Monday, December 18, 2006

Italy, Tea, Jet-Lag and Me!

(There are photos at the end of this; please bear with me.)

On my last day in London I went to the National Portrait Gallery and saw, next to a photograph of the British model Lily Cole, a quote of hers that really summed up my experience. This is surprising, given that Lily Cole's main talking point is Kate Moss, but nevertheless it was roughly this:

"Happiness is not about being lucky. Happiness is about realizing how lucky you are."

So very true! I had the incredible fortune to spend three months in one of the most historic and fascinating cities in the world; I was able to spend casual weekends in places that many people only dream of going; I was exposed to an entirely different culture without having to alter myself at all. But it was not until I stepped back and realized how unbelievable my experience was that I truly became happy in London, and really began loving the city for what it was. That was my biggest area of growth: not expecting a city to be what I wanted, but appreciating it for what it actually offered. And London offers so much.

I took it as a huge compliment when Pontus told me that I was the most open-minded American he knew. Though I almost never encountered any outright hostility (even in France!), there is still a stigma in Europe that Americans are unwilling to accept any culture but their own. After getting to know many of the Americans on my trip, I am sorry to say that the stigma is not unfounded. Sure, there were times when I wanted to shake Queen Mary administration and yell "DO YOU NOT REALIZE THAT IT IS 2006?!" but I never expected, or wanted, everything to be like America. If I had, why would I have gone abroad?

My last week in London was wonderful, and spent partially in Italy. Saturday was the Singalong Sound of Music with Michelle, and it was exactly what it sounds like:

Then Rich flew in, and we spent a few days doing things I had yet to do, like going out for a meal that cost more than 6 pounds and tasted better than dog food, and really exploring Covent Garden. The phenomenon of Europeans putting carousels everywhere manifested itself:

We travelled to Italy for Tuesday and Wednesday, where Rich got to have the amazing experience of staying with my aunt, uncle, and cousin, who live in the mountains by Florence in the most beautiful home. They have hosted me once already. More amazing food and dessert in Florence, and even more carousels:

Finally we had a great night in, exchanging presents with my flat (check out my amazing "Sweden" hat, courtesy of ---who else?--- the big Swede himself) and saying goodbye to everyone:

And just for good measure, one last pretty scenery shot of London:

So now I'm home. In my own bed. My parents made Thanksgiving dinner last night and it was life-alteringly good. I'm thrilled to be back, although there are times where the Americanness of it all is startling (like yesterday, when a 40-year-old Jewish American Princess with a Lilly bag was hassling the poor zitty photo guy at Costco). London was an amazing experience, but now I'm looking forward to being back in Evanston with some of my favorite people on the planet, not spending 20 dollars on a subpar sandwich, and watching Maury at my leisure.

So there's "my British tour diary" in a nutshell. On the internet. Seacrest, out!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Are starting to feel a lot less crazy and a lot more familiar. I don't want to attack people I see in leggings. I understand about 95% of the things they say. And sometimes they really pull out the stops and make me really happy, like when they have the Princess of Norway light up a HUGE Christmas tree in the middle of Trafalgar Square.
And then Michelle and I walk through Leicester Square and there is this CARNIVAL in the middle of it for no apparent reason.
People looked unsettled as I passed them; it might have been because I was grinning like I was off my trolley. This is the prettiest, most exuberant city I have ever been in at Christmastime; my personal theory on this is that London has about six Jewish people so they just steamroller over their preferences and go Christmas Crazy for the personal amusement of Prince Charles. There are ice skating rinks EVERYWHERE, and so many lights and chestnut vendors and ornaments shaped like Beefeaters that I have to physically restrain myself from buying.

In September, I never thought I'd say this, but I'll be sorry to go. I have really become fond of this place and I know I will love it even more once I am through making posters about global warming. I'm citing today's psychotic weather as evidence, in any case.


Wave your hands in the air like you just don't care if there is a monsoon with hail happening outside your window.

Guess I'm alone on this one, then.

IMPORTANT EDIT: Literally 15 minutes later, it became as sunny and cloudless as I've ever seen it. Am I actually at Hogwarts and I'm just missing something?

Monday, December 04, 2006


OK. Legitimate question that is causing me genuine distress and then a bit about my great trip to Barcelona before returning to my 4.5 papers that have to be finished before Saturday.

Q: What is the best way to get my flatmates to do their share in the kitchen? I go away for a weekend and come back and the table is covered in filthy, crusty dishes, spilled drinks, noodles, visible e.coli germs and the like. I have now done the ENTIRE wash five times. I keep thinking that if I let it pile up enough, someone else will go "That is disgusting and potentially dangerous" and do it, but they just let it build and build until I cave in and do it. Today made me almost cry. I have left notes, dropped hints, and said flat-out that someone else HAS to do it, to no avail. Thoughts?

Alright, Part II. Barcelona. Amazing, beautiful city. I was really not jazzed about going because I was so tired and I have so much work to do before Rich comes, but I'd booked the tickets with Sara way in advance so I went.

I'm so glad I did! Barcelona was just unlike everything I ever did. Do you know how many cathedrals I have been in during my stay in Europe? And I still thought the Sagrada Familia was fascinating. Sara and I just relaxed, walked around, found cool neighborhoods and restaurants, and had a tremendous battle of room rudeness with Australians. Loved it.

A Museum

Boxed wine

A cool cathedral

Sara likes her exhibits interactive.

Lady and the chocolate.

My friends are big jerkfaces and are making me spend money on dinner which is not good. Because I have no money. And lots of work. Answer my inquiry at the top.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This is making me grunt in dismay

For the ninety-fourth time in three weeks, my room smells like an old cat lady's without any apparent cause. The shower did not flood this time. I haven't been hoarding strays.

I have gone to Queen Mary's housing office five times now with the same complaint. I'm going to die from mildew poisoning. They respond the same way every time: by making a tally mark on their "American kids we have killed with mildew poisoning" sheet.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Q: Why did the boy throw the clock across the room?

A: He wanted to see time fly.

OK so it's not as good as the snailor joke, but it is more applicable in this context. Because I only have three weekends left: Barcelona, Rich visiting, and then my plane home. THREE WEEKS! That is insanity. This is what I have done in the last two weeks to make things go so quickly.


This was a vacation I took with one of my best friends to visit two of my other best friends in their study abroad town of Seville, Spain. Seville doesn't have a lot of sightseeing attractions but that worked out well because it gave us plenty of time to be weird in public places, as usual. This is a short photographic summary of that weekend.

My friends are fun and delightful and smart and classy and always great to be with. I really had a good time seeing them and miss them like Brian Austin Green misses cultural relevance.

The most immediate Apatoffs came to visit me, and so did Sara! We had a weekend of great food, fun sights, tons of rain and a lot of generally amusing ourselves. The defining characteristic of my family is that we think we are very, very funny. Again, the illustrated weekend in brief:

My family is also very fun, some of the most consistently hilarious people I know. We are loud and unbelievably embarassing in public. I miss them but I'm a little mad that they didn't bring my dog. Yay, Apatoffs!

That's all for now. I have so much damn work to do and I'm so, so tired of travelling but I'm also excited for the last week here which is going to involve ice skating, Florence Part Deux, and a whole lot of packing.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"If I wring little necks, surely I would get an acquittal..."

I am not a parent. (Mom and Dad, I can hear you breathing an sigh of relief. I know you were worried.)

Nor do I intend to be one in the foreseeable future. I understand that this makes me uniquely unqualified to comment on the parenting habits of others (exception: my own parents) or to offer my thoughts on their disciplinary choices, no matter how poor they might seem. When a little urchin is being monstrous in public while their parent coos "Oh little muffinface, I do so wish you'd behave," I commend myself on phasing out babysitting from my job list.

So you can understand the physical pain I was in trying to restrain myself today while seated on the plane behind the most heinous genetic mistake ever produced. This child did not discern between happy screams and sad screams, and produced both at full volume for the entire journey while his mother smiled adoringly. The kid ran up and down the aisles, pausing only to grope my leg and knock over my drink, hollering "GO AWAY GO AWAY GO AWAY." He greeted me with a shrill "Hello!!!" at the moment I had just drifted to sleep. And he hurled Matchbox cars across the cabin without a single comment from his mother that this behavior might not be socially acceptable for a five-year old who needs his diaper changed in public.

At one point I was so close to saying "I'm really trying to sleep, could you please put a muzzle on your gremlin?" that I could taste it. But I didn't. And I am hoping that, for this great act of mercy and kindness, Zeus will smile on me when I have my little accident, and bless it with the communications power of a bunny rabbit.

Seville update soon.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Basically famous

The tall gentleman approached us in that way that men do when they are trying to sign you up for very expensive beauty salon packages in New York City. That particular method of approach makes me want to drop-kick people to the curb, but he held out his camera.

"You girls have been scouted to possibly be extras in a movie or a TV show!" he said, gleefully.

"Are you some kind of liar?" I wanted to know. It's always good to know if someone is a liar.

"No, I'm not lying! And I have a business card to prove it." He did. It was shiny. Much nicer than something that a potential serial killer would print up if he were trying to lure girls into his den.

He took our pictures and said we might hear back next week. Hopefully not in the form of axe murdering. Their website looks pretty legit and one of the companies is looking for a foot model, which I think I could be really good at. So that was my day in Covent Garden.