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.