Category Archives: Abroad

File #22: Render

Hi-ho readers,
I considered this a vacation week, even though I had class on Monday and Tuesday. Not having work left me with so much time to…do things!
On Monday I took a walk through Hyde Park (which is so close to my building) and realized very quickly that I had walked all the way to Mayfair. So I took a field trip to my dad’s old apartment before going to class. Very surreal.
On Tuesday I had to go back to my office to get my travel reimbursment check and I was so excited that when I left I did a little fist-pump and whispered “yes” and someone on the street laughed at me. Whatever man, not my fault that you don’t have HELL OF POUNDS burning a hole in your pocket. (I have adopted “hell of” instead of “hella” because I have recently started reading Achewood, a great webcomic) Then my class met for shorter than usual because we were going on a field trip for a walking tour of Notting Hill. We walked through Kensington Gardens to get there and my professor, Mo, and I were far ahead of the group. We both walk fast and he said he admired my pace. We talked about choral music/ethnomusicology and how it just makes me tick and a bunch of other stuff and it was just nice to have a conversation on a nice day. It was a moment when I was in love with London but also really missed Wheaton. We had snacks at Cafe Diana (literally plastered with images of the late Princess) and then walked through the neighborhood and were told about places of note by a professor who also works with the school as a tour guide.On Wednesday it was 70 and sunny so I spent a good bit of the day in the park again. I made a flower crown out of wild daisies growing and then I forgot to take it off when I left so I got looks. Whatever! I’m a youth. I got a vanilla cone with a Flake (the greatest street ice cream) and walked to Oxford Street. I went to Primark, which was hell, and I went to Selfridges, which was great. There are so many things to look at in there. I was so distracted that I almost (Dad, that says almost) left my phone in the bathroom.

On Thursday I FINALLY went to tea, with Jillian and Becca at La Suite West, a fancy hotel in Bayswater. It was totally vegan, which was great, because Jillian is vegan and also I have never had Earl Grey with soy milk. Becca and I went to O’Neill’s, a strange Irish pub with GREAT live music in Chinatown. There was a lot of cider consumed.
On Friday I went to my old work haunts (Old Spitalfields Market) to walk around with Becca and to eat street food and to (unsuccessfully) seek out overalls. Seriously, if you know where to get overalls, hit me up.On Saturday I had Emily’s Special Day which consisted of getting breakfast at Caffe Forum (my local place), poking around at the farmer’s market, and going to Portobello Road Market and looking at all the stalls I wanted for however long I wanted to. Then I drank a lot of wine and went to the Book Club in Shoreditch and ate falafel that is only good when you are drunk on the night bus (I know this because I have eaten falafel from this same place before).

Then on Sunday I stayed in bed all day because I DESERVE IT.

My time in London is coming to a close (I fly out on Saturday) and it’s freaking me out. Expect a sappy post then.

Things I Read and Liked This Week
The Pacific Standard’s “Subsisting on the Faves,” a piece by Christine Friar (whose work I have been following for a long time) about living online during her youth as a way to cope
The Virginia Quarterly Review’s “Sugar Days,” an essay about Sierra Crane-Murdoch taking time off from school to work the sugar beet harvest

and

The New York Times is now streaming Roomful of Teeth’s new album Render — I evangelize about this group and I promise if you value world music or choral singing or really anything beautiful, you will love this album. It is a revelation. I am listening to it in its entirety for the first time and feel like my joy is escaping through the corners of my mouth.

And that’s the week that was!
Emily

P.S. word of the week: “cheers,” because that’s how I feel.

File #21: Trudging along

Hi-ho readers,

I thought about actually changing the date of these to Tuesday but then I would end up writing them on Thursday. Blech.

I did not do a whole lot this week as it was my last week of work. I went on a shoot very far away (in zone 2) on Wednesday so I worked for 12 hours. But today I got my transportation reimbursement so baby has some POUNDS burning a hole in her pocket.

I felt homesick a lot this week but am not going to be saying that once I am back home in like, 11 days, so I nipped it in the bud. I also got accepted to Rushlight, the Wheaton literary magazine, and sneezed a lot because it’s hay fever season. Thank God I brought allergy pills.

There is a soprano busker who sings beautifully outside the South Ken station on Thursdays and I cannot figure out her identity. Maybe I will get up the courage to ask her about herself this week.

I’m thinking about doing a rebrand of this newsletter once I get home. The “files” were a good concept for me as I was starting to get ready to leave the country and when I was here. I want the rebrand to have something to do with this, because I feel like it’s appropriate for the impending senior year:

I love laughing at my own jokes. Please provide feedback on this proposal.

Things I Read and Liked This Week
Citylab’s “The Universal Pleasures of 7 PM
The Washington Post’s “A complete history of ‘F*** yeah’ Tumblrs, the happiest blogs on the web
The New Yorker’s “What Part of ‘No, Totally’ Don’t You Understand?”
The New York Times Magazine’s “The Radical Vision of Toni Morrison

And that’s the week that was!
Emily

P.S. phrase of the week: “are you being served?”

File #20: Chin-chin

Hi-ho readers,

I tried writing this last night but was too tired and too sad (from no longer being in Madrid). I really would like to be in Madrid and not at my desk right now. But! We move on. Now for the recap of last week.

On Sunday I had lunch with my friend Kelsey from Wheaton at Cafe Forum, my regular place, and on Monday I saw Mommy (a French-Canadian movie) with my film class at the Ciné Lumière. It’s part of L’Institut Français, du Royaume-Uni, and it is conveniently located on my street.

Then Tuesday was my birthday (most of which was spent at work). After, however, I threw myself a little birthday party. I went to Drink, Shop, & Do for a disappointing candlemaking class with Zoe, Becca, Jillian, and Mary, and Galina!! (my friend from Wheaton) who was in London for the week with a study tour from the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (my friend Ella was here too but more on that later). My “first drink” was a vodka gimlet that came with a temporary tattoo that you got to draw yourself. I thought I did a nice job until I realized that my drawing was backwards. We got hungry and went to Burrito Cafe across the street in our party hats and then made a relatively early night of it.

This was not the case for Wednesday. Ella and Galina took me to Adventure Bar and The Roadhouse in Covent Garden, and needless to say I was very tired at work on Thursday morning.

Then on Friday I left for Madrid! I flew out of Gatwick and was at my sister’s host mom’s apartment by 5 PM local time. It was between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit all weekend and I almost cried from happiness about this at least three times. There were leaves on trees and everything smelled like honeysuckle. Char was in Paris and Munich this week, and as an apology for going to Germany without me she bought me a dirndl that looks just like the one I had as a little girl. I tried it on and then we kicked back for a little while before meeting up with Melanie and her friend Jaci (who were also in Madrid on Friday) to go to the Good Friday procession near the Banco de España. The “Procesión del Silencio” went for several miles, organized by the Jesús de Medinaceli, a Catholic brotherhood in the city. Members clothed in ceremonial wear and hoods processed through the streets, followed by cavalry and many parishoners. All parishoners walked barefoot, and some walked with chains shackled to their feet to signify how their ancestors had betrayed Christ at the time of his crucifixion. The most famous part of the procession happened when a statue weighing almost 3000 pounds appeared, being carried by hidden members of the brotherhood. If you looked closely you could see their feet shuffling underneath. I had seen nothing like this procession before.

To break up the somber occasion, we walked to Toma Jamón, a restaurant specializing in the famous Spanish dry-cured meat. We ate a lot, including huevos rotos con jamón (broken eggs with ham), pa amb tomàquet (bread with crushed tomato and olive oil, a Catalonian dish eaten all over Spain), croquetas (fried balls of mashed potatoes and béchamel), olives, and a bottle of good red wine. Melanie and Jaci went back to their hotel and Char and I walked off all of the food before going home and falling asleep very quickly.

Saturday was our big touristy day (well, for me, not for Char). Char’s host mom, Anabel, makes all of her food and so she packed us a lunch — tortilla sandwiches with other lunch snacks.Tortilla is not like the flour or corn tortilla we see in the States. It’s referred to in English as a Spanish omelette, and is a very thick egg omelette with potato, then fried in vegetable oil. It’s a similar consistency to a frittata, and it is very, very good. Char and I walked to Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid’s biggest park, to enjoy our lunch and the sunshine. We poked around the park, watching the rowboats and vendors, taking a coffee break along the way before stopping inside the Palacio de Cristal. I would like to note that the very warm temperatures did not stop trueMadrileños from wearing parkas, which I witnessed more than once. We walked through the park to visit the Real Jardín Botánico, which was lovely and also featured an art exhibit in an adjoining building. We kept walking through the city to get to the Puerta del Sol. New Year’s celebrations happen there and there is also a plaque called the kilómetro cero, which shows the symbolic center of Spain. If you step on it, it’s supposed to ensure your return to Madrid in the future. So of course, I did. We ate yet more at a restaurant called El Museo de Jamón, which has locations all over the city. We shared a bocadillo de chorizo, a sandwich made of a small Spanish baguette and pork sausage. And of course, a cold beer. We walked to the Palacio Real to take a tour, and also to enjoy the view of the Sierra de Guadarrama, the mountain range that surrounds Madrid. Then we went to the Mercado de San Miguel, where Char had me sample gulas (baby eels, although I think mine were imitation) and boquerones (anchovies, definitely real). I liked the gulas but had to wash down the boquerones with a San Miguel beer. Also, I would like to note that day drinking is commonplace in Spain. Like, a LOT. The last place we went before I needed to nurse my sunburn was the Plaza Mayor, a busy plaza in central Madrid. We took the Metro de Madrid home to enjoy a dinner of chicken, salad, and sauteed mushrooms prepared by Anabel. We had a pretty long nap before venturing out again for a late dessert of espuma de yougurt con frambuesa (whipped yogurt with raspberry reduction) and tinto de verano (wine with lemon soda).

Sunday morning was Easter, so Char and I ambled through El Rastro, an open air flea market held every Sunday, before heading to Santa María la Real de La Almudena, the head of the Catholic church in Madrid, for Mass. The service was in Spanish, so I had a tough time understanding for obvious reasons. I decided that I would enjoy the architecture. The cathedral is Neo-Gothic but has very bright paintings on the ceiling and behind the altar, and has modern stained-glass windows. We did a little shopping in Recoletos in Salamanca (Char’s ward/barrio) before heading back to her host mom’s apartment for an Easter lunch. Anabel’s mother Carmen and son Itor had arrived, and I was thrilled to learn that Itor is fluent in English. I enjoyed listening to the Spanish at the table, seeing what I could gather from context clues. Char’s Spanish is so good now. I think she is better at Spanish than I will ever be at anything in my life. We had pork and so many grilled vegetables and more gulas con aguacate and so much bread. My wine glass kept being refilled without me noticing and Anabel also made me try two shot glasses of patxaran, which is a fruit based liquor that she makes herself. Anabel and her family are from the Basque country, and this is a specialty there. Needless to say, all this booze made me very sleepy and when I woke up I was still drunk and needed to walk it off. Char and I went downtown (very slowly) to the Círculo de Bellas Artes to watch the sun set over Madrid from the roof. We only had 15 minutes up there but it was so, so beautiful. Afterward, I was somehow feeling hungry, so we went to Char’s preferred drunk food locale, Sidreria El Tigre. A GIANT plate of tapas comes with a 3,50 glass of cider. So we were gorged on jamóncroquetas, and the like. But we still decided to get ice cream…at a McDonald’s no less. I swear, it had a MARBLE STAIRCASE. McDonald’s is treated like a real restaurant everywhere but the States.

On Monday morning we woke up “early” (9 AM) to try to get into the Museo del Prado, Spain’s main museum. Not before eating pa amb tomàquet at the VIPS down the street, first. I have no idea how to describe VIPS. It’s a restaurant, but they also have take-out, and it’s a store that sells toys and books? They’re literally everywhere. At the Prado, the line was half an hour long, so we ditched and went to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza instead. It’s one of the largest private collections in the world and has a lot of paintings from Dutch schools, Impressionist art, and late 20th century American art. It was really nice and I wish we had more time to spend there, but I needed to pack and leave for the airport. It pained me to do so. I thought about “accidentally” missing my flight more than once.Madrid, I love you, and I will return someday (knowing more Spanish). I missed Char a lot and I miss her more now. I may have cried a little going through Spanish customs. Now it’s on to my last week of work and trying to get in all cultural activities possible here.

Things I Read and Liked This Week
None. Was too busy living life. Will compensate next week.

And that’s the week that was!
Emily

P.S. Word of the week: claro (meaning “of course!”)

File #19: IT’S MY BIRTHDAY

Hi-ho readers,
I don’t think I’m very good at doing this on time.

BUT IT’S MY BIRTHDAY TODAY SO IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER. I am 21 and plan on doing some U.S.-style legal drinking and a candlemaking class. Feel free to send me free gifts and/or cash. I need drink money.

the face of a 21 year old!
This week was a lot of being at work and starting to write a play (coming to the Great Wheaton Way in 2016) but I also did some things of note. Pretend I’m writing this on Sunday night.On Monday I went to a bar in Covent Garden called the Porterhouse with Zoe and Becca under the assumption that there would be live music. There was not, but it was still a nice place to have a drink on a weekday night. We also went to the Science Museum Late on Wednesday night which is great because it’s only a couple yards from our building.

The funniest thing that happened this week was at work on Friday when for some reason listening to “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus prompted us to make a playlist called “Crying in the Bath (But In a Funny Way).” I have replicated much of it on my Spotify so if you want it just ask. My picks were “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins and “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” by Bryan Adams.

On Saturday I went to Oxford and Blenheim Palace with a school trip and hung out with my friend Mary. Our tour guide was a rather theatrical guy who had done his master’s at BU (go Terriers) and provided a lot of interesting information. We got a walking tour of the necessary external sights (because apparently it costs money to tour a college) and then were let loose for two hours. Mary and I ate a pie in the Covered Market and then toured Christ Church College which was beautiful. We then went to Blenheim Palace which according to our guide is one of the finest stately homes in all of England. And a duke and his family still live in a wing of the house. We went on a tour but eventually peeled off to explore some of the gardens. Weirdest thing that happened all day: seeing a Confederate flag on the back of a pickup truck on the way home?? Also I was supposed to have a date on Saturday night but he canceled with “the flu” so this is just proof that men are weak.

Anyway, I leave for Madrid on Friday to spend Easter with Charlotte and I am so excited. UNTIL THEN!Things I Read and Liked This Week
The New Yorker’s “O Adjunct! My Adjunct!” (Denise Davis, if you’re reading this, thank you for everything.)
Autostraddle’s “15 of Those Actresses Who Were in That Show
The Awl’s “I Just Ate Fruit for the First Time and It Kind of Sucked
New York Magazine’s “Why I Live in an All Women Boardinghouse in New York City

And that’s the week that was!
Emily (another year older and another year wiser)

P.S. word of the week: invigilator. LOOK IT UP

File #17: #LizardTruth

Hi-ho readers,

I realized today that I only have six weeks left here and I don’t think I was ready for that realization. ANYWAY!

Let’s get the requisite Culture Chat out of the way. This week (and by “week” I mean “Wednesday and Thursday night”) I watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s new show that was just released on Netflix. I devoured it and caught myself laughing aloud several times (which I never do while watching TV alone). Besides some race issues which Tina Fey Brand White Feminism can bring on (questionable Native American subplot) the show is great and perfect for binge-watching over a weekend.

Back to your scheduled programming. My life is pretty much work nowadays, so I relish when I get to go outside. This can even consist of going outside to eat lunch, which I have to get myself to do every day or I go crazy. There’s an outdoor seating area near my office with a bunch of food trucks so I like to sit there and people watch. After, if I have time, I’ll walk up and down Brick Lane and poke into some small stores. The weather has been really nice this week; sometimes I don’t even need my coat. Spring is coming, friends!

As you may know, I love trivia, and am pretty good at it after a lifetime of Jeopardy watching. The Imperial College Student Union hosts a pub quiz every Tuesday so I went with some friends. While we did pretty badly, I got some pretty obscure questions right (i.e. a fletcher makes arrows! The Tasman Sea is an actual body of water!) but my skills did not propel us to victory. I want to go again but need to get there earlier — tables fill up pretty quickly.

This week was pretty dull just because I was so tired out but on Saturday I took a day trip to Bath with a BU tour. We saw the Roman Baths (and accompanying museum) and afterwards we were let loose to get lunch and walk around. I had a Cornish pasty on the street (which is basically a handheld chicken pot pie and AMAZING) and Jillian and I had tea in a little cafe. We got back on the bus to go to Avebury, which is a Neolithic henge monument — kind of like Stonehenge except shorter and you can touch the stones, as evidenced below. My friend Annie and I went into The Henge Shop which was full of a lot of crystals, books on UFOs, Celtic stuff, books by Oprah, and Putumayo CDs. It was great. I felt like I was entering my goddess years.

Then we came back and Jillian and my friends Zoe and Becca and I went to a piano bar called Piano Kensington. There was a guy playing who has a similar vocal timbre to Elton John so he played a lot of Elton John songs and other singalongs. There were a lot of gross drunk guys in there for such a classy place but I had a glass of wine any enjoyed myself (AND got home before the Tube stopped running for the night).

Things I Read and Liked This Week:
Buzzfeed’s “Can You Guess Why Piper Is Making This Face?” (as an Orange Is the New Black fan, I am disappointed in my score of 5/10)
The Toast’s “Syllabus for the Course on ‘Camp Heterosexuality’ I Have Not Yet Been Asked to Teach” (more brilliance from Mallory Ortberg, as usual)
Google Feud — like Family Feud but a million times better.

And that’s the week that was!
Emily

P.S. word of the week: cuppa (I don’t know how this hasn’t made it in yet, because it’s one of my favorite things people say here).

File #18: You Da Ant!

Hi-ho readers,

Late, late, I know. But I’m here now and isn’t that all that matters?

Also, title from the best podcast I listened to this week which was Pop Culture Happy Hour’s “Cultural Anniversaries and Great Things for Kids” — which talked extensively about the movie Antz.

The week had its highs and lows. On Monday night I had the privilege of seeing Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House, which was wonderful. What I realized while watching it was that I do not really know the plot of Swan Lake. We had to ask the lady sitting next to us what was going on in the first act. I admit that one of my favorite things about being in a city with a very active performing arts culture is dressing up and seeing things, even if I’m in the cheap seats. Also this statue is my new girlfriend.

On Tuesday I had a fun situation — I was let out of work an hour early to go pick up some stuff at the Primark on Oxford Street for a shoot we had the next day. I walked to the Liverpool Street station from my office, and very quickly realized that I had no money whatsoever, that I had not topped up my phone and not only had no data but no minutes, and that I did not know the PIN to my credit card. I, of course, panicked. I finally found free Wi-Fi and called my mother while crying and saying that “I’M NOT CUT OUT FOR CITY LIFE” which of course isn’t true. Everything was fine afterward. Minus a comical situation in which I put 20 pounds into the Oyster card machine in the station and I didn’t tap back in quickly enough for the transaction to complete. The guy behind me in line was being really impatient but the machine wasn’t giving me back my money. I tapped at another machine and the transaction hadn’t gone through, so I worried that I had lost twenty pounds so I went to the help desk. I start telling a TfL worker what’s happened and all of a sudden I hear the coin return in an Oyster machine dispensing coins for WAY longer than normal. I whip around and see the guy that was behind me in line making a break for it with cupped hands — my money! I tell the TfL worker that I think the man has taken my cash and he starts laughing and gives me a full refund. Bless the kindness of strangers.Also, something funny happened in Primark — I’ve found that children here tend to be mature beyond their years in many situations. I suppose it’s an effect of city life. But I was waiting in line for the checkout and I waved a tiny toddler girl in a stroller and she just gave me the most adult, pursed lips, “get-away-from-me” smile. It was so funny that I started laughing out loud and I definitely got looks. I was feeling relatively unstable from the events of the day and this didn’t help.

Wednesday involved the most public transportation I’ve had to deal with in my time here. I had a shoot in Croydon (on which I was the art director!), a suburb south of London, so I had to take the commuter train out from Victoria station pretty early in the morning. I have not taken a commuter train in the UK since the 8th grade, and I was with my father who understood how they worked. I did not realize that to get off the train at your stop there is a button you must press to get off at your stop. So, the doors did not open, and I was trapped on the train. This provoked some panic because I was already cutting it close and I didn’t know how far away the next stop was from my final destination. It turned out it wasn’t very far, so I called a cab and they drove me to the shooting location. I also got some interesting trivia about the area from the driver and he drove me to an ATM so I wouldn’t fall victim to foreign fees on my card. People who aren’t from the city are oddly courteous and I’m not used to it.

I got to the shoot and 15 minutes later, while I was eating a croissant, one of my supervisors told me I had to go back into the city, to our office, to get a tripod and bring it back. So that was another ordeal all together…but I did make a dent in my podcast listening. It was a weird day to say the least. That night I passed out at 8 PM and woke up the next day at 7:45. Recommended adult behavior.

On Thursday the regular work grind was vastly improved by Melanie and Liza (my friends from high school) and Dale (my choir director and mentor from high school) meeting me for lunch  near my office! It was so good to see them and have a taste of home (and of course gossip about certain topics). I had breakfast at 1 PM which was ideal. That night I went to the Philharmonia Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall at Southbank Center by myself, which I treated as a date. I got myself a gin and tonic and made a lady take the below picture of me on the balcony. I was especially excited to see the Philharmonia because they were being conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy, a pianist and conductor that my dad had us listen to a lot as kids. He conducted several Sibelius pieces, which were all wonderful. My favorite was “The Swan of Tuonela” from the Lemminkäinen Suite.

Also, I think my favorite view in London is that from the right-hand side Golden Jubilee Bridge near the Embankment tube station. Hands down.

On Friday I lived vicariously through my friends in Emerson House at Wheaton for room selection, and I have a lovely single with TWO WINDOWS and a view of the Dimple. Ideal room situation. I am incredibly excited for next year (and also terrified).

On Saturday I lazed about and then went to the Natural History Museum (finally!) for about 45 minutes before the amount of children and tourists gave me a headache and I went home and took a nap while watching The X-Files. Jillian, Becca, and I went to a club called Cargo in Shoreditch that night which was…good fun. Will not expound further.

And Sunday was cleaning, cooking, laundering, etc. I finally have groceries now which I did not for some time because I didn’t have time to go to the store.

Things I Read and Liked This Week

Containment” by A. E. Stallings
This series from kuš! of Latvian artists invited to draw comics of works of art in the Latvian National Museum of Art
This great interview on Here’s the Thing (Alec Baldwin’s podcast) with Roz Chast (my favorite New Yorker cartoonist)
This piece of Wheaton history about a FLYING CLUBAnd that’s the week that was!
Emily

P.S. word of the week: “ta!”

File #16: To unravel a torment you must begin somewhere

Hi-ho readers,
The last of my friends from the outside world have left town, and it’s back to being by myself for a lot of the time. Must. Fill Void. With Culture.

Something I forgot to mention from last week — I saw The Ruling Class currently starring James McAvoy last week and I highly recommend it. Sometimes they sell 15 pound tickets for Monday night shows (which is what I got, and the seats were in the second row!).

Anyway. Kate and I had to fill our nights with activity this week because I was always busy during the day, what with work. On Monday I decided to bring us into my (limited) version of college life — The Imperial College Union Bar. It was quiet (attributing this to Monday-ness), but not so quiet that I felt like we were drinking in an empty room. Then it was time to rest up for week two of work.

I thought I’d write more about work here but for once don’t feel like exposing every single aspect of my life — for a balance of personal and professional reasons. I am working; I am learning. That’s all I’ll say for now.

On Tuesday night Kate and I discovered Pizzeria Roma one block from my flat which has a personal pizza for three pound AND delivers. This is, as my dad said on the phone, “going to be a problem.” We ate them in their boxes while walking to the bus station and headed to Soho for Ruby Tuesdays at the Ku Bar, which is, you guessed it, (Gay) Ladies’ Night. Had I had another drink in me (and had I not eaten an entire personal pizza en route to the bar), then maybe I would have had more fun. But it was good to explore the scene.

Wednesday Kate dragged me to King’s Cross to take a picture at Platform 9 3/4, and what I learned very quickly is that there are a lot of people at King’s Cross during the day (not the case when I was there at 6 AM). So, there is literally a queue of people waiting to take a picture there at all times. It took so long that I read ~50 pages of my book. Worth the picture? See for yourself:
We went to a place I’d been wanting to go to for a while called Drink Shop & Do — a bar-cum-cafe-cum-boutique. It was VERY twee, but a brand of twee that I could stomach (I am, after all, a white twentysomething). I specifically wanted to go on Wednesday night because they were having an event called Lionel Rich-Tea. Guests were challenged to recreate Mr. Richie’s likeness with icing on the face of a digestive biscuit. Images of Mr. Richie were provided on each table. Mine kind of looks like Bob Belcher, and I think Kate’s may be modern art.
Kate was gone by Thursday (not before using all of my toilet paper and leaving me a bunch of half-eaten candy she didn’t want to take back to Denmark), and I miss her. But I filled the void with culture, like I said! Thursday night I, after three years, got to see tUnE-yArDs in concert, with my friend Jillian. tUnE-yArDs is mainly Merrill Garbus, with a rotating cast of musicians. Garbus is from New Canaan, Conn. (where I went to school) so I feel a special allegiance and pride towards her. She is also extremely talented and I think in my top three musicians list. The concert was a revelation; I was on my feet by song one, as was the rest of the audience. To think I had seen the London Philharmonic in the same room a week before! Poshness did not allow for wiggling and grooving!The next day I was up at 5:45 to get to one of two shoots for work (let’s just say I was not in bed early the night before) and by day’s end I was TIRED. Sara was in Scotland this weekend so I had the space to myself. I spent much of Friday night eating chocolate and blasting ABBA. It was wonderful. I don’t think I had been truly alone since before exams, let alone had a good night’s sleep.

On Saturday I resolved to do something, so I went to the Tate Modern for the first time since being here. I felt a little guilty for going to a museum when it was 61 degrees (yes, you read that right) out, but I so enjoyed myself. I like going to museums alone because it allows for a certain kind of wandering. I didn’t feel like I had the cash to go to any of the paid exhibits inside, but I went through all of the ones open to the general public. My favorite (and the one that Grace recommended to me last week) was Louise Bourgeois’ Works on Paper. It caused an almost visceral response; I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I left. I was nearly moved to tears by What is the Shape of the Problem?, a series of prints done in 1999. The images will do it better justice than my words could.

I walked along the river for a while, half enjoying myself and half looking for somewhere to charge my phone (sadly, that place was Starbucks) when I saw a vaguely familiar face. Charlotte’s friend from college, Heather, is in town this weekend, and I happened to run into her in a city of EIGHT MILLION PEOPLE. Bizarro, and pleasant.
I stopped by Waitrose (grocery store) on the way home, picking up some sundries and a bottle of wine, intending to have a quiet evening, but was taken out by Zoe and Becca who live across the hall, to a night of dancing at Drink Shop & Do, the place I was on Saturday night. We took Jillian with us and to see a crowd of hipsters getting down like they were at a middle school dance was fun to say the least.
Today was spent continuing to decompress from the last month, and watching movies for class. Somehow I am still tired. Existentially? Who knows.Things I Liked This Week
the illustrations of Quentin Blake
museum gift shops
NPR’S “Winter Zen: Taking a Cue from Snow Monkeys
The Things in Black Men’s Closets” by E. Ethelbert Miller

And that’s the week that was!
Emily

P.S. word of the week: ramshackle.

File #15: Tip of the Hat

Hi-ho readers,

This is REALLY late, and I apologize. I forget what it’s like to be around friends and to actually be involved in other people’s lives.

Monday was my first class meeting of British Cinema and Society, which is interesting but I honestly feel neutral towards it. After such intensive classes it’s weird having the one class once a week. I’m also in work mode just because my hours at my new internship are 9:30-6 Tuesday through Friday, and I spend a little under an hour commuting each way.

So, as that would hint at, on Tuesday I started work. This was less exciting than Grace’s arrival in London on the same day. I finally collected her and we went home and made dinner, which was a lot of what we did this week because I was at work during the day. Grace is a far better cook than I am and her abilities elevated my meals tenfold.

On Wednesday I had a ticket to the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I assumed because I got the ticket through BU, the seats would be mediocre, but I was in the FOURTH ROW. Picture below. Works played were Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Schumann’s Overture, Scherzo & Finale, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (with violinist Ray Chen), and Beethoven’s Symphony No.5. IT was incredible. I’ve been to the ballet but never the orchestra, but I developed a love for it through tapes played by my parents when I was younger, and specials watched on PBS. This concert was being broadcast on BBC Radio, so my dad listened to it at work while I was in the audience. Ray Chen is a very young Australian guy who was virtually unknown before a couple of years ago, and his performance was stunning. He emoted every note and phrase he played through his face, and was honestly as much of a joy to watch as to hear. He had to come back out on stage SIX times before people started clapping, and then he shouted out the name of a short Paganini piece and just started playing on the spot. I didn’t know in advance which Beethoven piece the orchestra was playing last, but then I heard the opening DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN and it took me a lot not to laugh.

The funniest part of the night happened before the concert; I had changed into my fancy dress as work and had to run to catch the Tube to Westminster. I walked along the Thames, glittering, on my way to the Southbank Center. I had a little time to eat, but very little money. What did I see that I could afford? McDonalds. Behold — the perfect date.

On Friday night I was finally free and could spend some extended time with Grace. At Davis House in sophomore year, the last time we lived together, shisha was one of our main house activities. So we wandered down to Edgware Road and went to Al Arez and had a good time. Some guys next to us pitied our general look of White Foreigner (or as Grace and the Bhutanese would say, “chillip”) and told us to ask for smaller coals so the shisha wouldn’t burn out quickly and we wouldn’t have to buy another one. I’ve found kind strangers in London a lot, which people say doesn’t happen. I doubt I look very threatening; this may prompt it.

Kate (for the uninitiated, from Wheaton, lived together freshman year and junior year, one of my best friends) FINALLY arrived on Saturday morning and is staying in a hostel a 15 minute walk from me in Earl’s Court. Grace and I got very worried about her when we were waiting at the Victoria Coach Station because Kate had no way to get in touch with us and was really late. We ended up paging her over the intercom system and she eventually found us (without having heard the page). We wound our way past Buckingham Palace and through St James Park (yes, we saw the pelicans) and then set off on a tour of Parliament, which was excellent. The audio tour was narrated by a woman with a posh accent and it was super informative and had good regal music. We had Grace (the European History major) as a supplementary source. Then, because Saturday is the best day for it, I took us to Portobello Road Market, which was much sunnier than the last time I went. We stopped in SO many little stalls but did not buy anything, as usual. I want to get some gifts for my parents there before I leave in April, but it’ll happen another time. The District and Circle lines were BOTH shut down this weekend, and those are the lines I use to get everywhere, so we made some creative transporation decisions. We took the bus a lot, which I rarely do when I’m here even though it’s leagues cheaper. It also served as a tour guide for Grace and Kate, and I guess me as well. You certainly see a lot more from the windows of the bus than you do underground. Kate had been awake for about 24 hours at this point, so we went to a pub in my neighborhood, had a pint, and then all went to bed.

Sunday morning was up bright and early (okay, 9:30), to go to the Sung Eucharist service at St Paul’s Cathedral, which was lovely. I’m not sure if I liked this or Westminster Abbey better…I’ve got to get to Westminster Abbey on a Sunday. Kate, Grace, and I were all damaged by Catholicism from a young age (perhaps the two of them moreso, because they went to Catholic schools), so we all went through the motions. While we were sitting around after the organ recessional, pretending to pray but really chatting, we heard a clergywoman start to excitedly clap, and we turned around and a guy had PROPOSED UNDER THE DOME and SHE SAID YES! It was so lovely and we chattered about it for the rest of the day. We walked over the Millenium Bridge and to Borough Market…which was closed. So instead, we took a bus to Shoreditch, because I knew two markets happen on Sundays across the street from where I work. We ate arepas from a food truck where I had gotten lunch earlier in the week, and bellies full, we headed back towards West London. We took a long ride through central London and the West End, before hopping off at Knightsbridge to pick up a present for Grace’s host family at Harrod’s. I hadn’t been on this trip yet, and didn’t realize that it was literally a 15 minute walk from my flat. I found this out because we walked home. We dropped Grace off at her overnight bus back to Paris very late, and Kate and I both miss her (although we have gotten into our own debauchery, which will be detailed next weekend).

I really like having friends around and I feel like it’s going to be a terrible shock back to reality once everyone is gone. I’m seeing tUnE-yArDs with my friend Jillian on Thursday so that should be amazing, and hopefully I can submerge myself in culture before I miss everyone too much.

Things I Saw and Liked This Week:
stupid small dogs wearing jackets (so, all dogs in London)
people by themselves smiling at something they see or read>
riding in the front row of the top deck of the bus

And that’s the week that was!

Emily

P.S. word of the week: plummy (as in accent).

File #14: Irn Bru

Hi-ho readers,

Beware: long letter ahead. Monday and Tuesday heralded finals, so nothing too exciting there. Although I have found my new Regular Place at Caffe Forum on Gloucester Road. They give free croissants to the first 100 customers, so needless to say I will be there a lot.

Tuesday night I finally finished ALL of my work and so we went out to the discounted student night at XOYO, which was underwhelming. I did eat a very good falafel wrap far too quickly afterward, however. Wednesday morning was spent lazing about as a reward. I am a lapsed Catholic (read: largely a non-believer) but still greatly enjoy the ritual of Mass (perhaps because I no longer am forced to attend). So for Ash Wednesday, I felt like going to a service. London is predominantly and unsurprisingly Anglican, so I figured I’d go all out and attend the evensong service at Westminster Abbey. I cannot being to describe how lovely it was. I wanted to sit in the quire but was content with the front row next to the altar. Westminster Abbey is a friendly place — they invited all who received Communion in their own church to do so (so I did), and I also was able to get ashes. The music and the acoustics floored me, and it was funny how the rituals of Mass made me feel at home. It’s not so different from ours. I’m writing a poem about the experience (the first I’ve written in a while!).

It was early to bed Wednesday night because on Thursday morning I left for my much anticipated Edinburgh trip! I left around 6 AM from my flat and went to Kings Cross Station. I saw the famous Platform 9 3/4 (complete with cart trolley shoved in the wall) but had no one to take my picture because I was traveling alone! Depressing, really. My train left at 7:30 and arrived at Edinburgh Waverley Station around 12:30. Maryam, my friend from Wheaton and Emerson House, picked me up and we went and dropped my stuff off at Zach’s (also from Wheaton) flat. We went to lunch (at which I ate my first bit of haggis, which I liked?) and I got a good tour of the city. We were chattering away the whole time even though it’s only been two months since we’ve seen each other. There’s always so many funny stories to trade with Maryam. I think we see a lot of the same humor in things. Edinburgh is really a quaint, cobbled, beautiful place. Perhaps I felt more fondly toward it because I was on vacation, but it was such a relief to be there, in a city of 500,000. London becomes daunting at times, even though my setting for most of the time feels more like a neighborhood than anything else. Regardless: I really like Edinburgh.

We headed down to Scottish Parliament (where Zach works) around 5 to pick him up. I made a huge fuss when he came out of the building and it was SO good to see him. I saw him briefly in December, and July in Albany before that, but it was like a wave of relief washed over me. Familiar faces are so comforting when you’ve felt a little bit in a sea of new ones. We briefly went back to Zach’s flat, and the Tesco around the corner. We bought ibuprofen (because my ear really started hurting — FORESHADOWING) and Irn Bru, a strange orange cream soda which is “Scotland’s Other National Drink” (the first is of course Scotch whisky).

After this, we went to a lecture hosted by the Edinburgh University Students’ Association by Linda Bellos, a feminist and a founder of Black History Month. The lecture was about LGBT History Month, which is obviously something important to me. It was really interesting and I was so glad to get back into feminist culture, which I haven’t really been involved with here, sadly enough. It got a little wild when this women raised her hand (normal, the lecture fostered discussion) and starting talking and slowly revealed herself as a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist, aka someone who is stuck in second wave ideology). Suddenly someone who was running the lecture stood up and announced their zero tolerance policy and a security guard essentially ESCORTED HER OUT. I’ve never seen anything like that at a university sponsored event…actually let alone anywhere. That, plus the free wine the event was giving out, made it a very exciting night. What I liked most about the evening (besides the wine) happened after it ended. People shuffled out, and the three of us stuck around enjoying our wine and processing the lecture. The other students still around came and sat at our table and talked with us too. We had a great conversation and then the night staff kicked us out so we went to a local bar, The Brass Monkey, and had more drinks and conversation until we were feeling tired, around 1 AM. I went to bed happy, looking forward to the next day. Then…something interesting happened.

Around 3 AM, I woke up in excruciating pain. Remember the briefly aforementioned ear pain? It got way, way worse. Full disclosure: I started crying and did the only thing I know how to do, which is call my mother. She and my dad pulled some research on clinics near me and then later in the night after ibuprofen wasn’t working my dad suggested that I call the Scottish NHS’ off-hours line, which I proceeded to do. The most wonderful Scottish woman asked all about how I was feeling. She then said “alright, I’ve made you an appointment at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for 7 AM.” I was a little freaked out because it’s a large hospital, but I took the appointment and booked a cab and headed out. Not before freaking out a sleeping Zach on the couch by saying “hi, I’m going to the hospital, I’ll be right back.” Probably not the best word choice, but off I went. Everything was empty because of how early it was, including the off-hours clinic. I walked in and three Scottish guys laughing at reception looked up at me and said “are you Emily? Do you have the 7 o’clock?” I said yes and yes, even though the hearing in my right ear at that point was seriously limited. I got a doctor in approximately 30 seconds, and he confirmed that I did indeed have an acute ear canal infection, just like I did last year (this leads me to believe that something is probably Up with my ears and I should probably see an ENT when I go back to the States). He gave me some ear drops and I dropped a not-subtle hint that I’d appreciate a course of oral antibiotics just to ensure it went away. He said “oh, sure!!!” very excitedly and also brought back a huge box of codeine pills — “just in case.” He said that he hoped I felt better, and I, expecting a co-pay, was confused. I said, hesitantly, “uh…am I all set?” and he said “oh, yeah, they’ll book you a cab back home at reception. Bye!” IT WAS ALL FREE. So I just…went home. I felt like I was robbing the hospital. So the biggest shout-out of this letter goes out to the NHS, because they are truly shout-out-worthy.

I went home and was locked out of Zach’s flat for several hours because there was some confusion and then he had to go to a final, but I had a nice big breakfast at a cafe around the corner from his place, and then Maryam let me sleep in her bed at her dorm for a couple of hours. Then I felt GREAT, and was ready to take on the rest of the day, which entailed picking up GRACE from the airport. Grace is one of my best friends in this life (also from Wheaton), and I had not seen her since May, when sophomore year ended, because she went to Bhutan and I didn’t see her this summer or winter. Our reunion was spectacular. We all made dinner together in Zach’s kitchen and we were sitting and scarfing down rice and Grace commented that it could be the same in Norton, or Thimphu, or Edinburgh — sitting around a table and eating home-cooked food with good friends never gets old. It’s true. I so relished the ability this weekend to be stupid around non-judgmental friends that I value so much. Then we went to a couple of bars in Edinburgh, bopping about town until will all got some well deserved rest.

On Saturday morning Zach and I thought it was only right that Grace experienced a proper fry-up, but one that we made ourselves. We’ve always loved cooking together, so it was nice to blabber and listen to music and fry bacon. It was all very good and we sat gorging ourselves and decimating the groceries we had only just purchased. And what do you do after a proper Scottish breakfast? Tour Scottish Parliament, and climb Arthur’s Seat. Scottish Parliament looks like it doesn’t belong in Edinburgh — I guess that’s because it’s so recent. But it was an awesome building to tour, and I felt very cool because we got special visiting passes because Zach works there. Then we were off to walk — but really hike — Arthur’s Seat. I didn’t think to bring proper climbing shoes, so my regular black riding boots somehow got me up the mountain. I was laughing all the way up, and the climb was so worth the view and the muddy hands. After we got down Zach and Grace wanted to give me a taste of the Himalayan cuisine they so enjoyed last semester, so we went to a cafe specializing in the food of the region and we ate momos, which are traditional dumplings. They were so good and perfect for a trio of famished travelers.

One of my favorite parts of this weekend was probably pushing the two couches in Zach’s living room together and getting under fuzzy blankets with Zach and Grace with bowls of spaghetti, sleepily reminiscing and watching silly videos, before we went out for the evening. Nothing ever changes. Before I arrived Zach promised me that he would give me my first queer bar experience in the Pink Triangle neighborhood of Edinburgh, so Maryam came over and we set out. I won’t get into the nitty gritty but it was interesting. Fun is a better word. I had fun. I found a friend that went to Wheaton my first-year but transferred out and she was excited to see me on her turf (specifically a gay bar). This was definitely our latest night, for several reasons, so we took a cab home and all passed out.

Getting up on Sunday was tough but Zach, Grace, and I dragged ourselves out for a final brunch, which was lovely, and then we went to the National Gallery of Scotland as my final piece of culture. It’s a smaller museum (smaller than London ones at least) but I really liked it. I felt like I could actually see everything in it. We met up with Maryam (and Jordana, also from Wheaton/Emerson) for coffee before I took the train back to Kings Cross at 5. It was a wistful ride home (before I fell dead asleep).

I was so happy to see my friends. It was a good break, and I feel absolutely re-energized and ready to start my new class (British Cinema and Society) and my new internship (on Tuesday). Thank you so much to Zach and Maryam for their hospitality, and Grace, I can’t wait to see you on Tuesday when you arrive in London!

No Things I Read and Liked This Week — I think this was enough.

And that’s the week that was!
Emily

P.S. word of the week: bairn.

File #13: Coffee

Hi-ho readers,

Sorry for the delay — Sunday night was spent polishing off a grand total of 22 pages for two final papers. Schoolwork took precedence. Aren’t you proud, Mom and Dad?

I have horrible news. Well, horrible news for me. I truly cannot tolerate coffee in the way that I was able to before. I was having a lot of busy mornings and late nights this week, so at certain points this week I decided to get a latte. Biiiiiiig mistake. I had the jitters for most of this week during the day, and had so much trouble falling asleep at night that I almost overslept for two different events (on Wednesday and Friday). I made record time on my school route though: six minutes. I am a proficient speed-walker. Although in a panic I did try to run down my street and had shin pain for longer than I care to admit.

Apparently my professors take great joy in keeping me out of the library/my room to do homework, because I went on a field trip four out of five days this week. Monday was a walk around Westminster to look at different monuments to influential women in London history. And also…pelicans. My professor took us to St James Park for no reason other than to see if the colony of pelicans that lives there was out and about. They were. And they were terrifying. Thanks, Dr Atkinson. Highlight of the trip: her stopping us  in front of Westminster Abbey and saying “now, I’m going to pull over and get a coffee because I just…can’t.”

On Tuesday we went to the Imperial War Museum and while I didn’t get to see everything I want to, it’s a bit of a hike away. Maybe I’ll go back if I have an excuse to be in the neighborhood. Wednesday was a guided tour of filming locations in Southwark (pronounced suth-uk…now I understand why every town name in Massachusetts is pronounced so bizarrely) with my film class. I wanted to go through Borough Market (which we walked past) but our tour guide really had an agenda.

Thursday lacked a field trip but Friday we went back to the Museum of London, which I was confused by because that was our first field trip for the semester for my women’s studies class. Maybe my professor wanted to make things come full circle. We discovered that the book she wrote on suffragettes is sold in the gift shop. I really liked that class and she wants to have a reunion and take us all to tea before we leave in April, and honestly that would be great.

I have not left the room much this weekend because of work, but my dad made my Valentine’s Day the best one ever by sending me a Domino’s pizza. God bless him.

Anyway, here’s What I Reed and Liked This Week:
First of all — I’ve been listening to a lot of music to drown out the existential gloom that comes with paper-writing. Hush, the collaboration of Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma is excellent, as are the two volumes of Jazz Sebastien Bach by the Swingle Singers. I also listened to Grace by Jeff Buckley for the first time and a great album by Jose Gonzalez called Veneer.
Rookie’s “Call It In” (while it may be beyond my demographic, it’s still important)
The Atlantic’s “The Town That’s Building Life Around Sleep
The New Yorker’s “What I Imagine My Boyfriend’s Ex-Girlfriends Are Doing Right Now
Vox’s “27 fonts* (give or take) that explain your world
The Washington Post’s “Everything you ever wanted to know above love, in 25 maps and charts
and a poem I really love: “cutting greens” by Lucille Clifton

And that’s the week that was!
Emily

P.S. word of the week: rasher.