus before many of us fell right back asleep—although this proved somewhat difficult since the bus was freezing! My friend and I speculated that, since most places in London don’t have air-conditioning, they were boasting theirs by turning it up full blast. I mean, after all, we are experiencing a “heat-wave” over here. The worst, hottest wave of heat in London for almost a decade. It felt an awful lot like a Philly summer to me. It’s actually kind of cute, in the tube (which is pretty hot, I can’t deny that) they will announce on the loudspeaker that it is a very hot day and that everyone should bring water along with them through their commutes. I could never imagine Septa asking its riders to stay hydrated! Then again, Septa is pretty well air-conditioned…

But back to our day trip! As many of us slept, Tom, our tour guide, spoke bitterly throughout the bus ride about the politics and finances of different areas in London. His classic, sarcastic, London humor—or should I say “humour”—made us all laugh (if not somewhat uncomfortably) until we finally arrived at Stonehenge. Appropriately, we listed to the semi-popular Ylvis song, “What’s the Meaning of Stonehenge?” before proceeding to our ultimate destination. If you haven’t heard the song, you must listen before reading the rest of this post. Here is the link:

It was definitely the soundtrack to our day trip. We still break out in the chorus here and there while in London. It’s so catchy, like, how can you not? The actual henge though, was not quite as impressive as we thought it would be. It was awesome and mystical, but really, it was much smaller than it looks in pictures.

the henge


As we walked around, we took an endless number of pictures including selfies and group pictures self-titled, “brohenge” and “it’s the girl’s henge” along with many others.



It's the girl's henge

It’s the girl’s henge

When we got back to the bus and settled in, we were astonished that Tom decided to leave behind one of the other passengers. “This is what happens when you’re late,” he said (something along those lines at least). Okay, Tom. We kept this in mind. Don’t be late.

Next stop: Bath. I really didn’t know what to expect in Bath. I knew about the Roman baths—which is not where the town name comes from by the way—but not much else. It was absolutely enchanting. Beautiful, old buildings lining every street, live music playing at every corner. It’s hard to quite capture the town’s magnificence.

bath building bath building 2

Some kind of street performer in Bath--it must have taken forever to make that costume, but I'm not quite sure what she's supposed to be.

Some kind of street performer in Bath–it must have taken forever to make that costume, but I’m not quite sure what she’s supposed to be.

Visiting the Roman baths was a particularly awe-inspiring experience as it was so easy to imagine people of ancient times bathing and playing in the water. I’m not even a huge history buff really, but being in the places where so much has taken place can deeply captivate a person. I just kept thinking about how amazing it would have been to be there then—when it was actually in use and not just a crowded tourist destination, when I wouldn’t be just a tourist. I’m sure that’s how a lot of tourists think about it, and that’s why we put up with the rest of the tourists. It’s always been funny to me how a tourist can get annoyed with other tourists. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do the same thing, but it really is a ridiculous concept to ponder.

cool monks at roman baths

Yeah, I was creeping, but these guys just looked so cool admiring the baths!

roman bath building

Group picture at the Roman baths

Group picture at the Roman baths (sorry the lighting is not so great)

We continued to explore and everything was beautiful, but unfortunately my phone had died by then so I have no more pictures. I learned on that trip that you can see a whole lot in a day, so I hope to go on more day trips soon.

My Crib: Living Arrangements in London


I feel like I am falling for this city too hard and too fast. Don’t get me wrong, I do love Philadelphia, and I think it has a lot to offer, but London just gets me. I feel like there is always something going on here—like around every corner is a new adventure. Perhaps this is just my excitement in its absolute newness to me, but the culture shock has been overwhelmingly positive. I mean, I’ve barely even begun to explore, and I still feel this way already.

One thing I do really want to do before I leave is get myself more oriented with where I am by foot. While taking the tube, I tend to become quite disoriented. It is an alarming sensation to step out from the underground and have no idea which direction you went or how far. In Philly, public transportation seems much more straight-forward. Maybe that’s just because of my familiarity with it, but I really enjoy knowing where I am in relation to places I’ve been or to places I’m going. Mentally mapping the city as a pedestrian would make me feel much more comfortable in this space. I will keep you updated on how that goes for me in the following few weeks.

On another note, I have to say, I was extremely pleasantly surprised with the living arrangements we received through study abroad. I mean, I didn’t think it would be awful or anything, but I definitely was not expecting all this. Blithehale Court is a student living apartment complex located in Bethnal Green. It isn’t necessarily in the heart of the city, but anywhere you’d want to go is only a short tube ride away. Plus, I feel like we are getting a more authentic feel for London here since it is not really an area flooded with tourists. We live just a minute or two from the nearest Sainsbury’s Local and I was quick to locate the nearest yoga studio—which is about five minutes away, just around the corner. There is a local park across from our flats and others, like Victoria Park, only a few minutes away, as well. We are surrounded by culture and hidden treasures in any and every direction.

Not to mention the actual flat! We got the real, V.I.P. hookup here. This is actually my first time ever having a bed larger than a twin and my very own bathroom with a shower and everything! I don’t ever want to go home! When I saw the rooms, I just thought, “this is the height of luxury!” We also have a kitchen/living area and were supplied with basic kitchen and cleaning supplies. All in all, the living space is quite a success, and I am lucky to share it with some of the nicest girls I have ever met.

I have been so absorbed with actually exploring and looking around that I haven’t really remembered to take pictures of it all, but I will be sure to provide those soon. For now, here are some lovely pictures of my wonderful flat and my adorable roommates.

The wall in my bedroom matches my hair, so I couldn't resist taking a few selfies.

The wall in my bedroom matches my hair, so I couldn’t resist taking a few selfies.

Yes, we have two fridges/freezers.

Yes, we have two fridges/freezers.

My room before I unpacked, and made it my own.

My room before I unpacked, and made it my own.

These are not all my roommates, but all the girls are absolutely lovely. There are five of us in my flat.

Not all of these women are my roommates, but all the girls are absolutely lovely. There are five of us in my flat.

Me and two of my roommates. I'm pretty sure I've already made life-long friends here, and I hope they feel the same way.

Me and two of my roommates. I’m pretty sure I’ve already made life-long friends here, and I hope they feel the same way.