Friday, April 13, 2018

9th Grade Me Goes Abroad for the First Time

What follows is a transcription of the hand-written journal I kept when I went on my first overseas trip in 9th grade with my History/English class to London.  An incredibly formative experience that set the tone for my travel-bug proclivities that remain a big part of me two decades later. Many cringeworthy and LOL moments in here. 

Though the great divestiture of all my paper-wrought memories and scrapbooks has been hard, I have been so grateful for the chance to relive some of these moments, sometimes decades in the distance.  It's great to be able to measure what's changed and what's the same.

Day 2- Trafalgal Square
Spent the day being tired but it was cool seeing all the paintings from artists. We walked and got wet and took pictures at Trafalgar Square and Picadilly circus.  There are lots of pigeons. People make you stand all the time.  Cars and crossing the street are scary. We need sleep.  At the gallery(ies) we saw Warhol, Titian, Constable, Boticelli, Turner, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Ruisdale and lots others. It was great and I felt so educated to be able to go around and point out certain works and look a thte paintings with an intellectual eye.  Everything is so new and unexpected.  I am getting used to this feeling but I am going to be unsure for a while.

Day 3- (April 2) Bus tour, St. Paul's, Guard Changing, Theatre

 Bus tour was informative.  Good gossip. Loved the details on St. Paul's.  St. Paul's was beautiful, lighter and more romanesque than National Cathedral's gothic style. I liked it better. Seeing London and shopping and having a free afternoon was really cool.  I got a cute jumper that's really classic and I'm glad I didn't think it was too expensive. I'm looking for an opportunity to use my french with all the international people here. I want to try a lot. I watched a scary French movie. Dinner was good at Dino's. Never had straight vinegar on a salad. I like it! Shopping was so fun. I felt very American the whole time. I was always conscious of my nationality. I'd feel dumb trying to use french but it's here and I have to "seize now and here the hour that is nor trust some later day" so that's a little bit my frame of mind. Today was good. I had a Provençette at Gigi's and it was really good. Sundried tomatoes, lettuce and mozzarella cheese all hot and melty and the bread was yummy too. I couldn't eat all of it. I made notes of places I wanted to go back to and I want to see Les Mis again here. The best part is, it's all within my reach. I actually can do it all. We saw Beauty and the Beast and it was good but corny. A little too Disney for my tastes. I sat next to Peter and we made fun of Geston.

Day 4 - April 3  Globe Theater, Tower of London, Picadilly/Oxford

The Globe was interesting when we were being talked to by the guide. But when we were just walking around and scouting for ourselves we just got kinda bored after the exhibition.  The tower of London was cool when I saw the Scaffold Square and the Crown Jewels absolutely entranced me. They were so...Sparkly! I really enjoyed seeing them. The afternoon was fun. I got an outfit for my cousin's wedding and I had a really good dinner at Planet Hollywood. We were going to go see an IMAX movie but we didn't have time so we went to Oxford street only to discover that EVERYTHING closes at 6. I was so angry. London sounds like it should have as much of a nightlift as it does a day life but that's false. Me, Rachel and Emily found a disco but it wasn't open at 9:30pm on a Friday night! The cultural differences are hard to surmount but we do. I really felt like a Londoner today.  I am the Tube Queen. I can get you anywhere/everywhere on those things. I can also find my way around pretty well. This experience of "nomad"ness for a night was slightly disheartening but it was good to know we could do it. Everyone was tired and touchy when we got back and no one really took the quizzes seriously except me and Brian. Rachel was getting really surly (to put it nicely) and we needed a break. My legs hurt, my feet are sore, I HATE STAIRS! But I feel strangely satisfied with the unsatisfactory evening. We got checked out all over the place by weirdos. And experienced a little of London's underground culture as in: music players in subway stations (buskers!), drunk people in subway stations, London nightlife (consisting of people walking around outside looking like they are going somewhere or to a club or what have you but really they are just walking around), and all together in general culture. I figured out that cars are irrelevant here and that they only cause problems. Taxis, buses, tubes, public transportation is the way to go. Everyone on the trip is great, especially the people I didn't really know that well before this. I never really met them but now we have this common bond and I enjoy their presence immensely. A refreshing change from everyday company. I love London. Spice Girls suck. I hate them. Thing about them is, if they know what they're doing and they're irritating and they know it, they're geniuses. That makes me even more steamed. Ah well.  Oxford and Stratford tomorrow.  Book land.  No pop culture!

Day 5 - Stratford, Oxford, RSC
Stratford was great.  A beautiful, quaint, country home that anyone would do well to stop and enjoy.  Cool shopping in town, lots of stores, great meeting place in the fountain park. It was fun hangin' out there. Dinner wasn't that great. Oxford ant the college was cool. All the stories were true. I really liked the beauty and ease of it. It was just like Stratford in a way like the towns. But Christ Church & Oxford University were fun. Anne Hathaway's home and birthplace were beautiful. Her gardens made me jealous. The RSC performance of Merchant of Venice was wonderful. It was tough and everyone had to fight to stay awake. But in the end I really liked it.  Portia was a great character though not acted very well. Shylock was terrific as was Portia's maid. Then, it was RSC so it HAD to be good. I was impressed and I had a good day but it was a little long and we were grumpy and tired by the end.

Day 6 - Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle
Westminster was all I expected it to be.  When I got there this morning, I expected this spiritual experience when I first walked in, but there wasn't.  The procession in was my favorite part. Being there on Palm Sunday was lucky.  We all streamed into the church behind "The President" and the absolutely amazing choir. They read the passion which took about 25 minutes. That was bad, and we had to leave right after communion.  But I am really happy I went.  Windsor was beautiful. The state rooms left me speechless and in awe.  The gold and wallpaper, detailed cabinets, portraits by Lawrence. Everything was breathtaking, however, the night is young. I spent the evening at the hotel, went to the exercise room and had a great workout. I'm exhausted and I know I'll have sweet dreams of Windsor's beautiful rooms and the Abbey music. Stonehenge tomorrow!

Day 7 - Bath, Stonehenge, Salisbury
Bath had great shopping, on the bus ride over, I kept myself awake with Everclear, Ben Folds Five, and Swingers soundtrack.  When we got there I got the audio thing for Bath and went around learning about the Roman Bath, and the culture surrounding it.  The audio tour I didn't like but it was fun to use.  Seeing the actual Bath was the most interesting thing. I drank the water and it smelled like boiled eggs, but it tasted like warm bottled water.  Not bad. And now, I can say I drank famous spa water.  I didn't buy anything, but I looked at some sweaters. Now we're on our way to Salisbury. My lunch was retarded. We got McD's and I ate a little loaf of bread for 27 pennies.  It was good! Then we went to Baskin Robbins and I couldn't eat anything because of Lent.  Grrr. I'm excited about seeing Salisbury Cathedral. I'm going to look at it through the Bishop's Garden just like Constable did. Nat [our tour guide] told us to look at the difference between buttresses. I lied. We went to Stonehenge first. I got 2 good pictures.  Constable clouds in the sky. Nice sunny day. Stonehenge was mysterious in the midst of its commercialization.  If I were there alone at night, I'd cry. I don't like the audio tours at all. But nonetheless, it was cool.  Salisbury Cathedral - tallest spire in England. It's out of proportion but it's still pretty. Constable here we come.  I was tormented about clouds and the cathedral and Constable but only to the extent expected [by a bunch of nerdy 9th graders with nothing better to make fun of me for than my assigned artist!]. The cathedral was great. Magna Carta was so interesting. I couldn't believe it was abbreviated. Everyone was obnoxious at dinner.  I heard there were some problems crossing the street. The whole prisoners of conscience window was intriguing.  I really liked it a lot. The whole cathedral was great. Today was awesome.

Day 8 - Dover, Canterbury, "An Inspector Calls"

Getting to Canterbury was long but we made it. The cathedral was a little spooky and the more scary then the rest of them, but nonetheless, it had an element of sameness.  I'm tired of Cathedrals.  The shops were fun and I got a cheap, awesome tank top at a second hand store. I love it. On to Dover. Dover was beautiful and the water's clarity really surprised me. Me and Brian went exploring and I really had a lot of fun. By the way, as a sidenote Mr. H - Me and Brian ARE NOT TOGETHER in any way! We have been good friends since kindergarten.  Okay just needed to clarify that.  But Dover was fun.  I loved that chalk. I wanted to do sidewalk drawings all over.  Lunch at Canterbury was good too. Dinner at home was nice, good food.  The theater was the highlight of the day, however. Everything about it was good. Everyone looked nice, everyone was on okay terms, some were tired but not many slept. And then the play itself was ab fab. I especially liked Madame Burnig (sp?). Her carriage and commanding confident presence made her character believable. The whole play was really well written and presented.  I got it and even picked up some underlying symbolism. Nat helped with that though.  I think it is really funny how everyone is obsessed with him.  He is a GREAT courier. He has made this trip the fun that it's been. I don't know what we could have done with anyone else. Thanks Nat! That's all we did today. It was WAY fun.

Day 9 - Free Day and Skit night

First we (Emily, Rachel, Becca and me) went to the British Museum. We saw the Lindow Man, Elgin marbles, Rosetta Stone, and the mummies along with the Greek pots and some medieval stuff.  I really enjoyed it. I bought a little scarab bead. Then we went to Covent Gardens and did some returning, exchanging and we watching this guy perform in the square. He was crazy. I got my jumper in the correct size and not it's a lot better. The whole day we had fun. After coven gardens we went to Kensington Market, that was place insane.  It smelled like drugs and no one there had less than one piecing/tattoo/hair color.  We had only eaten half a ham salad baguette and were getting hungry and tired. We went to this designer boutique. Nothing was less than 20 pounds and that was a little much for us. We got outta there. The clothes were great, however.  I am really thankful we have three days to recover.  Anyway, we had a mix-up getting to Abbey Road. We righted ourselves and finally got there. We did the whole sign the wall, take the picture walking across thing, and I got a license plate.  It was fun. This whole trip has been full of things that will leave me with memories forever.  After Abbey Road, we RAN to Madame Tussaud's. We had to go. We did and I loved it. I was scared around every corner. One of the guards got Rachel and Emily by pretending he was wax. And we couldn't tell because everything was so lifelike. I'll never forget it. I want to come back here sometime and work here and just have a little time to learn the culture really well so I can be an expert at this one thing. Skit night was great. A few were lame, but most of them were really funny. All these images are flying through my head of all these awesome things we did, some not-so-awesome things that happened, and everyone I met and the conversations we had.  So many new experiences and so many parallels and perpendiculars were shown to me. I am SO glad I had this opportunity. I was scared about leaving the country before but now I am open to travel all over the world. I feel like I can hold my own and move on. This trip opened my eyes to a world of new possibilities. I want to see everything and go everywhere.  Nat mentioned something about a bike trip across the pyrenees from France to Spain and immediately I wanted to do it.  It just seems so adventurous and appealing to a girl who has so little of outside culture. Now I want more. Lots more. And I will get it.  Americans are very selfish and different. Seeing as how we are so commanding and garish, people spot us a mile away.  I want to be inconspicuous and polite like the English. I was SO happy when I was named "classy" spice. That's just what I wanted to be. I felt good about myself here. I felt blended except when I opened my mouth. I hope when I return I can use this trip and keep using it for a long time to come.

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