Archive for May, 2011

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Luke: Royal Wedding

May 25, 2011

I arrived in Hyde Park the morning of the wedding to watch from the giant screens set up on the grass, but I realized I wanted to see it in person. No, I did not receive an invitation to Westminster Abbey, so I did the next-best thing: stand on the Mall in front of Clarence House (Prince of Wales’ residence) and watch everyone process past before and after the wedding. Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Charles, the Queen and Prince Philip, etc all rode by. I didn’t catch any pictures of that because I was too busy making sure I could see for myself the historic day, but I did catch the Buckingham Palace balcony appearance and Royal Air Force flyover. Some of the planes in the flyover are from WWII, a reference to Britain’s indomitable spirit and successful resistance. The green boxes in front of the Palace and the media bleachers in front of the Abbey are not permanent; yes, there really was that much media hype for the event. 

Not everyone can go to Europe and say they saw the Pope and the Queen of England, but I can.

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Parker: Farewell dinner

May 24, 2011

As an end of program celebration, IES held a farewell dinner for all the students in my program. We had a wonderful three course French dinner all while floating through Paris via a boat on the Seine. Beforehand, my friends and I got together to take a few photos, prom-style (if only I could have taken my ACTUAL prom photos with an Eiffel Tower view…), on the Bir Hakeim bridge (which you may recognize from Inception). Throughout the course of the evening, I was lucky enough to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle THREE times (it never gets old), and spent a few last hours with some of the best people I have ever had the pleasure meeting. Our only hope (if I may be so cheesy) was that it was not “goodbye”, but instead “see you later,” as we said goodbyes before everyone headed back to their respective parts of the U.S. the next morning. Luckily, I am staying here for a few days, decompressing, getting ready to go home, and sneaking in a few last things I didn’t get the chance to do.

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Katie: What London has taught me so far

May 23, 2011

Word of the Day: ‘Pram’ used in place of ‘Stroller’

Though London is very different than the United States I find myself forgetting that I am in a completely different country. I have had fun playing tourist these first few days [I should really start acting like a student/intern/londoner and not be so giddy about possibly seeing Kate Middleton and the Royal Family – though I am not going to hold back my excitement in seeing all of these major historic places and landmarks one bit. Nope, I am not ashamed to be a tourist!] and have gotten to see many parts of this great city. The first day here we ventured out and found Buckingham Palace. The Queen was in Ireland so we had the slightest hope to get to go in for a tour, but sadly that only happens during the months of August-October so we only got to see the outside of the Queen’s digs. We also made it out to Kensington Gardens to see the Palace and home of Diana, Prince William, and Prince Harry when they were growing up. We followed the path and found Princess Diana’s memorial fountain and the Peter Pan statue. 

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 [Buckingham Palace]

My favorite place so far has been the borough of Camden and Camden Market. It is an area north of Central London near Regents Park. I absolutely loved it: an everyday market of tons of vendors selling hand made and vintage clothing, jewelry, and odds n ends, so pretty much like a huge garage sale, and I love garage sales! I got a blanket that has a design printed from wood blocks and it is absolutely beautiful. I also enjoyed this trip to Camden because it was the first time that I wasn’t rushed and didn’t have a set time I needed to leave to get somewhere else. I was able to wander around the neighborhood and shops as slowly or as quickly as I wanted. I also loved walking the path along the canal that goes through Camden with boats passing by. It was a much needed break from the structured schedule I have experienced since arriving in London. 

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[in Kensington Gardens and a View of Camden]

I have learned such a hodge-podge of information but i love it! And I will now share some with you: 

  • On Sundays people can go to the lawn of Hamilton Palace and rant and rave about anything they choose as long as it does not include demonstrations or violence or insulting the Royal family in any way. They cannot stand on the ‘sod’ so they bring boxes to stand on, thus giving us the use of the soapbox. 
  • Out of more than 700 rooms in Buckingham Palace, the Queen only occupies 12 of them for her personal housing. 
  • Many people confuse the Tower Bridge [seen below] for the London Bridge. The Tower Bridge replaced the London Bridge when it fell down and was moved up the river. 
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  • The way we use ‘buck’ in place of ‘dollar’ Brits use ‘quid’ in place of ‘pound’
  • British currency includes: a penny coin, a two pence coin, a five pence coin, a ten pence coin, a twenty pence coin, a fifty pence coin, a pound coin, and a two pound coin. The bills begin with the five pound, ten pound, twenty pound and so on.
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[St Paul’s Cathedral]

I now have the longest address ever. I live on Castlebar Park Road, in the Borough of Ealing, in the City of London, In the Country of England, in Great Britain, in the United Kingdom, which makes up the British Isles, in Europe. 🙂

People in England are not ‘stand-offish’ most of them are just very shy. In fact, on the tube/underground, no one talks and it is easy to pick out the tourists because they are the only ones talking while on the train. 

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[I absolutely love the character of architecture the buildings have in London!]

Next Up: I have my interview for my internship tomorrow and class wednesday and thursday. Saturday I get to go to Stonehenge and Bath!

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Jessica: Time

May 23, 2011

The thing that has stuck out on this trip is the store hours everyone holds. There’s no guarantee that things will be open when you want them to be open. For instance, some friends and I went wandering Saturday evening around 7 for a dessert or cafe. Starbucks was closed, as were all the buildings around the area. Really?? In America things would almost be guaranteed to be open on such a busy day. People are going to go out on a Saturday. Here, pubs close at 11 most days. That would be absurd in America. 

But it makes me think, wow we really rely on places to go to when we do things, and we are on all the time. The average American works 9 weeks more than anyone else in the world. NINE WEEKS. We expect availability of services whenever we want, and that’s just not how it is here. We are often told the rest of the world thinks of time differently, and are often not in a rush. We have a different lifestyle. No wonder we are over stimulated and rely so much on time. 

I wish I could take this lack of rigid structure and whatnot home. But it’s just not my lifestyle. Without so many of my home obligations, I can just walk around and roam and explore. Obviously I have responsibilities and things to tend to when I get back, but it’s a nice little break from the crazy schedule. 

Another thing that strikes me is that I am exhausted from the full days since I’m not used to this kind of schedule. So it’s time to force sleep upon myself tonight to be ready for an early class, more presentations by community organizers and then a walking pub tour/crawl in the evening before we will probably stay out to watch a huge football game. 

I’m of course laughing at the irony that Minnesota probably has great weather right now. My positive energies lie with those affected by the tornadoes in Missouri and North Minneapolis.

Today we made a Starbucks stop and went to the Corrymeela Center in the city to learn more about what they do. Turns out with the deeply embedded prejudices and conflict between Catholics (also generally more Republican and wanting a separate Ireland) and Protestants (those who descended from and want to unite with England) Corrymeela tries to facilitate conversation between these people to build communities and make them realize they’re not al that different. 

In the afternoon we took a bus tour of the deeper layers of Belfast and toured the other more run down areas where there is a lot of social housing and murals. Its crazy because the town is segregated, not by race, but by religion—there are literally walls still up to separate them. You can tell if you’re in a Protestant neighborhood if there are red white and blue colors, while Catholics use green white and orange. The murals on the Catholic side criticize the racism and oppression while the Protestants have murals that commemorate British heroes. Both have murals for those who have died in the many bombings that have occurred against each other. From a country who doesn’t really segregate by religion (by name, anyway) it’s interesting to see such a physical split and such conflict that still lingers even now. 

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Amanda: Kavitaji’s Words of Wisdom

May 23, 2011

I lived with two Indian families during the course of my stay abroad.  Most Indians value family a lot, and many live in large extended-family homes.  With servants, sibling quarrels, dogs with a vengeance, the drama of existence, and the strangeness of American boarders…there was never a dull moment in either of the houses I lived in.

What I loved most about my host families though, were my two Indian host mothers.  Like any good mataji, Krishnaji and Kavitaji made sure we were well-fed and happy.  I shared several interesting and insightful conversations with Kavitaji over tea. One of my favorites occurred when I commented on a Bollywood actress in the newspaper.  What ensued was a lesson on staying young and beautiful from Kavitaji:

Kavitaji:  We Indian women know how to look young and beautiful. How old you think my mother is?
Me: Eighty??
Kavitaji: Okay no.  She had hard life.  She is only 72.
Me: Oh. I’m sorry.

Kavitaji: How old you think I am?
Me: um…???  Forty?
Kavitaji: Nooo! Forty-seven…aha.
Kavitaji: You want to know secrets to staying young and beautiful?
Me: By all means!
Kavitaji: Three secrets. First, put mustard seed oil on your hair every night.  Keeps grey hairs away.  You already do this. Second, drink 8 liters of water a day.  Third, be happy, which you already are!

Words of wisdom from my sweet Kavitaji!  I am pretty sure drinking 8 liters of water a day would turn me into a human filtration system…but besides that, looks like I’m on the path to eternal youth and beauty!

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Miles: Two weeks

May 23, 2011

Quick updates: I just got back from a weekend in Stockholm, which was amazing. The city is beautiful. I will say, though, that I think Norway still beats Sweden as far as awesomeness is concerned. This weekend I am going to Sognefjord on a hiking trip – fjord on Saturday, glacier on Sunday. (I’m pretty damn excited. It’ll be a great last weekend in Norway.)

In two weeks, I will, for the first time in 5 months, wake up in the US. I knew that I’d feel a lot of things at the end of my semester, but I wasn’t really prepared to feel this underwhelmed/overwhelmed about going home.

I mean, for starters, what the hell is “home”? My heart is divided into a bunch of little chunks – an endless supply of little pieces that I get to scatter. There is a chunk in Madison, and there always will be. There are pieces all over the twin cities. There’s a piece in Boston. There are pieces in Northern Wisconsin, where my family’s cabin was. Now there is a giant chunk in Oslo, with pieces in Bergen, in Stavanger, in Tromsø, on top of Preikestolen. This is a home. Norway is a home.

So am I going home or leaving home? And if the answer is both, what happens to that chunk of my heart? I have all the faith in the world that Norway will take care of it, and that I can come back here someday. Maybe I’ll live here, practice Norwegian, work at a daycare or for the state, and eventually the US will feel like an old photograph that I take out to look at occasionally when I feel nostalgic.

But more likely, at least for now, that’s what Norway will be. And that’s what scares me. I have a life here. I wasn’t just on vacation for 5 months, I lived here. How do you explain that life? I love so many people in the states so dearly, and I know that I can tell them all about my semester and they’ll listen and be excited for me, but ultimately, they just won’t get it. I can’t share the jordbær syltetøy at United Bakeries with them, I can’t take them to a kitchen party at Sogn, I can’t hike in Nordmarka with them or go on a skitur.

So I have this semester and it’s going to sit inside me and I get to decide how I remember it. It’s my job to keep it alive, and not let my Norwegian life disappear. I’ve changed during this semester. I’ve become stronger. I learned a lot about who I am. I can communicate much better than I used to be able to. I ask for what I need. I take care of myself, and I better know how to do that. I continue to improve at being social, and also knowing when I need space for myself. I pushed myself. I learned a brand new language, and practice using it every day. I fell in love with nature in a way I hadn’t before. I learned the pure, simple joy of climbing on a rock, skiing up a hill, or sitting by a lake. I am determined to not lose the person I’ve become. This semester was a beautiful experience because of what I learned and how I grew.

Because of all this growth, in a weird way, going back to Minneapolis seems like the worst sort of back-pedaling. I just experienced something amazing, something life-changing, and now I’m supposed to go back to the U of M and take required courses that only mildly interest me? Why? I know I need to finish my degree and do it at the U. I need to be an example for my younger sisters, who will be starting college in the fall. I need to complete that adventure, but I’m anxious. My head knows I need to, but my heart wants to keep moving forward. I think the next year will be a challenge in how to feel as though I’m moving even when my environment seems static, how to find the exciting in the familiar.

I was told that I’d feel culture shock coming back to the States. I’m as ready as I can be. I will be working a summer job at a day camp that I love in Madison for two months when I get home. I think all I can do in my first months back in the states is feel as productive and important as I can – to feel like I’m making a difference. Keep moving forward. Keep growing.

In these moments I remember the way I felt boarding my plane from Chicago to Oslo. I knew I was ready, but it almost felt like I was only ready because I needed to be- I was scared, but I made it.

I made it.

And I say all this now, two weeks before I go, because I won’t be blogging again until I get home. I need to really be here for these final days. I want to just take it all in, not process yet. I’ll have all summer to process.

So, Oslo, takk for alt.

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Jessica: Sightseeing

May 22, 2011

Today was the busiest day ever, I was bone tired at the end of it—so I stress fr anyone going on this trip in the future, SLEEP and REST. 

We went on a nice scenic bus ride to the north shore of Ireland to Carrick-a-Rede. I’m not really sure what it means or what the significance is, but it has been amazing. We originally were going Saturday but the weather is insane so we changed to today. Which I am so grateful for because it was breath taking. We trekked a mile to the bridge and looked at the cliffs, crags, rocks and water crashing on the shore in the dazzling sunlight (when it wasn’t raining in spurts of five minutes). 

There were a lot of girls terrified of the rope bridge especially in the strong winds today, but it was really safe and easy to cross with netting and supports to support us. I felt like if I kept my arms up my body would fly away, I was even having trouble breathing. 

After that we went to the Giant’s Causeway, where legend goes that two giants from Ireland and Scotland built a causeway together or something. Aka a volcano erupted and created amazing hexagonal columns that cluster together to create cliffs and stuff. It’s beautiful with the ocean crashing in, but it killed me to climb around. 

Then we saw the Dunluce Castle ruins—again on the coast it was breath taking. I dropped my camera so there’s a small dent in the lens thing, but again, beautiful to see the stone and structure standing there. LOTS of photos of me today wearing my work out chic clothing.

Everyone passed out on the bus and I am so grateful people are probably not going out tonight because we are trying to be smart for another busy day tomorrow. Attempt number two to cook tonight. We will see ow this goes !!

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