Fears about Coming Home

I’ve clung to the lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound”, “My Little Town”, and Adele’s “Hometown Glory”, each time reciting the words with different levels of excitement. And in just over one week, I’ll have changed residences from a massive metropolis to a village whose population is not even 0.07% that of London. Any of the 300 languages commonly spoken in this hubbub will revert to a measly handful, and don’t even get me started about the diversity shift. I know I’m going to be heartbroken.

Another fear I have is related to communication methods. Being an ocean away from everyone has given me quite a clue about who matters and who I can go five months without thinking about, especially with the absence of a daily “news feed”. I can identify who cares enough to write me thoughtful emails or carve out time to Skype. My fear is that I’ll once again be surrounded by people who I now don’t value as much as I used to. Consequently, I’m worried that by letting in some people who apparently don’t positively affect me as much as I’d like, I will change for the worse. Revert, even. I’ve worked hard and sacrificed a bit to construct the mental wellbeing I’ve proudly created over here and the last thing I want to do is let it disappear.

Without Facebook, I’ve grown confident in the roots of my desires to attend fun events and explore new places: I know they’re not borne out of FOMO or competition. This blog has let me share exciting news in longform (versus Facebook’s constrained status or photo options), therefore ensuring more truth and less bias for “likes”. I’ve told everyone that I’m coming back on that stupid site in June, but I think I’m just going to add my new London friends, maybe stay on for a week, and then hurriedly deactivate all summer until college begins again so I can hear about poorly-publicized (but sometimes amazing) events happening on campus that are impossible to hear about without finding them on Facebook (has happened to me. I hate this but I must respect it.)

Lately I’ve grown fond of soaking up information via podcasts while taking long walks. I’m slightly worried that this habit will wane or become less exciting in a place I’ve lived for so long. I’m also very happy with my cooking habit and ability to provide my own pantry and hope that can continue in some form at home.

I’ve grown used to going out with no shame in reference to how I look or act when I’m in public (don’t worry, it’s nothing that terrible- just, for instance, no embarrassment when I trip or wear a not-so-matching outfit.) I worry this will fade because while no one here knows me and the judgment doesn’t bother me, people at home do know me, have known me for many years, and will continue to mold a reputation for years to come. I’m all for expressing yourself and disregarding others’ judgment, but as most of you readers probably know, it’s tricky to escape your hometown’s critical gaze (and sometimes, gossip.) And truth be told, everyone’s so worried about themselves that half the time, when you make a fool of yourself, no one even notices. However, still a concern.

Right now, my life is really awesome. Honestly worried it has to go downhill from here. Of course I’m looking forward to a lot in the states, but I don’t think it’ll even out. We’ll see.

Finally, I have a few aspects of Wesleyan I’m dreading returning to, such as the negative sides of the students and culture. Here, I’ve been able to feel wholesome and encounter virtually zero pressure to do activities involved in “going out”. That’s not to say I haven’t done anything like that here- I have, but with a great bunch of pals and with locations that are actually prone to be fun, versus Wesleyan’s nightlife that mainly consists of disappointing electronic concerts and frat parties. If anyone is reading this and feels confused about why they don’t like going out at college when everyone else seems to love it, heed these words: it gets better. In Prague and London, I had some amazing nights out with friends where alcohol wasn’t necessary for fun (although it did add) and I didn’t have to listen to obnoxious, enviably intelligent students discuss politically correct race issues and complain about anything they could think of in a Northeastern drawl. Maybe I’m just boring but when alcohol is legal for 18+s, it’s totally more fun to center a party around. Wise elders, feel free to chime in.


And now, a brief log of my time with my Uncle Phil and Aunt Debbie who came to visit! We had a wonderful dinner at a French restaurant in Kensington and a subsequent trip to Westminster Abbey, a major site I admit had been virgin territory to mine eyes until recently. Full of important dead people, including my man C-Dar #win.

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We are quite cute.

Hadn’t seen them in who knows how many years, and it was so easy to talk with them! Great seeing you two!


And lastly, tomorrow morning I jet-set to Dublin and then Barcelona on Monday!!!! No more finals, just RELAXING and doing vacationy stuff! YAY-O-RAMA!

I feel like dancing now. Gonna bust a move, see you in a week!

(P.S. I probably look like a combination of the following gifs.) Au revoir!

40 Glorious Routines From The 1988 Aerobic Championships

40 Glorious Routines From The 1988 Aerobic Championships

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Fifteen Days Left to Pretend I’m European

just for kicks

Nothing groundbreaking has been happening around here lately. However, if you enjoy “right place at the right time” stories, astonishingly talented dancers, and cheeky octopi, stay tuned.

On a recent trip to the Somerset House, a space that has various art exhibits, King’s College facilities, offices, and a lively fountain in the center, I meandered into an exhibit about war. While it wasn’t very moving in my experience, I did wander in just in time to sight the artist! She was ushering around two important-looking men. Unfortunately I didn’t connect with the pieces enough to ask her questions, but it was still a cool happening nonetheless! Maggi Hambling‘s work has been featured at some pretty you-know-you’ve-made-it places like the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, the Tate, and the British Museum!

Next up is a visit to the theatre to see Billy Elliot. I went in with few expectations (little prior knowledge) and was absolutely WOWed. Jaw dropped like a piano on a splintering rope. The boy who portrayed Billy was phenomenal. The musical itself was a joy to watch, even with our necks craning from the cheap seats. We laughed, cried, and couldn’t get enough of the encore (anyone know what I mean?)

On the way there, Erica and I stumbled into a garden near Embankment and found a giant chess set!

DSCN1017 DSCN1018-001Today I took my third trip to the Borough Market in search of some slightly pricier, luxurious groceries to sustain me for my last full week in London. Splurged on some cacao nibs for this recipe and za’atar to liven up hummus and other dishes. To everyone else, a hut full of stacked spices might seem uninteresting, but it thrills me. It’s like a library of often underappreciated special touches that exist in a panoply of colors, smells, and shapes. The origins of each add a narrative aspect, and there are limitless experiments one can undertake in order to understand even one spice!

it's like a cavern of dry potions!

it’s like a cavern of dry potions!

I think I’m so drawn to markets because they seamlessly fuse biology and food, two of my favorite things. They’re an informal type of museum. Case in point: This phenome-mollusk.

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I spy a very photo-ready fish on the left.

Stay with me while I quickly freak out over the magic of octopi. Not only do they torpedo around in the water with eight arms and a pocket full of INK ready to blind predators, but we can eat them. We can actually incorporate them into US! How can you not go bananas when you realize that by heeding the phrase “you are what you eat”, by eating an octopus, you inherit some of its glory? I digress. Nay, as one very funny blogger said the other day, I digest.

Let’s have a jiffy of Octopus Appreciation.

 

 

 

a blanket octopus!

That’s about it for now. More studying (for this test, I’m doing a ton of intense thinking about the Anthropocene and naturecultures and multispecies ethnographies.. I go through cycles of soul-drenching inspiration and stupefying intimidation) and preparing for my trip to Ireland and Spain next Saturday (!) and seeing my aunt and uncle next week and getting excited to go home!

Be true to your eyes, or they’ll be false to you!

The title is a takeoff on a golden saying of my grandma: Be true to your teeth, or they’ll be false to you!

Memorizing the natural history of mammals, going to 1940s-themed clubs, and exploring London in scavenger-hunt fashion has been what’s up lately. I’ll explain.

I’m no wikipedia, but I do feel like a walking tome of mammalian evolution knowledge. My 3 essay, 3 hour exam for Mammals and Evolution, a 3rd year module, accounted for 75% of my final grade. Crazy, right?! In the US, a 40% final exam feels like a lot, but the UK system takes finals pressure to a new level. I think I did pretty well. One more exam for Geographies of Nature (50% of my grade) and then I’m DONE with junior year! I’m beyond ready to give my eyes a rest from hours and hours of staring at the computer, reading lengthy papers and revising powerpoints. I actually bought eyedrops yesterday.

dedicated to my TravelMate TM8471.


I recently visited Greenwich, the famous home of the Prime Meridian, as well as a bounty of cream-colored edifices strewn amongst emerald green lawns that reminded me of Saratoga’s Hall of Springs. It was very pretty and preppy and clean. I wasn’t bowled over but it made for a nice day trip. Anyway, while I was walking there, I saw this amusingly named restaurant and took a picture:

How nice to know I have friends stationed all over the city!

As I was about to continue on my journey down Salmon Lane, a nearby construction worker amiably hollered and asked what I was photographing. I replied that my focus was on the restaurant sign. He had thought I liked his yellow car.  And then he asked me to take a picture of himself, and how could I refuse? I really like how proud he looks. That smile can’t lie.

Just a minute before, upon seeing me look at a map, another person helped me figure out my directions. The people here are special.


On Wednesday, I went out with Erica, Beth, and her sister to a new 1940s-themed club called Cahoots in Soho. It was SO COOL! The menus looked like newspapers, the music was on point (albeit a bit loud), the servers were dressed in their best wartime threads, and the decorations were fascinating! My pictures turned out poor but my memories are vibrant (read more about that in my upcoming guest post for an online women’s magazine!) But I did get some good pics of the 1940s hairstyle I managed to finagle out of my unruly red locks. I’m too proud to not post a few:

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The doorman also kindly obliged to a photo:

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And finally, the scavenger hunt story:

Equipped with my handwritten directions taking us from Yelp’s favorite fish and chips shop to an art gallery to a photo developing store, Erica and I embarked on a long and winding day trip around West London. What made this day so different from many others was the level of interaction with locals. As the English are known for being particularly reserved, we Americans have felt this difference acutely. So when we went into three shops and each of the workers happily jumped into conversation with us, we were shocked! Phrase of the day: “Where are we?!

At the World’s End clothing shop, we were educated on a tidbit of Sex Pistols history and given a tip of where to find hidden troves of American foodstuffs right by the Saatchi Gallery. At this innovative gallery which contained art paired with poetry, the sales assistant pointed us in the direction of a hidden cemetery she had only just discovered after forty years of living around the corner. We chatted with another artist for a good fifteen minutes about this Russian magnate who spent half a billion dollars on art only to sequester it away as an investment. Again, this is one of the best things I’ve learned abroad: being social doesn’t always have to revolve around a friend group or romantic relationship. One can have many conversations with strangers that oftentimes end up being surprisingly thoughtful and engrossing. And you might end up learning something very unexpected!

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Three weeks until America. No sleep til Brooklyn!

Smidgen Stories

On Tuesday I won the BBC ticket lottery and saw a live recording of a BBC Channel 4 radio show! In addition to seeing the mostly invisible aspect of radio broadcasting, I saw some fantastic views of the rooms featured in the BBC news including the main desk where the anchors sit and the background loaded with workers collecting information about UK and world current events. Couldn’t take pictures of those areas, but luckily this experience didn’t end without a few greatly appreciated Doctor Who decorations.

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Yesterday, I got another haircut as a hair model for an academy. I’m telling ya, this is a great gig if you want to save money in exchange for a few hours of your time. My first experience took three hours for a high-fashion hairstyle that was priced around $100 but, for a hair model, was free. This experience was $25, took 2 hours, and will land me a spot on the academy’s website! I am such a fan of well-timed haircuts. It’s such a permissible way to feel pampered and like a million bucks!

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Foodie adventure time: BAO! Upon hearing heaps of great reviews coupled with a resilient craving for pork buns, I braved the queue and received this fella:

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the classic pork bun

I’m sad to admit it but it didn’t live up to my expectations. However, it was still lovely to nosh on and a great reminder that “top 10” lists aren’t sacredly true for everyone’s taste. That applies to destinations, music, food, and whatever else you can rate.


Next comes some snapshots of the gorgeous Green Park followed by pictures inside the imaginarium that is Fortnum and Mason.


Here is a glimpse into the London area of Brixton. The market there is teeming with life and spirit, as are the people who are currently fighting to prevent their market’s heart from being ripped out by the man. Really sad stuff. There’s a petition to sign if you like it when towns have souls.

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Finally, I’d like to end with some pictures of QM’s somewhat oddly-located cemetery. It’s smack in the middle of campus and it’s there because they didn’t want to disturb ages-old graves, which is a great call on their part even if it does make the campus a touch strange. But anyway, this cemetery is a wonderful way to include death in daily life, so to speak, in contrast to how we usually hide it away until we must deal with it when something dies. From a philosophical biologist’s perspective, it’s also wonderful to see a symbolic coexistence of life and death in the form of graves and flowers. It reminds me of a poem we used to read on Rosh Hashana about how life is intimately entwined with death. I don’t remember it exactly, but it depicts how a tree lives on eternally after it dies. Some of it returns to soil, ready to nurture new seeds. Its fallen trunk acts as a shelter for rabbits, and so on. The cemetery can also be construed as a way to refocus on the greater themes of life after stressing over finals for weeks.

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Happy Spring and Finals season!

After seeing an IMAX about space and nearly crying during its trailer because space is so beautiful (that’s another story), let me just remind you all that you are made of stardust and your last inhale probably contained an atom that also passed through the lungs of Cleopatra and that we are the universe attempting to understand itself.

Happy Thursday! 🙂

 

 

God, how I miss couches

London has some great cafes, museums, places to walk around, but for the student, there are few places that offer supreme unwinding resources. My optimal version equates to

  • A couch with fuzzy pillows
    • blankets are bonuses
  • Soft lighting. Great ambiance is hard to find
  • Serene music or gentle silence
  • Pets are a plus

It may be April, but I feel my cosiness meter hasn’t yet met its quota for the past winter. Heck, we barely had any rain in London this spring! So with the lack of snow and bitter cold (utterly grateful, though) and even rain, I think I have some cosiness catching up to do. If you can’t find me this summer, check under blanket forts and quilts. And if that fails, seek out the knitting section of AC Moore. And whatever happens, you can certainly come over for teatime because heaven knows that habit won’t be ending anytime soon! Even bought my own teapot, cup, and saucer here!


If you couldn’t tell from my last post, April’s been sort of a lonely month for me. I have no classes, just tons of time to work on a paper and study for exams. Whereas I only have two, which are spaced out pretty well, my flatmates average something like six each (there’s no first semester exam period here) so they spend ALL DAY in the library. Seriously. Their friends are there to socialise, there’s a cafe for food (or they come back to the flat for an hour to eat or nap.) On the other hand, some of my American friends are using this time to jet-set because they only have papers due or exams late in the testing period. So, I’m more lonely than I’d like to be right now. But fear not- I found some lovely (but temporary) companionship in the fellas at the Spitalfields Farm! It was set up almost like a zoo in that people could walk amongst the animals. But it was a zoo with substantial meaning- not just a simple source of public education/amusement (I don’t believe in zoos.)

Most of my newfound besties are easy to see but some- let’s say the rather sheepish ones- fancied themselves some hide-and-go-seek.

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Watson or Holmes, a New Zealander

Watson or Holmes, a New Zealander!

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Hope ze wasn't embaaaarressed :/

Hope ze wasn’t embaaaaaaarressed :/

Was this sheep celebrating 4/20 a little early? Or just a baller? That face is difficult to translate

Was this sheep celebrating 4/20 a little early? Or just a baller? That face is difficult to translate

So, besides all that, not much else has been going on with the exception of writing a humongous paper for Geographies of Nature. It’s almost done: Fifteen double-spaced pages! The topic has been really cool to explore, though, and I’m more than happy to discuss it with anyone who’s interested. Basically, I begin by talking about a tool called a species meeting, where at least two organisms “meet”. This might occur when an ant nibbles off part of a leaf, someone goes bird-watching, or you eat a hamburger. Next, the paper goes into what species meetings can and can’t tell us about the nature of the human-animal boundary. An example of an advantage of a SM is that by thinking about the bacteria that live all over our bodies and are necessary for our survival, we can question whether humans should consider those other organisms as part of our identities. A disadvantage of a SM could be that they’re often difficult to arrange: there is an untold number of unidentified animals left to be discovered, or that many people mislabel species (how many times have you called an alligator a crocodile, or vice versa?) The paper wraps up with a discussion of what supposedly distinguishes humans from all other animals and then seeks to reconcile that boundary, concluding that human exceptionalism is a pretty dumb concept. Looks like I won’t be attending a Humanism festival anytime soon. But here are some festivities to come: an Edible Cake Garden, a Summer Craftacular, and a World Book Night giveaway!

The Power of Loneliness + PAUL SIMON

I’ve been in at least 2 situations where bouncers don’t bother to check my age while my companions get stopped- each of them older than me! Sorta cool.

Also, although I love being so distanced from America through boycotting a conventional smartphone texting service and its apps (snapchat, etc.) and facebook, I admit that that distance has left me feeling lonely more often than I like. Even 3 months in, it’s still sort of strange to rely on email, skype, this blog, and pretty much the post in order to contact friends and fam. However, I still think it’s worth it to stick it out until I return to the states. I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to majorly de-tech myself (OMG that was an AWESOME PUN. ((detach ~ de-tech)) ) in the future without many formidable consequences. But then I think, but this is just like how it used to be… weird.

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pulling the plug

Loneliness isn’t the same as being alone. As an introvert, I thrive on alone time and rarely feel lonely during those periods. However, although I do have an abundance of independent Sophie time at college, much more than during high school, that amount pales in comparison to the amount at Queen Mary. It’s probably because of a multitude of factors: less in-class instruction time, fewer extracurriculars, fewer friends (it’s worked out well- there’s more to it than just a number, though), etc. And don’t get me wrong- it’s not like I didn’t have enough activities or ideas to fill it. But the fact is that, at least for me, studying abroad exposed me to possibly the most unstructured free time I’ve ever faced (maybe barring childhood summers.)

Predictably, it’s been both favorable and disappointing at times. I’ve relearned how to motivate myself to start essays 3 weeks before they’re due (an eon in college time) but have also confronted new (and accordingly, scary) levels of self-reliance. Going into this experience, I think I understood this partially, but by being in a wildly new place and situation, it’s going to be pretty important to like yourself. You’ll be your only companion, navigator, (mental) conversation partner, and much more during many, many minutes. The specificity of that “many, many” is of course dependent on the type of person you are, but nonetheless, it will probably still be atypically high.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a stable group of pals since I was little. At school, camps, and other programs I’d prioritize forming bonds with the other kids. But here, although I’ve met some great people, I’ve sought the social interaction I crave in a pretty different way. Or maybe it just feels that way. Here, I supplement my social quota by chatting with strangers also waiting for a haircut or for the concert to start, per se. Relatedly, I feel human connection when

Thousands of strangers squeezed into one arena are suspended in the same energy-charged ether emanating from not just the world-class performers on stage but each other… Hands reach to encircle their lover’s waists, eyes close to minimize distraction from the music, and an undeniable feeling of togetherness unites the pulsing crowd. Even though I’ve come to this concert by myself, there’s no chance of feeling alone.

So yeah, Paul Simon and Sting… you might think of them as peanut butter and pickles, musically. But after being physically tired out by the hit-after-hit, nearly three hour long extravaganza, I have no choice to report that this fusion was incredibly successful. Of course, Sting had a chance to do his rock’n’roll thing and Paul Simon unleashed some particularly mellow tunes on his own time, but when they did collaborate, it was harmonious (PSIMON PUN). I lost track, but I think they played something like three separate encores, each bowling over the audience more than the last- “Cecilia”, “Every Breath You Take”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”… A total of 36 whopping songs.

Favorite parts:

-When Paul Simon first came on stage, which unexpectedly left me with a face slick with tears. I think it was because I was so happy to see such an influential musician who provided me with stories and harmonies that kept me feeling grounded and comforted during intense times of growing up.

-“You Can Call Me Al” sent the entire audience into a dancing, clapping frenzy. Paul definitely proved his power as a performer.

-“Every Breath You Take”. It was magical. Sting has the voice of a young rockstar, still- the timelessness of his performance was spellbinding.

Summers in the Cities

Starting to think about some very enticing thoughts about home these days. Officially reached the 3 month mark. Excited to see my family, my friends, my town in the summer… telling friends about awkward run-ins and runnings-away-from with high school peers and teachers and knowing they’ll feel almost as uncomfortable as I did in the moment… circling around downtown in search of a parking spot… no homework… and ah, SUMMER!

Random sidenote: Can anyone give me a clue about why I got 255 hits on this blog during one hour last Sunday? I think it must be a glitch or some bot because it’s ridiculous.


Also decided on my last hurrah trip! Let’s play a game to figure it out!

Days 1-3: When you multiply something by two, what are you doing to that number? Remove the O and the G  on the end.

Final answer?

DUBLIN! 

The next destination’s linguistic clue: If you send something in the mail, it’s a _____. Subtract the first letter, change it to B. Next 2 syllables: You have a Boston accent and say that you are the possessor of something; you are its ______.

Answer is…

BARCELONA! 


And finally, some pictures! First are some from the incredible Camden Lock Market and a cool hippie crunchy granola place Michelle and I went to, feeling proper Wesleyan-y once more. This place was on my bucket list from last post (Inspiral Cafe) and I’ll leave the rest to the pictures. Pictures from the market and Regent’s Canal follow, then a snapshot from the top of Primrose Hill. It was taken on one of the first truly summery days of the year, where the sunlight streams from every direction, couples picnic and cuddle, the babies and dogs come out to play, and the park is so vivid that it seems that this is where the greener grass has been all along. (Except when it takes you a 45 minutes to traverse the park and get to tube!!!)

mmm.

mmm.