Monday, February 20, 2012

The Secret!

Such a wonderful day! The Secret prevails yet again! Allow me to preface this post by briefly talking about the new obsession of our house; the London reality television (tele) show Made in Chelsea. The show is basically the equivalent of the American reality show The Hills, which follows beautiful rich people throughout their drama-filled lives. So we've all been watching episodes of that show like it's our job and we're pretty much all hooked. Yesterday while I was watching episode 4 of season 1 (the one where Ollie dramatically confides in his friend Binky that he is in fact bisexual) I saw a brief clip of a sign that said "Fulham Road" and mentally noted that my interview for Camp Beaumont was on that street.

After class, Erin and I ventured out for our interview and most of the time we spent traveling there consisted of me talking about how I wanted to see one of the characters from the show. Since we arrived to the area an hour early we decided to stop in the Starbucks down the road for a drink and a chat. We sat for a little while and got up to leave when I turned around and saw Millie (aka Camilla Makintosh), one of the main stars of the reality show just casually getting some tea. Long story short, we chased her down the street to take with her. So here it is (and yes we're aware she makes us look like short, chubby children):
So anyway, the interview for the camp went great and we simply can not wait to start. We'll be assisting counselors for two weeks and hanging out with little British children all day. Dream come true. My interview for Portland Place School is on Thursday and I have a feeling that will go just as swimmingly.

Some upcoming events:
- Finishing booking my spring break
- Have my interview for Portland Place school
- Finish my Islam and History classes
- Leave for spring break on Saturday (Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Mauthausen, Salzburg)
- Keep on thinking positively

And here's a little motivational quote to wrap this up:
"All that we are is the result of what we have thought." - Buddha

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chillin

I can't get over how quickly these weeks pass. This time last two weeks ago I was packing to go to Scotland... golly. So anyway, a few things occurred recently. I received my tentative internship placement for the second half of my program. (I say tentative because I have to go on an "interview" beforehand). I'll first be at Portland Place Private School for ages 10-16 as a teachers assistant. As an education major, I'm under some different circumstances. Instead of doing one internship like the people with other majors I actually have two. I'll be at Portland Place until the second to last week of March and after then I'll be at... (drumroll) Camp Beaumont Day Camp! These internship placement people know me oh so well. So my semester will continue with classes  for only one more wees, then I have spring break, then I come back and start at Portland Place until March 23rd, then start at Camp Beaumont in April until the 20th. I'm so excited to hang out with little British kids!

Last Thursday we went to/on the London Eye. The last time I did this was during the day so it was nice to see London at night. Big Ben really is so beautiful. After this we found a huge arcade that had tons of games, bowling, bumper cars, and ride simulators. This place literally had every arcade game I've ever heard of. I had to hold back from dropping large amounts of money on every game I passed. I did cave in with the bumper cars though. I felt those were very necessary. They turned out to be pretty intense compared to bumper cars I've previously been on and I was being thrown out of my seat a little bit by some crazy tourists. I got some bruises too. But hey, I got to drive with the wheel on the right side for the first time though. I'll definitely be going back to this arcade in the future to play some games and win some tickets.

I've also made some more progress over these past two weeks on booking my trips. We booked Ireland for Easter break and Paris for the last weekend in March. I'm pretty much done booking all of my trips taking place during the semester. Now I need to focus on my travels after my semester is over (Hi Aunt Frankie, I haven't forgotten about you and Italy).

Speaking of my Paris trip, we booked it for a Thursday night in March, which meant I would have to miss one Friday of my internship. I recently found out that due to the way the schooling system works here, school ends March 23rd and camp doesn't start until April... which means instead of having to miss a Friday of my internship I actually have that whole week off. Woohoo (The Secret)! Now I'm looking into extended my Paris trip by going to Belgium beforehand for a day or so. We'll see what happens. I'll do some more research on it later, since I'm too tired to do it now. And I'm tired because yes, I am sick. It was bound to happen since my immune system loves to mess with me. Yup, my right nostril is sure sealed up alright. Nothing is passing through there. Graphic.

Anyways, I'm going to go chill now and do some "London stuff." Cheers!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Nessie and Castles and Kilts, Oh My!

So as I've previously mentioned, this past weekend I went to Scotland. It was AWESOME. After living in a city for a while we decided we wanted to travel to the Highlands of Scotland in Inverness rather than go to Glasgow or Edinburgh. Everything about the trip was incredible and very go-with-the-flow. We started off at around 3am Saturday morning, taking a taxi to the bus and then the bus to the airport. We flew Easy Jet for the first time and I was definitely very happy with it. The hour and a half flight felt like 5 minutes since we slept the whole time. My favorite part was that we got off the plane and walked down stairs to the runway, without one of those tunnels. It seems silly but I've always wanted to do that!

When we got to Scotland we got ourselves a very necessary map and picked up pretty much every pamphlet at the airport. Like I said, this trip was kind of free flowing and all we planned ahead of time was our Loch Ness Cruise, which we ended up changing anyway. So we took a bus from the airport to Inverness, which is a cute town with beautiful views. Our first plan was our cruise but once we got to the bus station we learned that we had to travel 30 minutes away on our own to get to the point that the boat leaves from. Fortunately, we were able to change our booking to a trip that was about to leave from that bus station. This is where we met Sue, our lovely bus driver/tour guide. When we were first boarding the bus we thought we were holding up tons of people by changing our tickets but once we got on we realized that the two people sitting in the front were the only ones on the bus. This pretty accurately sums up the population of people/tourists in Inverness.

We took the bus to Drumnadrochit (yeah, try pronouncing that when you're looking for directions) and embarked on the journey that I've dreamed about for years. I've watched so many things about the mysterious Loch Ness monster that to actually be on a boat there was just so exciting to me. This is definitely comparable to how I felt about Stonehenge and reminds me of how I'm really doing so many awesome things that I've dreamed about for a long time. Here are some pictures and videos from the cruise:
 
 
 
video

We were also fortunate enough to have some men in kilts on the trip with us and of course I asked to take a picture with them:

After some searching and a little while traveling on Loch Ness we reached Urquhart Castle, which was pretty much ruins from the 15th century. We were still able to go up some stairs and get a great view of Loch Ness, where we took a few more pictures:
 
 
 
 

Once the cruise was done we went to check into our hostel. With hostels, you never know what to expect. At 15 pounds a night it's a little iffy as to what sort of living situation you're going to be thrown into. Once again, we got lucky with this one. The hostel was a cute hippie-esque cottage, decorated with construction paper, paint, and newspaper articles about Nessie and other Scotland related things. The hostel also included a community guitar, flags from around the world, and a beautiful view of Inverness. Luckily,we were given a 5 person room and fortunately had no roommates. Also, the staff were very friendly and accommodating. Our success with hostels continues!
 
 
 
 
 
 

After this we unintentionally went to an American-style restaurant called the Filling Station. Surprisingly, I did not take any pictures of my food but I had bread bowl chowder. Thinking about it is making me really hungry but I'm sitting in class writing this right now. Don't worry, I'm paying attention a little bit. My teacher tends to repeat himself. For anyone who is concerned, I got an A- on my first paper so there's nothing to worry about.

So anyway, later on we did another little thing on my bucket list (which can soon be viewed on the "Bucket List" tab on this blog): heard some traditional Scottish music live, at a pub. I really loved it and therefore made some videos. The pub itself, called Hootananny, was one of the best rated in Scotland. When we walked in we soon realized that we were at least 10 years younger than the youngest person there. That was interesting but we had no trouble making the best of it. We met some Scottish men who were really into the music. I'm pretty sure one of the men started crying while singing along with one of the songs. Deep.


The next day we walked to the Ness Islands and did some souvenir shopping. I bought everything I planned on buying: postcards, a Scotland sweatshirt, a magnet, and a Nessie stuffed animal:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

To finish off our travels, we walked down to where the River Ness meets the ocean to look for some dolphins, which we were told could be found there. Unfortunately we didn't get to see anyway since it was too cold but the view was beautiful and we took some rocks from the beach:
 
 
video

That pretty much sums up our quick Scotland trip. It might not sound like much but it was honestly one of my favorite trips so far. Everything was so beautiful and Scottish culture is really cool. As for now, I guess I'll go back to listening to my teacher talk about the same aspects of Islam for another two hours. Nice man, just very repetitive. I like him though.

Next on my to-do list:
- Go on the London Eye on Thursday
- Finish booking my transportation and hostels for spring break
- Eat some fish and chips (delayed, I know)
- Simply enjoy living in London
Cheers!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mosquerade

I have been culturally enlightened, yet again! Only this time I've experienced the religion and culture of Islam. Today we went on a field trip to a Turkish community center and mosque in eastern London for my Islam class. Before we went, they sent us a list of rules, specifically regarding dress code, which went as follows:
"Dress Code
As the mosque is a sacred place of worship you are asked to observe decorum and dress appropriately. I request that people cover their arms and legs for the duration of the time in the mosque and wear clothing deemed ‘modest’. It is requested that female students bring along a scarf or a cloth to cover their hair. This is as a mark of respect for the sanctity of the mosque and the people offering prayer in the building."
So when we first got there we had to take off our shoes. The whole center was softly carpeted so it was really fun to walk around everywhere in socks. I will admit, at times there was a bit of a foot-ish odor but the whole idea was pretty cool. Before we went into the mosque to watch some of the Muslims pray, the girls had to wrap scarves around their heads, as mentioned in the email, in order to show respect for the customs of Islamic culture. Once we were inside we watched men, standing shoulder to shoulder, listen to an Imam (Muslim leader) speak prayers in Arabic. The men started by standing, then bending over, then kneeling, and in a sort of "child's pose" yoga position with their face at the ground. This repeated for a few times. One of the coolest things about the mosque, as with all mosques, is that the inside is on a specific slant so that Muslims are facing the Muslim holy land, Mecca in Saudi Arabia while praying. 

After the mosque we went to the Aziziye Halal Restaurant for a traditional Turkish meal. At the restaurant we sat on cushions on the floor with our legs folded, which is something I've always wanted to do. It was cool but kinda hurt after 45 minutes or so. I ordered the Tavuk shish which tasted just like a Greek souvlaki, only in separate pieces. After dinner, we all got Turkish tea which came with 2 sugar cubes, yum!

Tavuk shish
Turkish tea
Chillin on the floor
Both chillin on the floor
Overall, today was very interesting and a lot of fun. Right now I need to finish packing my things for Scotland since I leave at 4:00 tomorrow morning. I'm so excited! Since it's just three of us going, Emily, Erica, and I booked a boat tour on Loch Ness and we plan to do some sort of an "historic walk" through Inverness (Inbhir Nis). Of course, I'll be celebrating my small percentage of Scottish heritage as well and definitely hope to hear some bag pipes. Wish me luck! Tioraidh!