This site contains an archive of posts from Macaulay Honors College students’ studies away and abroad from December 2008 through September 2012. Please read and enjoy!
Macaulay Global Experience Conference 9/21/12
Today I presented this pre”z”entation at the Macaulay Global Experience Conference all about how I planned and executed my study abroad to Melbourne Australia.
So, it would seem there’s a limit to the amount of megabytes one can upload onto an ePortfolio site… And if I keep up at the rate I’ve been going, I’m going to break that in the first two week’s worth of pictures. I’ll try to reserve uploads for the most important pictures, and then supplement the rest with Dropbox links, though how permanent those will be is a mystery to me. I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog! More pictures coming!
Knitting Memories: BOX JELLYFISH!
Sometimes you just need to knit something. Sometimes that thing happens to come out looking kinda like a jelly fish, even though you were kinda going for octopus. Sometimes it’s awesome anyway.
The adorable little girl on the left is my six year old niece on her first day of first grade. She has been counting down the days of summer and is so excited to be joining the world of school-ies. And you guessed it: There on the right is me, on the first day of my senior year in college. There could be some metaphorically resonant* symbolism in this pair of photos, but mostly it just makes me feel old.
(It was also a nice way to send my niece some transatlantic love from her favorite aunt.)
My niece was born when I was a freshman in high school, and I felt all grown up even then. And although I have one foot out the “youngin” door, or as my father likes to call it-”Senioritis,” I understand a lot of what she is feeling.
First days are hard. No matter how old you are or how many ‘first days’ you’ve had already. You are forced to grapple with the contradiction of expecting the unexpected. No matter how much you try to prepare, there’s the inherent uncertainty of what will be. But that’s also part of the fun.
After my first week of senior year, I am reveling in the excitement of the new, even within the familiarity of my home campus. New professors, new syllabi, used-books-that-are-new-to-me. Not knowing what to expect leads to surprises that can be wonderful too. I hadn’t expected, for example, to see people from my high school, who were freshman when I was a senior and recognizing some metaphorically resonant aspect to the déjà vu-ness of it all.
I wish my niece success on her first, first day, and wish her many more happy uncertain surprises to come.
*I would just like to give full credit to John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” for adding that wonderful phrase to my lexicon.
Summer Barbequeing at the Great Falls
In the two weeks of my actual summer vacation my parents and I traveled south to Washington DC. The plan was simple: visit museums, see some national monuments and find a pool. Plus if you know my family, you’ll know a trip is never complete without a barbeque at a park. Great Falls National Park, on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia, turned out to be an excellent place for a bbq and a perfectly peaceful spot to end our 4 day trip and recharge before our drive back home.
What’s your favorite part of road tripping?
The Brooklyn Museum
Summer vacation is finally upon me. After completing two summer classes and my audiology internship I’m finally on vacation and I have twenty days before fall semester. Let the summer-ing begin!
I love visiting museums because you always feel like you’re learning something even while you’re simply enjoying the art. There’s a sense of calm in museum exhibits. Plus, there’s always air-conditioning!
The Brooklyn Museum is so close and so impressive. My mother and I had a wonderful time exploring the varied exhibits after joining a guided tour. Here is a quick snippet of what we saw.
My summer recommendation: eat ice-cream and then visit a museum!
Back In The States (With An Internet Connection)!
I know what you’re thinking: where have I been the past month? Well, between all the traveling I did at hostels without internet access and the shoddy internet connection at the dorms, I haven’t gotten enough time to log on and post my accumulating blog entries. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting the things I’ve written during my time abroad, so the waiting for a new entry is over! I’ll space them out so it’s not a deluge of posts, but there are a lot of them. Anyway, stay tuned for new entries, because my apartment’s internet connection is much, much better than what I had over there.
Winning the eportfolio expo was wonderful!
Here are some of the apps I’ve found really engaging on the iPad so far. Make sure to leave me suggestions for more awesome apps.
Hope you are enjoying your summer!
Not to mention the little obsessive, addicting app!
A Quick After-Study Update
As I’ve said, I had an amazing month in London and am currently in Ireland, en route to the Skelligs off the west coast. Once I get back from there, I’m heading back to Edinburgh, Scotland, seeing as though I’ve pretty much made up my mind that I’m moving there sometime in the future. After that, I head back to London and ultimately to the states to join all of you lovely people! I see lots of pictures in the future of this blog, but for now, ta-ta!
Looking at my past month here, I feel what I need to say can be best said in the words of Inigo Montoya:
“Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”
In all honesty, I don’t know if I could really explain fully how this trip has affected me. It’s reaffirmed my belief in my career path, upset the balance of my day-to-day life, made me reconsider where I want to live after college, given me an amazing insight on many kinds of British literature, and all around added its stamp on who I am as a person. I don’t mean to be so sentimental about all this, but I’m going to come back to New York City a different person with a new view of the world at large. Okay, maybe I am being sentimental, but it’s hard not to with all the beautiful places I’ve seen and life-altering things I’ve experienced. Sentimental or not, I have an amazing month abroad under my belt, in addition to another glorious, self-reflective week plus in the Isles.
I’ll be adding a few more blog posts about what all I do in Ireland, Scotland, and London, but for now, goodbye my wonderful study abroad experience, and see you soon to those who’ve been reading this.
The Final Countdown… Er, Week…
This past week has been absolutely nuts! I won’t go too in depth about the minutia of my last week of the program, since it was mostly sitting around and writing papers, but I did get to see Richard III at the Globe! I know, I know, you’d think that the thrill of going to the Globe would start being numbed after two performances there, but I still loved it! The actor who played Richard III was absolutely impeccable in his role, and the fact the production was all male gave it that extra authenticity I love to see in performances of Shakespeare.
Besides that, the past few days have been really relaxed. Other than Richard III, my two classes didn’t have any field trips, which was all the better for me since I had to write two 2000-word essays for them. As per usual, I went to a pub or two for some sticky toffee pudding, which is definitely one of the things I’ll miss most from living in London. Well, that and the sausage rolls!
It was quite hard to say goodbye to all the people I’d met, and even though the excitement of the Olympics made things more interesting, my last day was still pretty sad. I did get to see the first sequence of the opening ceremonies on TV, but really, the Olympics just blocked off a lot of the good parts of London while I was there. You could still gain access to the parks, for instance, but all the good bits were blocked off! I actually had to wake up at 4 in the morning to make it to my 8:50 train, despite the trip only (normally) taking about an hour and a half. Hey, I guess that’s what I get for studying abroad in the host city of the Olympics.
I’ll leave the concluding summary about my experience in London for the next blog post, since I’m kind of exhausted from traveling. Until then, sayonara!
Stratford-Upon Avon and A Swooning Shakespeare Fan
I only have time for a brief write-up about my day since I have to get some sleep; I’m waking up at five to leave for Paris which is a wonderful, but exhaustive prospect.
Stratford-Upon-Avon was amazing. I mean, seriously, breath-takingly amazing. As you should have guessed by now, I’m an enormous Shakespeare fan, so visiting Stratford was definitely one of the best, most perfect days of my life. I’m really not overstating how big of an impression it made on me; it was a perfect day, and it felt so complete I didn’t actually mind leaving!
I was pretty tired, this morning, particularly because of all the lazy, mindless traveling, but I perked right up when we arrived in the early afternoon. Nick took us to the theatre where we’d be seeing the Tempest, and after that let us off to wander and get lunch. My friend and I went to Shakespeare’s birthplace, which I unfortunately did not go inside. It was actually 13 pounds to gain entry, and though I find that more than worth it to visit something so historic, we didn’t have enough time to make it worth the price. Instead, I got four different styles of pressed pennies from the machine outside the entryway and had tea directly across from it. Afterwards, I got to see the Tempest, which had a very different interpretation from how I see it in my head. The whole show was Tim Burton-esque, with an elegant and beautiful eeriness, which really resounded with the piece. Ariel was identical to Prospero, save that he wasn’t wearing shoes, and his movements were weird and disjointed. (I mention this because Ariel is usually more fluid and graceful in his motions, and is, at times, played by a woman.) I think what stuck with me the most out of it, aside from the magnificent Shakespearean lines and amazing metaphors, was Ariel using a violin bow on the edge of a xylophone to make music. That particular bit was beautiful, but unsettling and odd. After that very different interpretation of the Tempest, a few of us wandered over to Holy Trinity Church, where we saw the gorgeous interior of the church as well as Shakespeare’s grave. To be honest, the whole thing was pretty moving for me, and not just because I’m a big Shakespeare fan. The church is gorgeous, the cemetery is as well, and the section with Shakespeare’s grave in it is amazingly beautiful. With that visit, I completed a full cycle of Shakespeare’s life: birth, life, farewell to the stage, and death, which is particularly why I wasn’t sad to leave. Besides, I’m going to go back there someday, and I hope it’s just as beautiful when I return.
After buying a couple souvenirs at the church, we stopped by the gift shop at Shakespeare’s birthplace, bought a few souvenirs (like my new darling Shakesbear), and then ate at the oldest pub in Stratford. It was an adorable place, and if my camera hadn’t died, I would have taken a lot more pictures of it! As it was, we made it out of there just in time to catch the train with a few other people from our class, and it took a good couple hours to get back to the dorms. I have Paris in the morning, which I’ll probably sum up in a short blog, seeing as though it isn’t technically part of my study abroad program. For now, I’m beat. Good night, everyone, and I’ll talk to you in a few days!
London and Its Lit: A Holmes By Any Other Name…
Well, to be more accurate, would a Holmes by any other location smell as… Intuitive? Seeing as though this is a literature class about London, our discussion of Sherlock Holmes this morning revolved not only around Holmes as a character, but also how London acts as a character in the text. Frankly, that’s kind of what I have planned for my final essay in this class, so I’ll be able to use some of that discussion in how I frame my argument. I don’t really want to talk too much about what we did in the classroom today, specifically because the afternoon’s instruction was so much cooler! If you aren’t aware of what I did this afternoon, you haven’t been reading this blog. If you have, you’ll know that Nick took us to the Sherlock Holmes Museum!
Now, if I’m most excited about The Tempest for my Shakespeare class, Sherlock Holmes is definitely what I’m most excited for in my London Lit class. Now, I already stopped at the gift shop once before (and came away with many, many, many random thingies of sleuthly awesomeness), but I hadn’t gotten the chance to actually go inside the museum. There was, unfortunately, a long line going in, but the museum itself is really interesting and fun for someone familiar with Holmes’ stories. The study was definitely the best part, and they actually let you take pictures in the deer-stalker and sitting chairs! It’s a very small gesture, but one that I enjoyed to no end. Honestly, I would love to actually live in the little house the museum is housed in; the study just radiates the qualities I look for in somewhere to sit for hours on end, and the furniture is all so charming I couldn’t help getting giddy whenever I used it! It was really a great experience for a literature nerd like myself, and I did actually make it down the gift shop again afterwards. I know, they reel you in with the deer-stalker pictures and force you to buy random things you don’t need! I’m not particularly bitter though; I am quite happy with the little doo-dads I got between both visits, and I think the miniature Holmes will go nicely with my puzzle cubes at home.
After seeing the museum, the Holmes revelry did not actually end. My friend and I went to the Sherlock Holmes Pub, which is not associated with museum and is not located on Baker Street. (Fun factoid: though the museum’s location is actually around 241 Baker Street, they petitioned the city to get special permission to have its address be 221B Baker Street. The actual position of where 221B Baker street would be is denoted by a statue of the great detective.) The pub was really cool, and had a lot of similar things to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, but with a much more theatrical flair. It was a really nice place to sit and read, and the food was pretty decent. By the time I ultimately got home, I was quite pleased with the amount of Holmes I received.
I would lament the passing of our class studying Sherlock Holmes, but I’m too busy being excited for Stratford-Upon-Avon! Seriously, I’m so excited about this I can hardly stand it! I’ll be sure to leave a post when I get home tomorrow night, but I don’t know how long it will be. It takes a couple hours to get there and another couple to get back, so I could be home a little late, and besides, I’m off to Paris the day after. I need to get some sleep in order to function for what is sure to be an amazing day, so I’m off. Good night, all, and I wish you as good a day as I’ll be having tomorrow!
Shakespeare R&P: Henry V and The Tempest!
As I predicted yesterday, today was a really easy-going day. Frankly, I’m really glad that I haven’t had to hike around London for a couple days; I may not be “sick” anymore, but I certainly don’t feel completely well again. We talked about the cold-inducing Henry V this morning, which was really great, and in the afternoon we discussed The Tempest! I am exceedingly excited about going to Stratford on Thursday, and not just because The Tempest is one of my favorite works of Shakespeare. Getting to see the birthplace of Shakespeare is going to be one of the more amazing things I’ve done in my life, and I cannot wait to go to the church he’s buried in! I’m such a Shakespeare nerd…
I really don’t have all that much interesting stuff to say right about now; the day was calm, the discussion perfect for preparing to watch The Tempest, and the afternoon/early evening laid back. Yep, it was a pretty boring day, now that I think about it! Oh well. The next six days should make up for the drollness of this post, namely because I’ll be going to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Stratford-Upon-Avon, and Paris during them. Yeah, now whose study abroad trip is boring? Anyway, I’m going to spend the rest of the night trying to get a little preliminary work done on my final essays, which I won’t be doing this weekend because of the whole Paris thing. After that, it’s bedtime to get the rest I need for a hectic almost week! So, for now, toodle-loo!
London and Its Lit: Oliver, Oliver…
Today was a really good way to get back into the swing of being non-sick for school activities; instead of going out on the town after our morning discussion of Oliver Twist, we watched a movie version of it. No, it wasn’t the musical, but it was still very engaging. It was also really long and in black and white, but I definitely don’t dock it for being that way, considering how much I enjoyed it. It stuck very close to the book, which is sometimes difficult to do when transposing a text to film. I really don’t have all that much to say about what we did in class, but I love Oliver Twist as a text.
What I can say, and what this morning’s discussion was mostly about, is that Nancy is a very difficult character to work and come to terms with. The stereotype of a fallen woman redeeming herself in the eyes of society and God was too thorny for the era Dickens wrote in, forcing him to kill her off at the end. Despite how awful it is to see her death, especially at the hands of the one person she tried not to betray, it was the only way for her story to end without upsetting the audience of the book. Then again, Dickens stripped away the Romantic ideals of the charming rogue with his depictions of Fagin and Sykes, so a little extra controversy probably wouldn’t have hurt the text too much.
Tomorrow will be another easy-going, all-class day, particularly because we have to cover the Tempest before we go to Stratford-Upon-Avon on Thursday. I am so completely exuberant over the prospect of seeing Stratford, and I’m not sure how well I’m going to sleep the night before, all excitement considering. For now, though, it’s time to sleep and think thoughts of Henry V and the Tempest. So, good night, and I’ll check in again tomorrow!
Yay, Books (And Sufficient Energy)!
Yessirreebob, Brittany is finally back in action! It took two days for most of my nasty cold to dry up, and though I can still feel it pushing at the back of my sinuses, I actually had the energy to go out on the town! I would have been really mad if I hadn’t, because today was very nice.
To begin with, I woke up in the later morning feeling just a bit sick still. I took some cold medicine, and headed out to London with one of my friends, where we spent a good three hours perusing bookshops near Charing Cross. It was absolutely wonderful! My favorite bookstore in New York City is the Strand, particularly because of the Rare Books Room on the third floor. Well, basically every single store we went into was covered in turn of the century books, ranging from philosophy to art to poetry to fiction and everything in between. I walked away from those bookstores with about seven more books than I’d started with in the morning, which I’ll now have to deal with in my suitcase… Still, I think a 3 pound, late 1800′s/early 1900′s edition of Christopher Marlowe’s seminal works is more than worth a little back and arm ache. The smell alone is worth the price, and they look so pretty sitting on my nightstand! We were unfortunately called away when two more of my friends asked if we wanted to go to Abbey Road. Obviously, we did, so we left the beautiful, amazing bookstores, hopped on the transit system, and made it over to the very touristy and surprisingly congested crosswalk. We did not have the foresight to bring a fifth person to actually take the picture, so a couple of French tourists were nice enough to catch us walking across the crosswalk. After that, we signed the wall outside the studio and headed to the Sherlock Holmes Museum! My London Lit class is going there pretty soon, but that didn’t stop us from going into the gift shop and buying some fun souvenirs. I almost got a letter opener with the great detective as the handle, but decided against in when I realized I’d have to get a relatively knife-like object through US and British Customs. After that, we split into to pairs, my bookstore friend and I heading to a partially closed off St. James Park. (Thank you, Olympics!) We still got to go to the waterside and read some poetry in the late afternoon light, despite the barriers blocking off about half of the park, but it would’ve been nice to see the full extent of “London’s Central Park.” Finally, we headed to Leceister Square for some food and headed back to Surbiton just as it got dark.
Now, it’s late, and I need to get some sleep, even though tomorrow won’t be a particularly strenuous day. I’m very excited about my recent book acquisitions, and I plan on starting “Irish Fairy Tales” when I head to Ireland! For now, it’s bedtime for Brittany in Britain, so good all you lovely people across the Pond!
Rooftop in Brooklyn
Fast forward and you will hear it: the sound of a million passerby who flow through New York like tiny organisms inside mother earth’s womb. They breathe in the stuffy air of the yellow, orange, and number trains with a hint of weariness as they look at their watches. They see 59th Street, Lincoln Center, Harlem, Bedford, and Flushing with each second passes — then back home again, to point A, where they leave from every morning and come back to every night.
New Yorkers, they call themselves, the bunch that acts like there is nothing in the world that can scare them but their own shadows. New Yorkers, they all believe, are not just who they are, but also who they have become. Their dreams and their goals might be realized, but who they have morphed into is inexplicable to them.
New Yorkers would stare at their own reflections when the train passes through dark tunnels and ask themselves if it is time to move on — from New York, from her tight grip, from her off-putting charm. But like other New Yorkers and the classic New Yorkers, no one can move away from New York because she has a way of sucking you back in. And sometimes, she pulls you in so deep that you forget the reasons why you have come to her in the first place.
But you — like other New Yorkers — love New York. You love her consistent smell of untreated sewage on a hot summer day, of her burnt pretzels and Nuts-for-Nuts, of her black, tar rooftops. You love her consistent scream of Bachata, Merengue, Bollywood, Chinese folk songs, jazz, rap, hip hop, and dubstep. You love her consistent image of downtown Manhattan, of fire escapes, of crowded stadiums, of the greener-on-the-other-side Central Park. You love her irresistibly. You love her indifferently.
You love her because she has given you the key, but not the door.
Another Reading Day!
It’s Saturday in the lovely outer boroughs of London, and I’m lazing about reading books, tending to my awful cold. It’s been a pretty uneventful day… I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay that way, considering the fact that I still feel miserable. I’m at least clear-headed enough to finish reading the books I hadn’t gotten the chance to finish, namely a quick re-read of the Tempest and Richard III, which are the other two plays we’re studying and watching in my Shakespeare class. That’s about all I’ve been doing today, but I figure since I’m about halfway through the program, I’ll do a quick sum up of my experience so far (providing my head allows it).
This has been a really interesting and engaging experience for me. I mean, that’s kind of a “no duh” statement, but it’s true. I’ve done a lot of touristy things, most of which I’ve related in this blog; hung out in some pubs for pub grub, which has been delicious and very fatty; and gotten a taste of what college is like for British students. I think the most different thing about studying the UK is the grading system, where grades in the 70s are considered “A’s.” I’m not sure how exactly they go about converting UK grades to those that work in the US system, but my head is really too groggy to postulate a guess and, besides, I’m not the one who has to worry about it. I’m really enjoying the instruction of Nick, whose wit has made every class entertaining while simultaneously educational. (I kind of wish I could take him back to CCNY and let him teach some of my classes…) I really enjoy the feel of British life, and if for whatever reason I had to live in London instead of Edinburgh, I wouldn’t be complaining. They’re both very old cities, and I love that sense of history that wafts up from the old cobbles of the winding backstreets… And on that bombshell, it’s time to end. (UK Top Gear? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?)
I suppose I should get back to reading and resting; I have big plans for some small bookstores tomorrow, and I want to have as much energy as possible before setting out in the morning. So, for now, I’m going to go read beautiful and philosophical things like “we are such things as dreams are made on,” which is the beginning of one of Prospero’s more infamous speeches. Good evening, and good reading!
London and Its Lit: Dickens Walk and a Sick Brittany
I’m sick. When I say I’m sick, I mean I’m very sick. Like, needing some serious cold medicine sick. I mentioned in my last blog entry how Henry V was wet, cold, and ran until late. Well, that came back to bite me in the morning when I woke up feeling like my head was about to pop into little mucus-y pieces. Lovely, I know. I actually had to miss class this morning, effectually turning in my first paper in a couple hours late, and only after some serious catnapping was I able to get the energy to go on the Dickens Walk through Central London. I was pretty miserable for that, too, and I’m sure my writing is suffering as much as my head right about now, so I’ll sum up the walk briefly.
Basically, we followed a map in a book about historical walks through London, and this particular walk followed a lot of the sites found in Oliver Twist. We visited the area where Oliver gets accused of stealing a man’s handkerchief, then followed the general path of the ruthless crowd as they tried to catch him. I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if I could’ve focused on what Nick was saying, but even so, we saw some pretty things. I’d say the best was the last stop, which was a large, red brick building with architectural elements you don’t normally see in red brick, namely arches and detailed flourishes.
Obviously, I’m out of it, and though the medicine I bought at Boots is helping, it certainly isn’t enough to keep my mind on this entry, so I’m going to go be a blob in bed. Ta-ta for now, and wish me luck at feeling better! (Though, I’m just saying, it’s Friday the 13th, so luck might not be on my side tonight…)
Shakespeare R&P: Henry V!
I won’t write too lengthy a blog entry for this, seeing as though it’s really late and I’m still damp and cold from the performance, but here goes:
In the mid-morning/afternoon, we got the opportunity to see the Globe exhibit, which is a really cool museum describing life around the Globe in Shakespeare’s times, various crafts of the stage, and other pertinent things. There were Jacobean style costumes in a recreated period costume shop, props from past productions at the Globe, and a large amount of history about the new Globe (which had its first performance in my birth year)! I enjoyed seeing everything, but I’d have to say my favorite part was reading lines from Romeo and Juliet with a pre-recorded actor’s voice and having a program play it back for me. That was fun!
Even starting at 7:30 and running until late, Henry V was brilliant… You know, except for the rain which poured down on us all four hours that we were there. You aren’t allowed to open umbrellas inside the theatre, and I wasn’t wearing appropriate rain gear, so I got really wet. Still, I was barely paying attention to that when the actors were onstage, particularly Henry; he had an amazing stage presence, and all of his rallying speeches were invigorating! We became the foot soldiers of the war which figures in the “national myth of England”; basically, the story behind Henry V explains the legitimacy of the ruling family of England, though they ended up getting killed off pretty soon after and had to be replaced by Scots from there on out… Probably why England doesn’t want to give Scotland its independence!
I’d have to say my favorite scene was at the very end of the play, when Henry sets about wooing his French cousin in a very awkward and adorably clueless way. Hey, don’t blame me for liking the scene with moderate incest; it’s really funny! It’s also very different from the rest of the play, because up until that point, cultured women and men had never actually interacted. It’s really a male-dominated show, particularly because the majority of it deals with war. I really did enjoy it overall, and I would be more than happy to see it again… Providing I don’t wear capris and flats…
Anyways, I’m not feeling so great after the four hours in the rain and the lateness of the hour, so I’m going to hit the hay. Good night, everyone!
London and Its Lit and Shakespeare R&P Together…
I didn’t get the chance to write up about yesterday… Well, yesterday, so I’m including that fairly uneventful day with this one for the sake of convenience for everyone!
So, yesterday morning we talked about the Taming of the Shrew, going over what we thought of the performance and how they had interpreted the text. If I enjoyed this play before, I probably enjoyed it just a little bit more with the additional discussion after the fact! It’s really interesting to see how differently some people perceived the performance, despite how clearly they portrayed their take on the text. It’s all one, though, because I personally enjoyed it despite my previous hatred of all things Taming of the Shrew. In the afternoon portion of the class, we started our discussion of Henry V, which should prove to be a very interesting and engaging performance! It’s one of the histories, and though the histories have never been my be-all end-all favorites, I really enjoyed this one. It was really nice to continue my knowledge of the Henriad from high school into a college atmosphere, and I think tomorrow’s performance will be very engaging (though male dominated because of the text and nature of the action).
There was also a barbecue with some of the Kingston students after that, and I had a lot of fun playing football (or soccer) and other sports with the British natives… Might have gotten my pants completely covered in mud, and my legs a bit bruised, but I had a lot of fun doing so. We actually played a game I haven’t played since middle school, namely where one person throws a ball into the air and assigns a point value to it, with whoever catching it receiving the points. It’s really simple but really fun, and I was actually really good at it! I might have accidentally slammed into a couple people, but I got hit more than enough times to make up for that! I went to bed bruised and a little residually dirty, but happy.
In London and Its Literature this morning, we discussed a lot of poetry about London, obviously! I was familiar with a couple of them, particularly “London” by Blake, but I was happy to be exposed to all of them. I don’t read a lot of poetry, but what I do is mostly traditional stuff, like what we covered in class. In the afternoon, we visited Samuel Johnson’s house, which was really fun and a little bit funny. Samuel Johnson wrote a monumentally important dictionary, which was regarded as the standard for nearly 200 years, and his house is a reflection of the mid-1700′s. There were some really beautiful pieces of furniture, and I particularly loved Johnson’s sense of humor in some of his dictionary entries. For instance, the definition for “oats” is: a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people. He has several others which are equally witty, but I’ll let you look on the internet at the other entries. As a theatre geek, probably the most fun part was trying on period clothing and laughing at the cumbersome undergarments. The dress I tried on had what I called “saddle bags”; two structured lobes were attached by a belt around my waist in order to make my hips and legs look wider. It seems really impractical considering how minimalist undergarments and clothing is nowadays, but it was the norm for the period and, therefore, was nice to experience.
The past two days have been really nice, and fairly low-key. I hope to change that with Henry V tomorrow, but we’ll see about that. For now, good night, world at large!
Where do I even begin? I have had four of the most amazing days of my life, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to relate them to you in the full detail required… It was just too wonderful!
To begin with, it was raining/sprinkling/overcast… For all four days. I know, you would think being cold and wet would effectively dampen my spirits (ha, ha). It didn’t! We left in the early hours of the morning from an overcast London, taking a four-hour long train ride out of King’s Cross directly to Edinburgh. Yes, I took the touristy Platform 9 3/4 photo, but I was a lot more excited by the scenery on the way there. We passed through some beautiful areas of both England and Scotland, and occasionally were able to see the sea and the shoreline! The only thing about that journey which was a little odd was a stag party at the back of our train car. One of them, presumably the stag, passed through the car asking people to sign his (plastic!) penis. We all got a kick out of that, and eventually, we made it to Edinburgh.
Our tour guide (aka “our fearless leader”) Mike met us outside the train station and took us to the hostel to drop off our stuff. After that, he led us on a brief tour of the area, particularly what is known as the “Old City.” If it gives you any hints about how beautiful it is, the “New City” was built in the 1700′s. Yeah, it’s an old city, and that’s why it absolutely captured my heart! Like, I’m seriously, seriously considering moving to Scotland based off this trip. I’ll talk more about that later though. After our little tour of the “Old City”, a few of us went off to do what any good tourist would do: buy souvenirs and eat some haggis. After doing those necessary things, we visited Greyfriar’s Cemetery where we spent a good couple hours wandering through the gravestones. That site is actually where J.K. Rowling got a lot of the names for her characters in Harry Potter, so it was cool, as a writer, to see that physical influence on a story. After taking way too many photos, we wandered up to a hill with an incomplete replica of the Parthenon. It turns out they had run out of money in the middle of the project, so they stopped midway, and it’s been like that ever since. By the time we left, the beautiful panoramic view of the city was going dark (i.e. it was around 10 PM or so), so we headed back to the hostel and pretty much went to bed immediately after.
The next day, which was a very early and rainy day, we made our way to the Highlands! We passed a lot of pretty, pretty things along the way, and the stops along the way were really cool! Our first stop was at the Pass of Killiecrankie, where a great battle took place. Soldier’s Leap is the most notable part of the area, where a fleeing man jumped successfully from one cliff-face at the side of the river to the other over. Today, thrill seekers jump off of it and into the water, and tourists like us watch! The second stop was St. Andrews, which, if you know Chariot’s of Fire, was where the classic running on the beach in slow mo to music scene was filmed. Google “Chariot’s of Fire song” and you should come up with it. While there we visited the ruins of a fort, a cathedral, a graveyard, and a couple little shops for souvenirs and food. After that, we stopped by a little building in the middle of the woods where several Scottish writers came to think and write. It was an absolutely beautiful area, and it was really amazing because there was a secret door which lead to a room with the most gorgeous view of a waterfall. If I could live there, I absolutely would! We all made it back to the bus and finally got to Inverness, which is right at the bottom edge of Loch Ness. A couple friends and I went out for some food, stopping to call for Nessie and pick up souvenirs on the way. After that, we hung out in the bar for most of the night, my friends trying whisky while I drank water awkwardly. We had a really cool encounter with the bar tender and a couple of his friends after they closed the bar. They taught us a couple Scottish songs, which we sang along with loudly until 3 in the morning, when we finally had to turn in.
About four hours later, the next day began, and it began with a very interesting look into the Highland traditions, i.e. traditional kilts, weapons, etc. That included watching someone strip to his skivvies to put on a kilt, which I was kind enough not to take pictures of. It was really fascinating to get that glimpse into the Highland culture, and I have to say, some of those weapons were impressive. My friend got “killed” by a hooked and bladed weapon in a gruesome way that really does not need repeating! After that, we did a lot of driving, stopping a couple times along the way. The first stop was a little port town with the ruins of an old fort and a very cool sea-glass beach. I was brave enough to venture onto a small island where several birds were eating before having to get back on the bus. After that, we made our way to a national park, where we stopped at a mountain range called the Three Sisters. They were absolute beauties, and I felt really small next to them; sure, I’ve passed through the Rockies before, but the parts I pass through did not make me feel nearly so dwarfed! We drove through the national park, where we experienced the only patch of blue sky from the whole four days. It was perfectly timed, and the view was gorgeous. We made a quick stop just outside of the national park to see hairy coos, which are long-haired cows with large horns. After, we passed the castle they used to film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I got two very blurry pictures of by luck! We stopped by the William Wallace Monument, which was on a very steep hill made slick with mud by the rain. It took us a little bit longer after that to return to Edinburgh where a few of us got food at an American diner for laughs. Finally, after spending a little bit hanging out in the bar, it was time for bed.
Today was our last day in Scotland, and it started with a visit to Edinburgh Castle, where we saw the Scottish Crown Jewels (obviously out of use now), war memorials, information about soliders, and other very interesting historical things. As is appropriate in Great Britain, my friend and I had tea at the castle before heading off for a couple more souvenir stops. By the time we finished, it was time to head onto the train and back to London, where it was, surprise, not raining!
Overall, I had an amazing, life-changing journey in Scotland, and I’ll be all too happy to repeat it! I have a week and a half extra time after the program is over to play around Europe, and I think I’ll cut my time short in Ireland and go back to Edinburgh… Luckily, I haven’t planned anything yet, so I’m still free! I think I’ll look into moving to Scotland once I’m back in the states, but it’ll still be two years until I’d make that particular move. I’m really beat, and after a very, very lengthy blog entry about it, I have to say good night and good bye to the lovely Scotland. So, good night!
Shakespeare R&P: Taming of the Shrew
I mentioned yesterday that I pretty much loathe the Taming of the Shrew with the white hot passion of a thousand burning suns. Well, today the fires have been quenched, and I actually found it extremely entertaining. Here’s why:
It started with our discussion of the play this morning. A lot of people don’t believe that there is an inherent misogyny in the piece that isn’t light-hearted, comedic, or sarcastic. I used to be one of those people, but the Taming of the Shrew really isn’t that misogynistic, particularly when it’s compared to the contemporary literature of the time. For instance, there’s a particular ballad about a shrewish wife, like Katherina, who is disciplined in… How can I put this gently… In one of the most sadistic ways I’ve read in literature. Just for being stubborn, the wife is flogged bloody and wrapped in the salted skin of a recently deceased plow-horse named Morel. Yeah, compare that to what Petruchio does and see if it’s really that bad. For those of you who don’t know the play, Petruchio withholds food and sleep from Katherina, taming her in the same way a hawker tames his hawk. (As a quick interjection, “Kate” actually bears similarities to the word “kite,” which is a term for a hawk.) What most people don’t realize is that Petruchio is also undergoing the same treatment of no food or sleep in ensuring Katherina receives none, making it really a battle of wits and wills. This is really only as true as the interpretation of the performers and the readers of the text, but close examination reveals a much milder prejudice than people, like me, think.
The performance we saw was superb. Our thirteen-person class got to the Globe early enough to lean against the stage, so I didn’t even notice we were standing for three hours! The actors were superb, and maybe I’m biased because of how monumental the experience of seeing a play at the Globe was to me, but I thought it was the best production of the play I’ve seen or heard about. They use traditional costumes, though they actually had people half in modern clothes in the frame part of the story. (The Taming of the Shrew is framed by a trick played on a drunkard named Sly, and the present action of the story is actually a play within the play, making it even less misogynistic than many think.) Overall, this afternoon was great, and I’m so excited to see two more plays at the Globe! I do have to get some sleep though, if I even can get to sleep; I’m leaving for Scotland in the morning and might be too excited to sleep! I will make a concerted effort, so for now, good night!