Comical Professors and Van Morrison (!!!)

I’m not used to having classes that are so blatantly applicable to life! Examples: lectures on feminism and postmodernism in my European Culture and Society class, and the value of nature in a capitalist economy in Geographies of Nature. So REAL!

I’d like to tell you a quick story from my last Euro class. The scene: our professor is shooting out all these incredible facts about how we live in a postmodern world and what it means and what is everyone’s favorite Starbucks go-to and can we ever prove the eclipse happened and all of a sudden he springs

“You don’t even know if you exist unless you’ve taken a selfie that morning.”

Whoa. No wonder this guy has tenure! (In case I’m not being clear, this sentence was so powerful because it completely encapsulates the essence of postmodernism and simultaneously couldn’t resonate more with our mostly eighteen years old millennial class. And it’s funny.) Man, the professors here are just full of goodness.

Which brings me back to our old friend placenta prof! Today he added another moment to his “greatest hits” collection.

So, we’re learning about the precursors to humans, namely Homo australopithicus and Homo habilis. He keeps reiterating the important advances that eventually led to our species, like the use of tools and having bigger brains. Yada yada. Excitement level is unwavering at zero. That is, until he reaches for his baby and pelvis props, announcing, “I will attempt to give birth this morning!”

The entire class explodes with laughter. Even the “manly” men couldn’t help but giggle. (Overall, England seems much more patriarchal than the US, and that’s reflected in the sociology of the sexes here quite noticeably. But that’s for another time.)

So he takes his pelvis model and a baby doll and actually shows us how much trouble it is for a baby to traverse the birth canal because of our ginormous brains! Now that’s LEARNING!

He also told us that hominins (a type of ancient humans) have gained “two tablespoons of grey matter every 100,000 years”. Chew on that unexpected measurement of intelligence! (Sorry for that unsavory pun. <– but not for that one! 🙂 )


I’m going to a CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL on Friday!! And, as they’re conjoined, a Cheese and Wine affair too! As my funny father quipped, I’ll probably regain the ten pounds I gave for a ticket after a day’s sampling of chocolates and cheeses. (Get it? Go punny papa!)


On Wednesday, Van Morrison and I decided to meet at the Royal Albert Hall and have a conversation. We talked of many things: New Orleans, gypsy souls, dancing in the moonlight. But the subject matter wasn’t the main takeaway, no. As I wasn’t the only one involved in this meeting of friends, I’ll let the grown man sitting in back of me explain what we were all feeling after the conversation had ended:

“YAY!”

His exclamation resounded with a pure sense of joy… a vulnerable, raw display of genuine human happiness. It was especially unique because of my location in London, a part of the world known for its reserved residents. That’s the magic of Van Morrison: his music zeros in on the part of you that’s grown numb to the spirit of life and taps it awake. His music is interwoven with spirit and soul. I left that theatre feeling renewed with motivation for life. That’s big stuff right there. Other reactions blurted out seconds after the last chord ended included “Brilliant!” and “Utterly brilliant!”

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It wasn’t til the last half hour of the show that the magic really started for me- the first hour was him playing his lesser-known music and duets with “friends” that I didn’t recognize (but will post pics in case anyone can solve the mystery.) But after he played “Days Like This”, the audience knew what was coming next. He really saved his allure for the end, in my opinion, letting loose his legendary voice and leaving me feeling awed, thinking, “he’s still got it.” “Brown Eyed Girl” was a pleasure to behold, “Into the Mystic” sent waves of relaxation and good feeling about the entire concert hall. There was no way to avoid the goodness he poured over the crowd, even if you were in the limited legroom, obstructed view seat you bought for 50 pounds four days before the concert.

So yeah, Van’s the man!

Prague & Amsterdam: Part Two

Prague was incredible. After taking the tube, train, plane, bus, metro, tram, and a steep walk uphill, we finally arrived at our hostel. We stayed in Old Prague in a great hostel ten minutes away from the Charles Bridge. Everywhere we looked, we were surrounded by age-old buildings covered with abundant ornamentation. Although later they harassed our feet, the ubiquitous cobblestones paved ways to feelings of wonder and awe. For much of our time in Prague, it felt like we were in a fairytale village (albeit one overrun with tacky souvenir shops and Thai massage joints.)

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view down a street near our hostel

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p r a g u e !

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this city was such eye candy to gaze at all day long

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We saw a restaurant overlooking the city near Petrin Hill and without thinking, I dashed past the bushes to this point and just went to town (taking pictures, not literally! P-unintended!). This was probably trespassing but you can tell it was worth it!

We saw many of the touristy sights while on a 2.5 hour walking tour and on our own: Astronomical clock (previous post), Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Jewish Quarter, Kafka’s stomping grounds, Old Town Square… The tour really helped skyrocket our opinions of Prague,  compared with Amsterdam, where we ended up taking a tour on our last full day there (were only there for 2 full days though) because of some confusion. Understanding the city through a mixture of history, landmarks, and modern customs is essential to appreciating a city and to everyone planning trips during their times abroad, I stress the significance of walking tours soon after you arrive.

Food: Mmmmmmmm. Tried curly, sugared bread cooked on rotating sticks called trdelnik (thanks to the suggestion of a fellow blogger studying abroad in Prague!) Hot wine is also common, and we jumped on that bandwagon quickly. It was so bitter that even with a generous honeying, it was still too dry for my taste. Goulash was delectable, the bread dumplings hearty, onion soup scrumptious. My only negative food experience was the lack of vegetables (common in far too many places, I know. 😥 ) When presented red cabbage, I sorrowfully strove to collect every measly vitamin K molecule available.

One night, we got all dolled up, fetched our Chilean hostelmate, got a cab for 300 Kr (was about $3 per person for 20 min! So cheap!) and went to an amazing nightclub that played 80’s and 90’s music all night. The music videos plastered the walls and created an atmosphere I’d never previously experienced: many “older” people (late 20s to early 40s) dotted the large dancefloor, shamelessly grooving to the cheesy songs. As a young adult whose majority of “going out” experiences have been disappointing and full of desensitizing, uninspiring music, this felt like an epiphany. Finally, I’d found a club that seemed FUN and full of people I could actually relate to! In short, it was a great time and we danced for hours. I don’t have any pics of this night but Erica and Beth do, so if you want to see pics, I’ll show them whenever they share them with me.

blackswan

This is dedicated to my DAD: Look, a black swan! (for everyone else reading this, the bird refers to how commonplace coincidences actually are, e.g. a black swan. It’s also the title of a book he loves)

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Couldn’t resist snapping a pic of this funny kid decked out in blue. (Elior I gotchu)

The Prague Castle was a joy to meander around. The highlight was the St. Vitus Cathedral, an edifice so massive that I barely tried photographing it before surrendering my camera in order to absorb its formidable presence.

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My favorite stained glass of the cathedral


We also found the John Lennon wall, a memorial to the legend who never actually visited the city but remained a symbol of peace and resistance for the youth during a time of particular political turmoil. We were surprised when we learned that Prague has only been opened up as a major tourist destination in the past 25ish years, owing to the government changing at that time (don’t ask me any more about political history than that! Not my forte.) Read about the wall here.

I’ve loved JL for a long time. I even dressed up like him, memorized his life story, and donned a costume for a sixth grade biography project! I bought a wonderful book of his artwork a while ago too. So this excursion was especially fun.

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Strawberry Fields Forever

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the wall (notice 3 JL heads up top)

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3 Johns

Whoooh, this is a long post! Grab a swig of gatorade and a granola bar to replenish those electrolytes cuz we ain’t finished yet! Nearing the end, though. I applaud your tenacity.

good job, you reader you!


One of the best parts of Prague was going to a monastery whose resident monks produced, wait for it, beer! Some proclaim it to be the best beer in Europe. Not long after hearing of this, you can imagine how, in my head, the puns flowed: How the monks turned water into beer, brewing happiness, etc.

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Love that monk!

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It was a gas. Each table lit by candles, a restaurant underground where Charles IV used to hang out…

Inside the restaurant

Inside the restaurant

We had a great time. The food was incredible as well! None of us were/are beer people, so it tasted like almost any other beer to us. Maybe the magic wasn’t in the taste, but the effects/benefits? Should’ve asked the monks!

On our way out, we stumbled upon a cute Czech cat and Erica was smitten. The first picture really says it all.

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TRUE. LOVE. Look at those faces!!!

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I gotta say, what an adorable cat.

The day we left, we explored the Jewish Quarter’s museum and cemetery area. Really interesting and worth it.

As I said in the previous post, we indulged in massages. Our bodies thanked us by staying able enough to take on much of Amsterdam’s sights in two full days. STAY TUNED: More of that in the next post!

Seen at Prague Castle. Reminds me of my wonderful sister Emily (brown hair on left) and me on right! <3

Seen at Prague Castle. Reminded me of my wonderful sister Emily (brown hair on left) and me on right! ❤