Prague + Amsterdam: Part One

“You win some, you lose a lot.”

That quote is a gem of miss Erica, one of my lovely tripmates. It’s not meant to be taken too heavily- just a way of humourously validating that travel can lead to situations involving unfortunate losses, like unpredictable ATM fees and astonishingly rude packs of college boys (>= 9) who think that an easyjet flight is a great excuse to plug up the aisles while drunk off of smuggled alcohol and upset everyone around them. But that’s not to say that obstacles always overpower the magic of travel! Indeed, we had a wonderful trip. Prague was definitely more fun than Amsterdam for some reasons I’ll list soon, but overall, Erica, Beth and I enjoyed the companies of each other and the cities we speed-dated over reading week.

I learned so much over the course of this one week trip. Lemme sum it up Buzzfeed-style:

4^01 Secrets All Twentysomethings Only Learn While Travelling Abroad

  1. Just like the title of this absurd list, be vigilant of advertisements and offers. For example, while walking around the Charles Bridge in Prague, we were inundated with at least 4 Thai massage shops advertising 9,99 euro massages. The next day we happily popped inside, our sore feet and knotted backs aching, only to discover that that rate applied for 2 hours in the morning for a 15 minute foot massage. Also, we knew this before, but worth noting that on our table once laid an unassuming bag of peanuts that cost money if you ate them. We made sure to always indicate tap water when ordering drinks.
  2. Even if you do feel ripped off at such massage place in Prague, GET ONE ANYWAY. Or, in the case of us, get two. That’s right. Prague was so inexpensive that it was completely worth it. I could justify our decision with mentions of birthdays and body aches and low prices and such but I won’t. Two massages in two days = YES.
  3. If you want time to shower and brush your teeth in a hostel room with eight people and one bathroom stall, you either sprint out of bed after your alarm clock wakes everybody up, or you go at a strange hour when no one is up. This is harder to accomplish, though, since the hostellers we met slept at all hours (more about that below: See N&R)
  4. Great strategy for experiencing the day sights and nightlife with limited energy and time: the Nap and Rally (N&R). This genius idea also originated with Erica. Basically, do stuff all day, slog back to your hostel around dinnertime, sleep like a log for an hour (Nap), and then use all of your newfound energy to wake yourself up and go out for another 6-8 hours at night (Rally). This may include a trip to an 80’s/90’s music video disco club with a fellow Chilean hosteller where you dance all night and absolutely do. your. thang.
Erica, me, Beth just after arriving in PRAGUE!

Erica, me, Beth just after arriving in PRAGUE!

DSC01206

pre-departure excitement

Even though I strove to leave much of the cities in their physical locations and resist from trying to capture every detail in photographs (i.e. I *only* took 250 pics in 8 days), I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by the task to tell you all about the trip in sufficient detail, so I’m gonna start with a slideshow of some pictures and will provide narratives in the next post(s?). Enjoy! (Alert to EVERYBODY who told me to take lots and lots of pictures: This is your moment!!)

MUAH :-*

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So it’s reading week. We have no classes and the point is to use this time for individual study. Therefore, all the study abroad kids study catapult their notebooks as far away as possible and jet-set for the entire week.

This also means that I’ve made it halfway through the teaching semester (though not the halfway point of my stay.) It’s been almost a month and a half. It’s been a whirlwind to get this far. One thing I have to say to all you lovely readers is

Thank you for reading this blog. Being abroad with no real phone for communication and relying mostly on email, Skype, and this blog, I knew it’d be a challenge to stay in touch. However, so many of my friends and family have embraced this blog as my chosen way of communication, easing so much pressure to write long, detailed accounts of my well-being and activities to each one of you. (Although I still do sometimes because I enjoy it, but the point is that I’m not obligated to for every person I care about.) So, thank you! I genuinely appreciate it. xoxo


p.s. This is my first scheduled post! So although I should be without a computer in Prague when this is published, it’ll still be published! How cool.

Fact of the Day: Some prehistoric birds used to eat horses

Let’s play some picture catch-up! Dare I divulge what you may think of my timing? I must: tardy 😦 . Geez, your side-eye is so chilling that it’s making me chili! Please relish knowing that I’ll stop making puns before finagling saurkraut into one.

Here are my Brighton pictures. My disposable ended up disappointing me with about half the pictures being crummy. So although my memories are enough for me, these pictures will have to suffice for you all 😦 Sorry!

Also, about the concert pictures: Exactly zero out of four were even adequate. So here are some pics I found attached to a review of the concert.

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Yesterday I went for a lovely walk along Regent’s Canal. Didn’t bring my camera, so let me paint a mental picture for you:

The canal runs parallel to Mile End and Victoria parks, lovely green places full of runners, walkers, cyclists, families, and students taking a break from work. A sidewalk accompanies the canal, providing a walk filled with color from the adjacent houseboats (last night I must’ve seen at least 30: they were all moored right next to the bank.) When you give a canal a houseboat, you also get some fun, quirky decorations that top the roofs including potted plants, tools, statues and gnomes, lights, and anything else you can dream up! Sometimes you can peer into a window and catch a glimpse into the lives of these uber-efficient-space dwellers. I also passed a houseboat that was a functioning cafe! Too bad I didn’t bring any money to try it out, but I’ll just have to go back!

Lovely snapshot of Regent’s Canal at Victoria Park

Here’s a link to see more pictures

I think it’d be such fun to live on a houseboat for a while. It reminds me of Rue in Chocolat. I know I’m romanticizing the lifestyle, but living in a tiny house with only what you need and a lack of property to command seems like a great way to live… at least, for a while.

You can rent one on Airbnb! You can also rent HOBBIT HOUSES. I think that’s my dream house.

the dream

the dream

The extremely excited post

Yes this is my study abroad blog and no this isn’t related to travelling but it’s infinitely important (lol pun)/I need room to fully express my absolute bafflement:

A STRONG SCIENTIFIC HYPOTHESIS THAT THERE WAS NO BIG BANG/THE UNIVERSE HAS NO BEGINNING OR END AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Your grocery shopping can wait five minutes… look at this article! It alters EVERYTHING.

mind blown gif


And if you thought THAT was mind-blowing, wait til you read THIS:

So I went to this concert, of The Staves, this absolutely brilliant trio of sisters who harmonize like they’ve found out how to create audible bliss. When they played my favorite song, I cried. (Second time ever crying at a concert: first was at my long-awaited Coldplay concert, where I actually bawled (my mom can attest to this) but let’s move on because that’s not even the best part.)

The best part also wasn’t meeting a new friend, but it definitely added to the wonder of the night. We were both at the concert alone and, being the first two in line for our cheap seat area, sat next to each other to get the best front/center view. He told me he was from Portugal and we talked about music for like an hour, effortlessly. Who says going places alone has to be anti-social?

The best part also did not stem from my hasty grabbing of my disposable camera #1 before I realized I had exactly four shots left. It made the night even better, though, since I didn’t worry about trying to record my favorite song or take pictures every twelve seconds. I never look at 90% of my concert pictures afterwards anyway, so four savored pictures will definitely be enough.

Wanna know what the best part is?

I hope you’re sitting down. I’m freaking glad that I was, and that there was a safety rail in front of me, because when the Staves brought out their freaking mentor on stage, I only figuratively fell head over heels for

(*&!ING BON IVER

…I’m gonna let Patrick take it from here. He gets me.

surprised patrick meme chocolate dessert

For the one song he came out on stage for, I was shock. My jaw hit the floor until he left the stage and I reminded myself to keep breathing. This concert is certainly my third favorite, with Coldplay taking first and Macklemore holding second. I wonder how Paul Simon and Sting will measure up in April!

Also: I thought I’d never get to see Bon Iver live. Since he struck it big with “Skinny Love” and his other perfect songs, he’s been pretty reclusive. So that added, big time.

Just so you don’t think my life is all daisies and jaffa cakes, lemme tell you that I have two papers due in less than a week, many summer applications, a skull practical writeup, and preparation for a trip all on my mind as well. So, study abroad is way more than just fun stuff. So with that out of the way, lemme just reiterate

BON IVER
BON IVER
BON IVER
BON IVER! (all diff links, let the music flooooow)

P.S. When I wrote the first bit about the universe this morning, I had no idea today was going to be so exciting! A huge coincidence that all these impossibly incredible things happened in such close proximity.

P.P.S. Ever heard of a pizza cake? Thank me later. (Or in the form of a slice…)

Fast Times in Mammals & Evolution

It’s 12:38. We’re all developing a thin glaze over our eyes from nearly two hours of lecture about marsupials and mammals. But then, out of nowhere, my pony-tailed professor pulls out a

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HUMAN PLACENTA

caught between shock, disgust and intense curiosity

He’s got the sterile gloves on to prove its authenticity and deep amusement sparkles in his eyes. This guy is almost nuts, but not quite. An immortal soundbite: “Sadly it’s lost a bit of its colour…”

There’s a marked difference in the humor over here. I really like it. It’s cheekier, sassier, and enhanced by the contrasting reservation of stereotypical Brits.

Some of my favorite funnies since I’ve been here:

(On an ad for a humor festival with a picture of supermarket chickens):
Now is the winter of our discount hens.

This ad for Las Vegas: DSC01050

On a greeting card: How do you approach an angry Welsh cheese? Caerphilly.


Darwin Day is a celebration of all things evolution. It’s held on his birthday, February 12th, and places all over the world offer up lectures and activities to spread the joy of this phenomenon. This year, Richard Dawkins is speaking at the London event and I would LOVELOVELOVE to go but have concert tickets for that night. On that note, if you like music characterized by harmonies, folk, Bon Iver prodigies, and sisters (<3 hey Em!), check them out here!)


Also, since it seems that many still aren’t sure how to contact me, here’s a list of HOT OR NOT to let you know how I can be reached. Trust me, you don’t want to land on the latter list.

Hot:

-Wes email

-QM email (ask if you want it but it just forwards to my Wes one anyway)

-this blog

-texting (I have a UK number)

-calling (UK number)

-skype

-letter!

What’s not:

-Texting/calling my US phone

-any app (snapchat included)

Facebook


And finally, yesterday I used some pink water leftover from boiling my beets to make pink pancakes! They didn’t taste like beets but lovely little scarlet cloud puffs. Here there’s a tradition right before Lent (Shrove Tuesday) of using up your sweets or indulgent foods to make pancakes. It’s occurring the day before my birthday this year and there’s all kinds of celebrations. My flatmates are planning on pancaking all day and I might check out a pancake race!

pancakeme

Laundry costs $7.36 per load here

Have you ever heard of such exorbitant laundry services?! There must be something I don’t know. Maybe the Queen does her laundry here. Or maybe once I deposit my clothes into the washer, they’re teleported to a team of underground elves who use golden soap and meteorites to de-lint. It’s beyond me.

Mysterious laundry hypothesis


This week I got to try on a hijab! There was a booth outside the campus library in celebration of Islamic Awareness Week with an assortment of scarves and a few Muslim girls staffing it. I immediately felt self-conscious when I imagined going over there, so I took that as a sign to do it and did it. The girls couldn’t have been sweeter, showering compliments of “you look so beautiful!” and “it complements your eyes!”. Regardless of their generous attempt to make me feel at ease, I felt pretty uncomfortable for those ten minutes of being dressed in the headscarf, talking with them about how it made me feel, writing it down on a whiteboard, and then declining an offer to wear it for another ten minutes to experience how others would respond. They took a picture and said they’d send it to me, but I haven’t received it yet.

At the risk of possibly being offensive in some way I can’t predict (a major fear instilled by Wes’ unbelievably PC atmosphere):
I mentioned this briefly a few weeks ago, but I really really love the diversity of East London. I like being around people of many different colors. I like hearing the languages on the tube and feeling like a minority because I’m white. I like that this area is dominated by halal restaurants and on a 15 minute walk down the street, I can pass four Indian clothing shops.
I think it’s related to how homogeneously white my hometown is (93% waddup) and the fading sparkle of Wes’ so-called diversity. As explained by Queensborough Community College, diversity is composed of “dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies”. Was going to post some easily comparable statistics but they’re not easily found online/ I’m too lazy to make big fancy tables so here are some salient points (sources: QMUL and Wesleyan websites).

Notice the top 3

22% Muslim!

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QM blew Wes out of the water for Asian students. But QM- where are the Latinos??? “Mixed background”? “Other”?

QM also has more than double the international students of Wes.

There are a ton more differences I won’t talk about (academics, income level…) so this is just a peek. In sum, both colleges offer different types of diversity. Also gotta tell you that the years I used to compare the schools aren’t the same- used Wes’ most recent stats (class of 2018) and QM’s early 2010s because I couldn’t find more recent.


On Saturday I went to Brighton and it was fantastic! Very hipster in a fresh way. Brit-ster? Anyway, here are a few highlights without pictures ( 😦 ) because my digital camera is on the brink of death (but fear not! I scored some snazzy disposables and covered them with stickers.)

  • Passed a store that specialized in bonsai trees
  • Experienced life-changing cake* and my first coffee art! The entire experience (food and atmosphere and hilarious decorations) WAS AWESOME
    • This place reclaims the word “eclectic”. I wish the Eclectic frat at Wes were more like this and not so intimidating and hard drug-ridden
    • Here’s a fun review. The best part is the description of the decor:

      The walls are packed with pictures, from the kitsch (Tretchikoffs, landscapes with UFOs, other tawdrily sentimental portraits with googly eyes stuck on, and the über-tastic Wings of Love by Stephen Pearson – two naked lovers encircled by the wings of a massive swan in a fantasy landscape – famous not only for its appearance in Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party but for being a favourite of Saddam Hussein) to zany film stills and pictures of old-school movie stars (and Rolf Harris, Michael Jackson and Tommy Cooper) as well as wartime directives – “Keep it under your hat: careless talk costs lives”). There are hand-painted skateboard decks, taxidermy, tailor’s dummies, posters, toys, old computer hardware, flashing fairylights, even a vintage mincing machine and a butt-naked Action Man zip-wiring across the ceiling, past toy helicopters. There’s a bright pink ArtVend machine that, for £4, dispenses an artwork by the local artist Imbue, and a cute red 1950s kitchen cabinet. Man, do I feel sorry for the cleaners here…

  • Loved my first Cornish Pasty
  • Went to this crazy outer space/rave/futuristic themed shop called Cyberdog and tried on an insane dress (again, wish I could post a picture but can’t yet so this’ll have to do:)
ready for takeoff

ready for takeoff

  • Upon my return in London, a gaggle of costumed couples made their way off the same train I’d taken from Brighton. I discerned a knight, a clown, and a ladybug.

Another travel update: May be going on a Scandinavian tour come April!

You must check out this blog about foam (and other updates)

Seriously, the coolest thing you’ll look at today.


I also wanna tell you all how I joined London’s Bechdel Test Film Club!! You just can’t find this stuff in small college towns.


The first visit (of at least 3) to the Natural History Museum occurred on the day it was announced that the long-beloved lobby attraction, Dippy the dinosaur, would be replaced by a blue whale skeleton. I’m not bothered by the change, but many people are. But what matters about all this is that, as brilliantly realized in this article, there will be a tribute (albeit probably unintended) to Douglas AdamsHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Nerd confession: I actually put SLATFATF (the song in the third link of this passage) on my iPod for a while. I emanate cool, I know, it’s ok.)


And to end this brief post, I’ve booked my first European trip!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Going with two friends who are lovely people and share the same go-getter, vivacious, don’t mind sleeping in an “eh” hostel for the location mindset as myself.

Also a huge bonus is that we leave the DAY AFTER MY BIRTHDAY so it’s like this vacation is my birthday gift. Awwww yeah.

Even though adrenaline-laced blood is still circulating in my veins from such a fresh booking, I’m going to suppress my excitement to make this into a guessing game 😉

Location 1/2:

City facts:

-Called the “city of a hundred spires”

-The Vltava river runs through it

-It has a very famous Astronomical clock

And the answer is…

PRAGUE!

But wait, that’s only the first part!

After spending a few days there, we’ll be heading over to…

 now we wait -  now we wait  Evil Plotting Raccoon

AMSTERDAM!

And this weekend I’m going to Brighton for a day. Wahooligans!

…and now back to classwork.

Do you have any suggestions to places to go, which beer to drink, etc. for these places or travelling in general? Or even a beloved travel story? Drop it in the comments!