One Year Later

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One year ago today, December 15, I returned home from the UK. From what I remember, I was smiling and happy to be safe at home. Countless family members and friends commented on a picture of me with my family that day and said “glad you’re home safe!” I thought nothing of it—of course I was safe, why wouldn’t I be? But now, I understand the concern. One year from that day, December 15, and I’ve heard about too many terrorist attacks to count, and some even in places I visited while abroad. I can’t say that doesn’t scare me; I’d be lying if I did. But that doesn’t change the fact that I relish every moment stepped outside American soil. In fact, I’d do it all over again even now.

If you read any post on this blog, you’ll know I fell in love with a city that couldn’t love me back. It feels like I left a lover behind and we’ve cut all ties; I haven’t felt so lonely. The only consolation is the friends I made while there because they know my struggles like no one else will. Even though I can’t see them every day, the fact that they experienced London and Europe like I did is comforting. It makes the whole expedition seem more real.

A year later, I find myself looking at TimeHop and wishing for a second chance at exploration. Or a third. Fourth. Fifth, if I’m lucky. I love everything I did the first time around and wouldn’t change it for the world, but I want to go back. I want to experience everything for the first time again. I want to see the lights, hear the sounds, feel the bricks, eat the food. I want to feel the sting of loss as I leave the United States and the calming relief of touching down in Heathrow with the knowledge that my love is waiting beyond the gates. I want a lot of things that happened last year. The unfortunate reality is that the world isn’t safe, and experiences won’t be the same no matter how many times they’re played over again. I want to love travel, but terrorism wants me to cower in fear while sitting on my cushy beanbag chair, eating popcorn, and watching the news. I refuse to let it.

While of course money is a problem in the sense that I have none just floating around, fear is also a large issue. I am terrified of the prospect of leaving my home, my country, and then flying across the ocean to land closer to the action than I’m comfortable with. However, I’ve done it. Last year, ISIS was still a threat. Before them, countless unnamed and infamous groups. Despite their existence, I can say that I’ve traveled across the ocean to England, France, Ireland, and Italy and didn’t once feel unsafe. Traveling won’t keep you from the danger; it’ll make your life richer even as you encounter it.

Some might say “staying safe” is staying at home in comfort and isolation, but I can’t imagine a life where I don’t step outside. The world is too large to stay in one spot and fully live, so don’t let the fear of possibility keep you from going. Traveling. Experiencing. Wandering. Living.

I know it won’t stop me. Until next time, London. Stay lovely.

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Oxford is Hogwarts

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It is a Tuesday night as I write this and I am happy to say my cold has diminished to a tedious cough that attacks out of nowhere. Hey, it’s better than the blocked up sinuses I had last week!

This past Saturday, Jen and I decided to take a bus out to Oxford to see some sights. Unfortunately, most cool things like museums and botanical gardens close at 5, so not much sightseeing was done as we had hoped. But, what we did see was fantastic and definitely worth the trip. We woke up rather early to get to the Tube station for 8:30, rode the District Line to Victoria, and made our way to the coach stations there. We took the Oxford Tube bus from Victoria to St. Aldate’s and it was only 13 pounds roundtrip (we paid the bus driver when we got on the bus, no reservations needed)!

As many of you may know, Oxford is famous for Oxford University, but also the origins of Alice in Wonderland and the shooting of scenes from Harry Potter. Jen and I are a fan of both things, so of course going to Oxford was a no-brainer! The first stop on the monstrous list of things to do was Christ Church. We had to pay to get in, 7.50 pounds, but it was well worth it. One of the social halls on the Church’s property was used as a model for the Great Hall in the HP films, so seeing it in person was extremely cool. The stained glass windows were gorgeous and intricate, the ceilings even more so, and pretty much everything about the entire Church felt historical. But, history aside, I was mainly interested in the locations from Harry Potter.

I am pleased to say that I walked up the stairs McGonagall greets the students on in the first HP film (Christ Church), sat in the room where they filmed the dance lesson scene from the fourth film and any shots from the infirmary (Divinity School), and saw the library where they shot the “Restricted Area” scene from the first film and the library shots (Duke Humphrey’s Library)! It was so cool and surreal to be in the same places that some of my favorite movies were filmed; I can’t even really describe the feeling!

After Christ Church, we ran off to the Bodleian Library and purchased a half hour tour of the Divinity School and Duke Humphrey’s Library (5 pounds), both extremely cool because of their historical contexts and Harry Potter associations! If you like the smell of old books, Duke Humphrey’s Library smells IMMENSELY like old books. You walk up the stairs and through the doors and WOOSH you are assaulted with history and time. Even though it is cool, the smell does get a tad overwhelming.

With the library behind us, we only had fifteen minutes before any museums closed. Luckily the Science museum was across the street from the library, so we hopped in and ran about the ground floor taking pictures. Even though we didn’t get to see even a fraction of the place, what we did see was extremely cool and interesting. I would definitely go back! We also hopped into a bookstore nearby called Blackwell’s and had some coffee at the indoor Cafe Nero. The bookstore was really cool, but the coffee I had was what made it great. Caramelatte… yum!

Of course in between our tour of Christ Church and the Bodleian Library, we had about a four hour gap. In that time, Jen and I finally ripped off the band-aid and decided to eat at… believe it or not… PIZZA HUT. And, let me tell you, it was fantastic. We got cheesy-bite margherita pizza and it was heavenly. I’m not sure if the pizza itself was actually great or if I just really needed some actual pizza in my life, but either way I was a happy camper. After the best Pizza Hut experience of my life, we went to do some shopping as our families requested various clothing items donning the “Oxford” moniker. I will admit I spent some serious cash that day, but it was worth it. Between walking tours and a cool sweatshirt and t-shirt saying I’ve been to Oxford, I couldn’t have asked for a better day!

I can’t say our flatmates had the same, however.

When Jen and I returned from our fun day at Oxford, we walked past one of the buildings to see a lot of people sitting in a common room. I commented that they must be a club having a meeting or something, but we soon found out that was not the case. We were just about to walk towards our dorm when a lady stopped us and asked for our flat numbers. We told her, and then she told us to sit in the room where all of those people were sitting. Needless to say, they were not a club and they were not having fun. They had been sitting in that (cold) room for four hours, were promised pizza and drinks, and only received the latter. A bunch of our flatmates were in there livid because they were woken out of naps and had to come out in pajamas in the 50-degree weather. Turns out there was a fire in one of the flats’ kitchens and everyone had to evacuate, naturally, but security checking the rooms took almost five hours to finish. I’m glad I missed most of that waiting, but I still feel terrible for everyone from our dorm building that had to wait that long. Gotta love college, am I right? Thankfully no one was hurt and the person who unintentionally started the fire now knows that trying to put out an oil fire with water NEVER WORKS.

I am now in Week 3 of school and things are going by a little too fast! In just a couple weeks, my first assessments for classes are due. Jen celebrated her 21st birthday yesterday. Jen and I did the London Eye today (finally) because the weather was nice. Side note: it was fantastic and really breathtaking! Definitely worth the money. In terms of school, my readings are getting longer and more convoluted. I’m simultaneously missing my friends from home and absolutely LOVING my new friends here. It’s a weird feeling, both liking here and missing home, but it’s so much better than pouring all my feelings into homesickness. I’m already a fourth of the way through the semester… is it going to slow down any time soon?

Day ?? – So… I’ve Been Sick

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No, I have not forgotten what number day it is! I have forgotten, though, how long each of these blog posts takes to write and how little time I actually have in the day. So with that in mind… I’ve realized that daily blogging isn’t exactly realistic with the amount of reading and writing I’ve been having to do even in these two weeks; prepare for less posts (BOOOOO). However, there is also another reason I haven’t been posting anything. If you’ve read the title, you probably already know… I’ve been sick.

Yes, you’ve heard me correctly! I contracted the wonderfully contagious “fresher’s flu” that usually hits hardest in the first year students because they party hardy every single night during welcome week. I was not one of those people, yet I still caught the disease. Thankfully, I don’t have to bear it alone because my whole flat is coughing up a collective lung (not to mention the symphony of mucus-laden coughs and gags during the Shakespeare lecture last Friday)! I still wonder where I got the illness from, though… a girl has to wonder.

Before I drowned in a mix of hot tea, cold medicine, and mucus, I had a pretty enjoyable weekend. Jen, Danielle, Nicole, and I all headed out to London Chinatown on Saturday night to get some fancy-pantsy dinner (at a reasonable price) and other things around the area. Once we left dinner at the Golden Phoenix (or something like that; there were many-colored phoenix restaurants), we had no idea what to do. Planning is everything, friends! We walked into what claimed to be the oldest bar in London, saw it was too busy, and promptly left. We wandered into a frozen yogurt place accurately named Snog (sarcasm), met an Australian guy who thought Texas and Pennsylvania were close to each other, and saw a West End show. Wait, what? You saw another show?! Yes! At around 7:30, we weren’t sure what we wanted to do to end the evening. We looked down the street and, as if placed there by angels, “Shakespeare in Love” presented itself. So, we figured, why not check out what seats they have available right before the show starts?! Long story short, we got decent seats for 15 pounds. Pretty amazing, if I say so myself, especially for a Saturday! The show was FANTASTIC and I loved it so so so much. I would definitely recommend it; for Shakespeare fans, it’s HILARIOUS. For non-Shakespeare fans but fans of good theater, it’s HILARIOUS. Either way, you’re winning!

Saturday was pretty awesome, so naturally Sunday had to be the beginning of my sickness. Jen and I pretty much did homework all day seeing as we both had copious amounts of reading for classes on Monday, and towards the end of the night I began to get a runny nose. I had been complaining about a scratchy throat for a day or two, but the nose thing was new and completely unwelcome. I remember Jen saying something like “I swear if you get sick I’m disowning you” to which I replied “Trust me, I think it’s just a weather thing I’ll be fine.”

No, you won’t be fine, Riley. You just won’t be.

I woke up Monday morning not being able to breathe. My nose was congested and my voice sounded blocked up, the perfect recipe for a cold! With these wonderful thoughts in mind, and no medicine with which to doctor myself, I trudged off to class. Though, I will say, I did take an ibuprofen for my throat pain and all of the tissue packs I had on my person. Needless to say, I barely had enough tissues for the whole day.

Now, Mondays are my worst days in terms of class because I pretty much run from 11 until 5 with crummy one hour breaks in between.  With this cold as my cross, Monday was even more atrocious. I attempted to get some medicine in between class by travelling to each of the three campus stores, but none of them had anything worth my pounds. The line in the bookstore was too long for me to give it a fair look, but it’s safe to say their wares were probably too expensive. Such is London.

After I suffered through all of my classes and refused to talk because of my disgusting voice, I convinced Jen to travel to Sainsbury’s and Budgens to find medicine. I ended up buying, after much deliberation, “Sainsbury’s Max Strength Cold & Flu Day & Night” (wow so generic) which is pretty much Dayquil/Nyquil and some Sudafed Nasal Spray for my terrible sinus congestion. One of my flatmates was sweet enough to give me a box of her tissues, but the day proved to me that I would need much more than just one box. Therefore, I bought two boxes of Kleenex, one called “balsam mansize” (what I’m assuming to be the lotion kind) and a normal one. Both were softer than the toilet paper and napkins I had been using, obviously, so they were both cherished.

Two days later, I am feeling much better. The cold has moved down to my throat where it kills me with random coughs that make people jump (trust me, it actually happened today on the Tube). My wonderful friend Nicole bought me some cough medicine because we have twillnesses (twin illnesses… too much?), so that has been helping somewhat.

Cold aside, I actually did some cool things today as well. Nicole and I went to Chiswick House for our Architecture class today, a trip with a travel time of about 50 minutes by Tube. It was pretty cool, kinda bland, but I guess that’s what Lord Burlington was going for when he attempted to revive the Italian Renaissance in England. After Chiswick House, I had to travel to Blackfriars to get to Shakespeare’s Globe as I had bought a ticket for “The Comedy of Errors.” I was nervous about travelling there on my own, but I survived unscathed! I feel like a true Londoner. I may have arrived to the show 20 minutes late, but I can’t say enough how cool the Globe is. I had a standing seat (LOL) and everyone literally just stands in front of the stage. It is so cool! The show itself was hilarious (and the guys in it weren’t that bad to look at either) and I am so glad I went, even if I was late. Growing experiences, yay! I will say, my favorite part of the show was when two of the guards came out and did a silent filler scene. An explosion had just happened onstage, making one of the statues’ heads break off. The one guard picked up the head and held it in the air Hamlet-style, looking at the other with a knowing look. Everyone was chuckling; ha-ha, Shakespeare joke in a Shakespeare play ha-ha. But the real kicker was when both of the guards picked up brooms that were lying on the ground, put them between their legs, and tossed the head between them LIKE QUIDDITCH. Everyone in the crowd cheered and clapped; how cool is it that Shakespearean actors incorporated Harry Potter into one of their plays? INCREDIBLY COOL!

To end the post, I will say a few things: Even though I won’t be doing daily blogs, I will still try and keep this blog updated at least weekly. You guys (especially my family and friends) deserve to know what’s been going on! Hopefully this post sufficed. See you next time!

Day 14 – Shakespeare Begins

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Wednesday and Thursday yielded nothing worth noting in blog form (though some people may argue that everything is worthy), so I apologize for not posting. But Friday? Oh, man, did exciting things happen!

Friday began my Shakespeare class, something I’ve been looking forward to all week. I sat down in a lecture hall FILLED with freshers and associate students, the air thick with anxiety. I, however, was ready to go! Romeo and Juliet? Bring it on! The class began with a clip from BBC favorite Doctor Who, one involving Martha and the tenth Doctor going to the Globe Theatre in the actual time of Shakespeare. It was a pretty interesting way to begin the lecture. I will say I have my doubts about the class considering I’ve already read two of the plays we’ll be covering, but there’s always room to learn something new. In just the first lecture and seminar, I already learned a bunch of new information about R&J that I hadn’t learned or thought of before. I’m excited to continue!

After class, Jen and I headed out to Green Park station to get to the ever-esteemed Buckingham Palace, home to the Queen and extended Royal Family. We bought our tickets last week for a certain time and we got there just minutes before. We walked right through, wandered through airport-level security, and continued into the gorgeous Palace. Only caveat: you can’t take any pictures. With this in mind, we picked up our free audio tours and clicked the green arrow button; we were off!

The tour was fantastic and definitely worth the 18 pounds (student discount). Our tour only involved the State Rooms and not the Gardens, but it was still fantastic. It felt so surreal to walk in the very building that the Queen resides! The place where royal childhoods were had and fostered… it was all so amazing and dreamlike. I still don’t feel like I was truly there.

The gift shop was pretty cool as well; I purchased some gifts/souvenirs for family members and bought myself an adorable stuffed Corgi (I named him Poppy) with a little Buckingham Palace medallion around his neck. It’s safe to say that I am properly obsessed with him and do not regret the 15 pounds I paid for him.

After the visit to the Palace, we traveled to a Pret a Manger for dinner (the chipotle avocado chicken wrap wasn’t good D:) and then headed across the street to Harrods to look and NOT touch. I’ll probably reserve an in-depth talk about Harrods for a later time; it needs much more than a sentence mention. Let’s just say it’s the type of store where people actually go and pay 10+ pounds for ice cream. And bring their children. And pay 8 pounds for their ice cream. It’s strange and intriguing.

We gave Harrods a fair shake (though we didn’t get to hit every floor and every room) and decided it was time to head back. That is, until we saw that the Museum of Natural History had a science-y after hours event. We simply had to stop in! There were scientists and specialists spread about the museum (which is quite large in itself) talking about all types of things, from the flu virus to venomous snakes. There were drinks available for purchase as well as snack things, and naturally people left their rubbish all over the museum. I’m not sure if the museum sanitation staff appreciate the mess, but the event itself was quite cool.

It had been a long day, so we retired as soon as we entered our rooms. I gave my parents a call, tried to map out a Tube itinerary for an expedition later in the week, and happily fell asleep. Saturday proved to be an eventful day as well, so thank goodness I got a good night’s sleep! You’ll hear about it soon enough.

Day 11 – Wicked Homework!

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Tuesday was certainly a great day. I woke up with no worries (hakuna matata, am I right?) because BAM I had no classes. It felt so luxuriously easy and natural to just wake up at 9 without worrying about finding the right building or room; I was completely calm and at ease. I made myself a bowl of cereal, sat down with some Youtube videos, and began enjoying my morning.

Then I remembered I had homework to do. Siiiiiiigh.

I have a short essay due Sunday (and every Sunday until I leave QMUL) that I had to work on, so I whipped out the poem I had to write it on. After a couple minutes of barely glazing the page with my eyes, I returned to Youtube. The poem would have to be done later. In case you’re asking, I have half the essay written (don’t judge).

Jen came back from class and we were off to Westfield Stratford Mall to hit up Primark; I needed some new pillows desperately. The one provided by the college is so thin and grossly uncomfortable that to even feign comfort I had to fold the pillow in half, a feat that was surprisingly easy. So, we set out for Primark with pillows in mind. I also figured I’d look for a slightly bigger purse as well seeing as the purse I am currently using doesn’t hold most items larger than four inches. Once we entered the mall, we actually took a turn into Marks & Spencer, a department store that reminded me a lot of a Macy’s / Nordstrom type deal. It was gorgeous inside with higher-end groceries and teas, multiple cafes, and multiple floors to house the cafes. Finding a random obsession with interior design, we ran up to the homegoods floor.

While everything is quite expensive in Marks & Spencer, it does seem like good quality. You’d have to go and check it out yourself, but I would say that if you have the money to spend, go for it. It seems like it would be worth your while.

We entered Primark, bought pillows and a purse, and set back out into the mall. I had a hankering for some Starbucks, so Starbucks we bought. I purchased some weird mango tea drink that tasted like heaven, so I made a mental note for future reference. Although I do appreciate the frequent Starbucks littering every corner of London, they are ungodly expensive. If you think the States are bad, just take a gander at British prices. If my memory serves correctly, a small frappacino was 3.25 pounds (roughly 5 USD), which is insane for such a small and sugary drink. I’d pay $3.25 for it, but not in pounds.

After Starbucks, there really wasn’t anything else we wanted to see in the mall, so we headed back to campus. After all, we had to get ready for the biggest part of the day: WICKED! Jen and I bought tickets to see Wicked for about 17 pounds for pretty decent seats. They were up on the next level, but they were aisle seats with a pretty clear view of the stage below. I was so excited, but first I had to worry about travelling the Tube during rush hour and then finding a place to eat. Then, of course, we had to worry about getting to the theater in time. PHEW.

The Tube was surprisingly not busy, but finding a place to eat was still difficult. We wandered around the London Chinatown and took a gander at each menu to find decent prices, but it still took a while to assess each place and look at the food options. We finally decided on the Golden Dragon (or something like that; they all sound the same) and I was unimpressed. I ordered a standard chicken fried rice, and the chicken kind of seemed undercooked. I only ate a couple pieces that looked normal enough and I didn’t get sick, but the taste in my mouth afterwards was pretty revolting. The rice itself was fine, but I did have to add a bunch of soy sauce to taste. Jen’s food looked good, or at least the dim sum did. I’ll let you figure out what that is for yourself; it’s heavenly.

We departed from the restaurant and instantly began looking for a map to start out trek to the theater. After about forty-five minutes of walking around at lightning speeds, we finally reached the correct theater to see Wicked. I was really excited! All in all, the show was fantastic and everyone involved did an amazing job. I was blown away by Defying Gravity almost to the point of tears, but my feelings weren’t really any less for the rest of the songs. It was enjoyable, hilarious, depressing, intriguing, and so many other descriptive words. I would most definitely recommend it to anyone, even if you’re not the biggest theater-goer. The seats were cheap enough, the view was decent, and the vocals were fantastic. I couldn’t ask for too much more!

All in all it was a good day, even though I did want to flop and sleep at the end of it. Unfortunately, I ended up staying up quite late to read for my class for this morning… again, don’t judge. I only have one class left this week, so I am looking forward to that. And although I still have to finish my essay for Sunday, I am certain it will get finished. You know, eventually.

Day 10 – You Can Call Me Ravenpuff

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With today being the official start of teaching, I was destined to have a stressful day. I always wig myself out during the first day and week of classes because I think of all the things that can go wrong and expect them. Today, though, I had an idea in my mind that I would brave today out and just play it by ear, trying not to worry about anything that could go wrong. It was probably for the best that I did this because a lot of things did go slightly astray. Luckily, I was able to overcome those road bumps.

I just switched into Modernism from a Gothic Literature class on Friday, so the times weren’t completely updated and set in my online portal. I went to the English department today to get my updated timetable, but they were unable to provide me with one. With a promise of one by lunchtime, they told me where to go for the first lecture and they told me to ask the module convenor (main contact for the course) about a seminar group I could be assigned to for the time being. Luckily this road bump wasn’t too big of a thing, but it was just enough to set me off balance for a good part of the day. I wandered into the lecture hall way too early, met some new people, and actually enjoyed the presentations given by the different professors. The seminar, however, was a little wonky.

I spoke to the convenor as I was told to and she just told me to tag along in her seminar for the day. The seminars, compared to lectures, are small groups that basically run like normal classes back at my home institution, so I was pretty prepared for it. However, I suppose the awkward silences common in small group seminars is a universal thing because it happened more than I wanted it to today. The only thing I didn’t really appreciate about the seminar was that the convenor much rather wanted to hear us students talk than actually give us feedback on our points. For example, I said something that I thought was beneficial to the conversation, but she just responded with a “yep” and looked for the next person. I don’t really care for this type of call-and-response only because I’m never really sure if I got the gist of something or not. Maybe it’s a standard here in England, but I don’t think I’ll warm up to it well.

After seminar let out, I met Jen in front of the Student Hub (QMUL’s student activities building) so we could pay our dues to join one of the most exciting things about this semester: the Harry Potter Appreciation Society. We paid our four pounds and took the sorting quiz in order to be officially ready for the sorting ceremony later in the night. Feeling pretty good about the odds of getting into our respective self-proclaimed houses, we parted ways and I went to my second and last class of the day, Lyric Poetry.

Now, I was and still am pretty nervous about this course because it is a level 6. The Modernism course and Shakespeare are levels 5 and 4, respectively, and my Architecture course is a level 5. Level 6 modules are reserved for year 3 students, a rank I suppose I would be the equivalent of. One of the professors in the English department assured me that, since I am an English major, I should be able to get along just fine in a level 6, but after today’s class I’m not so sure. Especially since the topic of the level 6 is lyric poetry, a topic I’m not too strong or confident in (but I guess that’s the point of class, to learn).

After ambling aimlessly through the correct building to find the classroom, I finally found it. Because it is a level 6, this class is a two-hour seminar with 13 people in it. To be honest, it feels just like home! The conversations we had about a poem we were working on were good, but overall I felt quite overwhelmed by the subject matter. I feel that the approach the professor is taking with the poems is a bit too philosophical for my tastes, but I am certainly not going to tell her how to teach her course! I briefly contemplated switching out of the lyric poetry course, but then I also figured I might as well stick it through. Even though we have a paper due every week, I’ll try my best to not explode.

The good thing about the poetry class was that immediately afterwards I had to attend the sorting ceremony for the Harry Potter Appreciation Society! I was so excited and pumped to meet others from my House, Ravenclaw. Jen, Caitlin, Alaina (new friends!), and I all arrived in the room to see a rather large group of people waiting to be sorted. I will say, the governing team did a great job to speed up the process while still keeping the feeling authentic. People were called up in groups of ten and seated individually under the Sorting Hat. Even though the quiz from before determined the House you would be in, they made a list of those results and called out the House as they placed the Hat on your head. As they called my name, I couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous. Would I get into Ravenclaw as I had hoped? Or maybe I would fair better in Gryffindor? Would Slytherin suit my fancy for some unknown reason? Or would the loyalty and great scavenging abilities of Hufflepuff truly call me? Let me tell you, nothing prepared me for the House that was announced as the Sorting Hat graced my head.

Better be, HUFFLEPUFF!

Uhm, excuse me, what? I tried not to look horrified as Hufflepuff was assigned to me, but I truly felt torn. I had been prepared for Ravenclaw and always considered myself a Ravenclaw, but apparently the quiz thought differently! I happily took my place, though, as I realized I was in good company. I have no qualms with being a Ravenpuff; who said I had to choose just one? Caitlin was also sorted into Hufflepuff, so I was glad I had someone I already knew in the same House as me. The club coordinators made a great speech about welcoming us to the Opening Ceremonies and about the upcoming events this semester (it’s some pretty cool stuff). They gave us cookies and drinks, candies and chocolates, and everyone happily talked away two hours of the night. We elected two prefects to each House as well! As the night came to a close, the coordinators told us we could take the free food and drink home, so I did. I currently have two and a half sleeves of cookies in my “pantry” of sorts along with soda and fruit juice to last me a couple days. I would say I earned back more than four pounds worth of food in just one night of being in the club! I can tell that I’ll enjoy this a great deal.

Jen and I returned to our flat after saying goodbye to our new friends (Ellie and Kelly included, you guys are great!), and we watched “A Very Potter Musical.” If you don’t know what this is, please look it up on Youtube and devote three hours of your life to it. The music is incredible, it features a pre-fame Darren Criss, and the humor is just hilarious. You’ll love it, truly, if you’re a fan of Harry Potter. After we were finished with the musical, I called my parents and had a lovely chat with them about the past two days. There’s something calming to me about talking about my day to my parents; it really helps me unwind. Jen is with me pretty much all day, so she knows my stories well. My parents, however, are eager to listen to me spew on and on about the smallest things even when I know I sound annoying. It is with a heavy heart that I go to sleep tonight, as I had such a great night, but I am excited for what tomorrow will hold. Stay tuned to find out what happens!

Day 9 – Brick Lane, Spitalfields, and School Nights

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My second Sunday in London was a bit relaxed, but that’s quite all right. Much like last Sunday, Jen and I went to church a bit early and returned to campus for some lunch. We each had a cup of tea and sat down with our lunches to watch Oliver & Company on Netflix, a relaxing early afternoon before heading off to one of the busiest places I have seen so far in London: Brick Lane Market.

Instead of hopping on the Tube or bus to get there, Nicole, Jen, and I opted to walk the mile and a half it took to get there from campus. At about halfway, my feet started throbbing from my poor choice in shoes, but I pushed forward. Keep Calm and Carry On, as they say. It took some time, but we eventually arrived in this alley-type street with market stalls lining each side and people selling handmade and antique wares. It was pretty cool to see independent designers and jewelry makers selling their work, like at a school craft fair but slightly scarier. I will admit I was apprehensive once I saw the throngs of people shuffling and bumping into one another, but once you enter a storefront or room it dies down somewhat. There’s pretty much a sampling of goods for anyone: from food to jewelry, dresses to graphic tees, pastries to Asian entrees, there’s literally everything you could hope for. I think I even saw a couple juice bars, if you were so inclined.

We hopped into each storefront we saw, but we were all working on tight budgets and opted not to buy anything for a bit. It wasn’t until we approached a fruit stand that we scored some great deals (10 apples for a pound!). Of course there were plenty of secondhand book stalls, and naturally I looked into every single one. Luckily Jen caught my next big find: a British (Bloomsbury) edition of Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince. I got so excited I couldn’t contain myself! I really would have preferred Deathly Hallows, but Half-Blood Prince is just as good AND it was in hardcover! For only 4 pounds, I say it was a steal and a great find.

After a couple more stops, we ambled out of Brick Lane and towards Old Spitalfields Market, not a far walk from where Brick Lane ends. The same sorts of things were being sold at Spitalfields, so we spent about half the time there and headed back to campus. The cool thing about Spitalfields, though, is that it’s a market comprised of local vendors but it’s among chain restaurants and well-known shops. Also, if you’re worried about atmosphere, Spitalfields seems to be a bit safer and more controlled than the hectic vibe that is Brick Lane.

On the way back, we stopped at a Tesco Express to pick up groceries. It’s partly my fault that we stopped at this one; I didn’t know there was one closer to campus. In hindsight, it would have been better if we waited. We trudged about a mile holding our heavy bags; I felt like the personification of death when we finally returned. Jen’s hands were swollen from all of the pressure put on them from the bags! Tesco is one of the cheaper grocery store options, so I guess I’m glad we stopped, but I wish I had known there was a closer one. My hands will never feel the same.

So, like I said, the day was almost uneventful. The markets were cool to see, but we had to return early because I had some preliminary reading to do before classes tomorrow (EW). After being out of class an extra month than I’m used to, I don’t think I’m fully ready to dive back into the swing of things. I guess I’ll find out if I’m ready, won’t I?