Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's so quiet...

Here in the UK, we are on break until May. Yes, in the middle of the school year, British students get an entire month of to study for finals. And then they get a month and a half to take their finals. And they complain that they just don't have enough time to study. I try to put things in perspective for them when I can, telling them about the fact that at Tulane, our study break is two days over the weekend, and we then have 8 days in which to take 4-6 finals. They usually come back with "but our exams are 3 hours", to which I reply "ours are 4 hours" and smile. At that point, they have no response and, hopefully, realize how generous (if a little absurd) their study time is.

So, because we're on break, most of the UK kids have gone home, which means that my dorm is suddenly very, very empty. It's kind of weird how quiet it is. I actually like it, since there's no one running up and down the halls screaming at 3 in the morning, but it's a little strange to be able to walk through an entire dorm and not see another person. Breakfast and dinner are really quiet and empty now, too, and will get even more so once the affiliates start traveling. Basically, the point of this post is that it is just really, really quiet around here. Not going to lie, it's a little creepy.

In other news, only 10 days left until I go to Paris to see my mom and grandma! We'll also be celebrating Mothers Day while I'm there. In the UK, Mothers Day is on April 3, but in the US it's on May 5. So, since I won't see my mom for either one, we're moving it! Mother's Day will now be taking place on April 8. I am so excited for this trip to Paris, and especially to see Versailles! It's my favorite place in Paris, and one of my favorite places in the world.

That's all for now. I need to get back to studying. Love and miss you all!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I miss Jerome!!

The best brother in the ENTIRE WORLD came to visit me last week and I miss him already :( We had a great week and got to see Edinburgh, which is an amazing city and I highly recommend it to anyone who's planning on going to Europe.

Day 1 of Jerome's visit (which was technically day 2, but he got in so late on Saturday that I'm not counting it as a day).
We went to go see The Tower of London, which is one of my favorite places in London. It's got such a huge, colorful history, and the tour guides are always really passionate about the subject, and really funny. Our guide had such a dry, British sense of humor. It was seriously amazing. We also got to see the crown jewels, which are stunningly beautiful (sorry for the lack of photos, but cameras aren't allowed into the building). I do have a picture, though, of Jerome and I front of the Tower!

That night, we went for pizza at my favorite pizza place in London, which is conveniently located a few blocks from my dorm :) It's really awesome, so Mom and Grandma, if you're reading this, just letting you know that at some point, we need to eat at Italiano Coffee Company, or ICCOs, for short.

Day 2:
On Monday, I had class in the morning, so Jerome got to sleep in a bit. We then packed and headed out to Gatwick Airport to fly to Edinburgh. It was a short flight, and, as promised, it was really easy to find our way out to the hostel. I have been fortunate enough to have yet to stay in a bad hostel. The one in Copenhagen was very cute and quaint, the one in Prague was large and, as I was the only person in a 6-person room and the architecture was very ornate, it felt pretty glamorous. This hostel was really artsy and colorful. It was definitely designed for young backpackers. Here's a photo of my favorite mural and one of the stairwells.

That night, we got drinks in the bar in the hostel. Yes, our hostel had a bar. It also had a small cinema, kitchen, board games, and an oversized chess set.

Day 3:
The morning of Day 3, we went to Edinburgh castle. We got there a little early, so we spent some time looking around a kilt store which had an exhibit on how kilts are made. After that, we made our way to the castle and looked all over it. It was a rainy day, so it wasn't as gorgeous as it could have been, but it was still really neat to see. There was a definite military focus, and we looked around a prisoner of war exhibit, but they also had the crown jewels of Scotland on exhibit, which of course I was all over. A few photos, of course :)

We spent a couple of hours there, and then made our way down to Grassmarket, where we got lunch at a pub. Jerome ordered haggis which he loved. I tried it too, although I couldn't order it myself since I gave up meat for lent, and it was actually pretty good! We also visited an illusion museum, which was really fun and crazy. Every floor blew my mind. Seriously, if you are going to Edinburgh, make sure to go to the Camera Obscura! That night, we went on a ghost tour. I've been on a lot of ghost tours, and I can honestly say this was among the best. They took us down into the vaults, which was pretty terrifying, but in a really good way. Mercat Tours come highly recommended (from me, anyway) :)

Day 3:
Sadly, this was our last day in Edinburgh. We started it with a free tour around the city. I love doing these tours. I took the one in Prague, now I've done the one in Edinburgh, and I will definitely be going on the tour in Berlin. Our guide walked us around, told us some stories and pointed out some really neat things, like the heart of Midlothian that has been put into the sidewalk in Old Town.

We then got lunch and headed back out to London. We got in pretty late, and went straight to bed so that I could get up early the next day and get to classes.

Day 4:
I had classes all day, so Jerome was on his own for the majority of the day. I drew him a map in the guide book and sent him to Westminster. I can't really speak for him, but he seemed to have a great time, and said he found somewhere pretty good for lunch. We met up at 4, once my classes were all over. Jerome got a chance to rest after his hours and hours of walking, and then we went to Chinatown for dinner. We spent the rest of the night just hanging out in my room, and packing Jerome up a bit so we had less to do the next morning.

The next morning, Jerome left London :( I didn't really do much that day, besides mailing in my application to the 4+1 Masters program in the Tulane English Department. Sunday, though, was my spa day. I got a massage and facial. I also got access to the steam room and sauna, which was wonderful. I really needed the heat. It made me a little bit less homesick. I also got a deal in the restaurant, and had one of the most delicious meals I've had in a long time. The first course was a salad with a red pepper dressing, candied walnuts, and cubes of deep-fried brie. The second course was fettucine and homemade pesto sauce. Soooooo good!

Alright, I'm rambling now, so I'm just going to end this now. I'll update again soon with how I've been spending my time off, as I'm now basically done with classes and don't have finals until May.

Emily <3

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My thoughts on Ash Wednesday

I wasn't entirely sure if I was going to post this, but I figure, it's my blog, I can post whatever I want, because I'm spoiled like that :)

I just want to preface this by saying, I am not a crazy religious fanatic :) I just happen to really like Ash Wednesday, because I'm weird like that.

In the Catholic church, yesterday was Ash Wednesday. It is the start of the Lenten season, which reminds us of Jesus's suffering for 40 days in the desert, and his crucifixion. It also happens to be one of my absolute favorite Catholic traditions. That may sound weird. It's a day to talk about suffering, and to get your forehead covered in ashes by overenthusiastic priests so that it takes forever to scrub them off. And that's all true, but there are a few things that I love about ash Wednesday.

1. I love the ashes. I don't like how difficult they are to get off, but I love the fact that it's an outward symbol of my faith. For everything that bothers me about the Catholic church (their views on homosexuality and abortion and the barring of women from the priesthood, for starters), I still tell people that I am Catholic and am proud to be a member of the church.

2. I like the sermons. Typically, the focus is not really on suffering. Rather, as the sermon was this year, the focus is on prayer, fasting, and alms-giving, particularly alms-giving. It is emphasized that nothing you do, none of your prayers or your fasting, means anything if you don't do some sort of charity. Religion means nothing if you don't give of what you have to those in need. And that's one of the things that makes me love religion. At its basis, Catholicism is about love, and about giving everything that you have to show that love to other people. And Ash Wednesday is a reminder of that responsibility and promise.

3. I like the history and the ritual. This shouldn't really come as much of a shock, but I love traditions. I like knowing that I'm a part of something that's been going on for generations. And so I love the ritual of Ash Wednesday- the fact that they have been doing this for over a thousand years, and have been using the same words (albeit in different languages). It's a reminder of the cyclic nature of time, and I find it very comforting and soothing. I like knowing that I can count on this happening every year, and can count on the reminder that "from dust you have come, to dust you shall return". The way I take it, it's a reminder that this is just life, don't take it too seriously :)

So, that's my unnecessarily long post on why Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite Catholic holidays. Oh, and what have I given up for lent? Once again, I have given up meat. I did this same thing last year. I'm really bad about remembering not to eat meat on Friday, so I figure that if I just give it up the whole time, I won't forget on Fridays! lol :) It works pretty well for me!


Done!...For now, anyway :)

I have finished my last paper for the term! I also had my last tutorial EVER. Yes, they grade papers really quickly around here. It's really nice to be able to get a grade within a matter of hours of turning a paper in, but at the same time, it's annoying to know that I work on a paper for days, and they take one hour to read it. Anyway, my final paper was on the use of plot in the works of Virginia Woolf and I finally got my A! An official, British A, not a grade that will be an A once it's translated. Basically, my tutor loved the paper. I won't go into the details of what I wrote, since I'm pretty sure that would bore you all to tears and I love you a little bit more than that :P.

So now, I'm basically done with all my work until I need to start studying for finals. And on that note, I have a tentative exam schedule. It's not finalized, so things could change, but the chances of anything changing are minimal. As it stands, Modern Period I is on May 6, Chaucer is on May 12, Modern English Language is on May 13, and my last exam, London in Literature is on....May 26. Just about 2 weeks after the rest of my exams. Seriously. It's a bit annoying, but what are you going to do? And considering that the last English exam overall is on June 3, it could have been worse. I'll still get out a week earlier than we were planning on.

What have I been doing recently? It's been a while since I last put up an entry, but to be honest, I haven't done a whole lot. This paper has pretty much consumed my life. But I did get to do something pretty awesome on Tuesday :) As some of you may know, Tuesday was International Women's Day (it was also Mardi Gras, but I'm not going to discuss my bitterness in that regard), which meant that it was also the day of Women for Women International's Join Me on the Bridge Campaign. The campaign basically involves people all over the world marching to various bridges chanting for equality, justice, and equal rights. The day ends up being about millions of people all over the world standing together for women's rights in every country. It was really incredible and inspiring, not to mention fun! We got our faces painted and got really soulful with one of the chants. I also found out about a new organization that I'd like to get involved with back in the United States (I'll explain in a minute). So, I think that's enough explanation. I'll just attach some photos!

Oh, and that's Annie Lennox in the last picture, just so you know :)

One last note of awesomeness, the most amazing brother in the entire world is coming to visit me (and go to Edinburgh) on Saturday! That's right, Jerome and I will be taking on Edinburgh next week! Be on the lookout for awesome photos. I can't even express how excited I am :)

Love y'all

P.S. New organization I've found: Some of you know that I'm really interested in the idea of midwifery. It ties into my interest, as a gender studies major, in motherhood and childbirth- hence why I'm combining my two majors into an honors thesis on the representation of motherhood in American southern literature. So, one of the groups that was marching in Join Me on the Bridge was The White Ribbon Alliance. They advocate safe motherhood around the world, and one of the things they focus on is increasing the number of midwives. They have a branch in the US and I'm really excited to find out what sorts of things they do over there :)