Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Campus" Life

I really felt compelled to write again, even I wrote a new post just a couple days ago. But I've had some great experiences in the last two days that I wanted to share! Yesterday, all of the students had another British Studies field trip (our first was to the city of Lincoln) but it was a very obscure one. Half of the students went to the Southwell Workhouse (more on that later) and the other half stayed behind to tour Harlaxton. It was very bizarre to tour the place we are living in, but also so much more interesting! We are currently in the Victorian era of British Studies (so in the area of the 1830's-1905) which is when Harlaxton was built. We went around to four different sections of the manor to hear each of the British Studies professors talk about different things. The theme of the tour was how the manor was built structurally for the organization of the classes.
One of the 3 chandeliers in the Long Gallery

We began our tour in the State rooms (which include the State Dinning Room, the Long Gallery, the Great Hall and the Gold Room) where the architecture was discussed. Gregory Gregory was the one who built the manor for himself (he had no family) and had two distinct designers. We were then lead to the Blue Corridor, up the Cedar Staircase, to the guest rooms. The manor was designed to split the halls and rooms into gender division. The Victorians were obsessed with paradoxical morals and never wanted the genders to mix. One of the professors pointed out the set of "Bachelor Rooms" where the single men were housed as guests. We also got to see the hidden staircase from the Butler's room in the basement to the two upper floors. (I may have already discovered that and taken it once before...). Exploring all of these areas lead us to the 400 corridor (where I live) and the "servant's area" of the house. The tour became absolutely fascinating to me to imagine a house for a 5-person family and their guests, supported by at least 30 servants that could never be seen or heard. We toured the library corridor which was once the kitchen and the stone corridor that was architecturally plain with high windows so the servants could never been seen or see the upper class. So many new hidden pathways and staircases were revealed to me which was so cool! It was so bizarre to imagine life as it was when the manor was first built, and not as a college house as it is now.
The ceiling of the Ante Room

After that tour, I headed to the Southwell Workhouse, which was a poor house first created in the early 1800's. Because the Poor Law created by Elizabeth I in the 1600's could no longer support the over-population due to the industrialization in England, they created a place called the workhouse. The Victorian belief was that you were poor due to your laziness and your lack of morals. The workhouse was open to you to provide you with food, shelter, and clothing, in exchange for menial, and meaningless work. This work was thought to force hard work and discipline, as well as morality, into you. If you worked hard, it was easy for you to get outside work, and your family could leave.
The top floor of the Cedar Staircase

The catch with the workhouses was that families were separated. Again, genders were divided, living in separate sections of the house, and children were kept in their own quarters. Even couples who had been married for 20 years could not be seen together. There were so many downsides to this structure, but it did get paupers out on their feet again. The workhouse was rather creepy to tour (it didn't help that it was thundering outside) and I still don't know who I feel about the whole concept. But it has made me intrigued over the social justice issues of the time period.
The conservatory

Anyway, I found the field trip overall fascinating because it was like seeing the manor for the first time again. It made me appreciate the rooms within the manor more and it's fun to think about the amount of history that walked the same staircases and corridors as I do now. On a lighter note, tonight was the talent show that I participated in with Ashley and Kate. I accompanied the two on the piano as they, ironically, sang "Ebony and Ivory". Their costumes were fabulous and the audience loved them. They were hilarious! It went over so well that we won second place for the competition! (Our first place winners were tough competition - it's hard to compete with two boys who sang a song about "Pumpkins of the Night" with costumes and lighting). It was great fun and I've been feeling very sociable this week! Tomorrow I'm having lunch with the new UE president as he visits Harlaxton for a few days! I somehow seem to be participating in everything!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Black Sheep and Peter Rabbit

The view of the Ambleside area and Lake Windemere

This last weekend, I went with the school 4 hours north of Grantham to the Lake District. We left Thursday night, hopped on the coach and drove north. It was the first school trip I had gone on since London in September and it was amazing how relaxing it was. I didn't have to worry about anything! There was a decent sized number of us on the trip so it was a lot of fun to travel with people I was friends with, but didn't necessarily hang out with around the manor. We arrived at our hostel, which was directly on Lake Windemere, late Thursday evening. I roomed with 6 other girls, but got the one single bed in the room (whoo!). The hostel was giant yet all of the girls from Harlaxton were in one corner of the hostel, which made the weekend's bonding even more easy!

Our hostel on the lake.
Friday morning I bought a ferry ticket to the nearest town, Bowness (we were staying in Ambleside) with Ashley, Jake, and our friend Lauren, to see the Beatrix Potter attraction! Beatrix Potter had based all of her stories in the Lake District so Peter Rabbit memorabilia could be found everywhere. We went through the attraction, reminiscing over the characters we remembered best, and being the only ones there who were older than 4 and younger than 30. I still found it absolutely fascinating to read about Beatrix Potter and her life, as well as the people she wrote her stories for. It was a well spent morning! We also explored the quaint town of Bowness that was very obviously a tourist attraction. We went to a tea room for tea and scones. It was absolutely delicious and relaxing.

We headed back to the hostel to change into some hiking gear to trek the "mountains". Surrounding all the lakes in the district were beautiful, what I would call, hills that made for great hikes. The four of us were joined by our new friends Sam and Jessica, and half-way up the hill, Karen and Christi. We had an awesome time hiking on the public footpaths through sheep pastures, viewing all the black sheep (I've never seen so many sheep in my life!) and gorgeous sights! We reached the top within an hour and a half and have an incredible view of Lake Windemere and the surrounding area. We felt quite proud of ourselves for finding the trail and making it to the top! It was wonderful.
My hiking group: Karen, Ashley, Jessica, Christi, Sam, Lauren, and Jake.
Jessica, Lauren, Me, Ashely, Christi, and Karen at the top!

That evening, after dinner with my hiking group in the town center of Ambleside, I hung out in the manor (too exhausted to even think about doing anything else!) and chatted with a lot of girls from Harlaxton that I've never gotten the chance to know. We had a great time just getting to know each other! The girls were all mainly from Western Kentucky University (the next biggest school fed into Harlaxton) so it was great to hear about something different to UE and even when it's so near!

Saturday morning came quickly after a very deep sleep and was full of our outdoor activities! I had signed up for "Ghyll Scrambling" provided by a company in Langdale, about a half hour away from Ambleside. The other options were mountain hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing. All sounded very appealing to me, but I knew I could do the other things at home, so I took the opportunity to try something I had never heard of! About 20 of us from the group had signed up for the activity, so they broke us into 3 teams. My team consisted of all girls, and girls that I was friends with, but not great friends with. We put on our gear, harnesses and helmets, and headed out with our guide, Ian.

Ghyll, our guide told us, is a Norse word for "mountain stream" so, in essence, ghyll scrambling meant that we were to be hiking through a mountain stream and rock climbing up waterfalls. We began our adventure straight away by hopping into the stream, completely soaking our shoes through! We were all prepared in wearing boots and various waterproof attire, but it was obvious once we began that there would be no stopping our getting wet. Our guide was awesome and our group worked incredibly together! We were all at the same fitness level and naturally encouraged one another. We had an absolutely blast and constantly were laughing. We all challenged each other in taking the harder routes, even if it was completely unnecessary! Our guide was great because he stopped every so often and took pictures of us. Check out the link below for all the amazing pictures!! Also, be sure to ask me later about more detail from the adventure; it was the most fun I've had since being here, and that's saying something!!!
I was being an ape over the shoulder-deep pool of water!

The afternoon, after finding feeling in my feet again, was spent with the girls from my team as well as couple others. We went to tea together (and more scones) and walked around the area for a bit. We began to realize that we all got along so well together and were amazed we never knew each other before! Everyone I spent my afternoon with all went to UE. We had a range of sophomores, juniors and seniors, but UE is not that big, so it still surprised us. We went to dinner together as well and a wine bar with live jazz. It was an absolutely wonderful evening with "the girls". Without this weekend's adventures, we probably would not have bonded as much as we had, so we were all thankful for the opportunities that arose for it! It is so awesome that we can all become friends this semester and continue to be when we return to UE in January.
At the lake in Keswick with a mixture of UE and WKU girls.

Sunday morning we left the hostel and drove to another nearby town Keswick (pronounced: Kez-ick). We walked around the area, exploring the "most beautiful" lake in the Lake District and had lunch at a cafe called Ginger and Pickles. Again, it was more time spent in the gorgeous area of the district and with people I was quickly getting to know and love! We made it back to the manor in really good time. For the first time in weeks, I wasn't bogged down with homework upon arrival so that was great. This week I have my floor event to look forward to, as well as the Variety Show in which I'm playing piano for people. This weekend I stay here at the manor for RA duty and will be studiously working on papers. Good thing not many people will be here to distract me! Time in this semester is quickly escaping me as we near the end of October!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Daily Half-Marathons

This last weekend, I adventured to Brussels, Belgium to visit Elizabeth, who is studying abroad there for the semester. I took the Eurostar train from London to Brussels which was very odd. I didn't want to think about the fact that I was on a train underwater while I was on the train, so I still don't even know exactly how it worked! It was a quick journey (2 hours) to the city and I arrived around dinner time in Brussels. Elizabeth had been working (she nanny's for a family in her neighborhood) so she wasn't able to meet me at the train station, but gave me directions to her apartment. It was very odd upon arriving because I realized I was in my first country where English was not the preferred language! Good thing I took enough French to know the basics of reading the signs and being able to ask simple questions! I made sure to also practicing saying "I speak French really badly!" just in case.

Elizabeth's apartment was very simple to get to and I got to take many forms of transportation to get there. The city was huge and had tons of things to look at. Elizabeth lives in an upper-end of Brussels so when I got off the tram, I was surrounded by high-end stores. I easily found her apartment and was greeted by one of her friends that also lives there. The apartment has a few rooms that are taken by people in her program. I hung out with her friend, Brielle, until Elizabeth returned home from nannying. That evening we spent hanging around her apartment, making dinner, and catching up! We had both finished an exhausting week so it was very relaxing.
Elizabeth and I in front of the historical arch I forgot the name of...

Elizabeth's roommate, Catherine, also had two friends visiting for the weekend, so the apartment was full starting Friday morning! Elizabeth had one last class to go to Friday morning so I hung with her roommate and friends. I felt much more American in the city than I had in England, simply because everyone was speaking French. One of the girls with us is studying in France (the other, in Prague) so she was much better at communicating than the rest of us. Elizabeth met up with us while we were out and we headed to lunch at an Irish pub, ironically. We spent the rest of the day exploring more shops and seeing parts of the city.

That evening, I met even more of Elizabeth's friends from her program in preparation for going out that night. Her program was hosting a party at a nearby club which was a lot of fun. It was cool to meet most of her friends of the semester and experience the night life in Brussels. It was a lot different than England! Our late evening turned into a very late morning the next day, so Saturday seemed very short. We ended up eating at a cafe in her neighborhood that lasted hours upon hours. It took the restaurant 40 minutes to take our order, and then an hour and a half to get us our food! We were absolutely starving and did not appreciate the lack of service. I had even ordered ever-so politely (Je vousdrais le London et le cafe, c'il vous plait) yet the waiters could not have cared less about us. It was extremely bizarre and most aggravating. The only upside was that when the food finally arrived, it was delicious. But I probably would have thought the same of McDonald's by that time!!
Elizabeth and I on the metro headed toward "Les You"

The rest of the day was spent exploring their neighborhood and all the eclectic shops and unique boutiques. I was quickly learning that Brussels is extremely expensive and was beginning to be very thankful for the prices in England. Elizabeth and I headed downtown later on to see some of the most historical sights (that I can no longer remember the names of...I was so brain dead from the week that I pretty much floated around all weekend long!) and sign her up for the big half-marathon that she was going to participate the next morning. That evening we went out to meet up with some of her friends again, but kept it an early evening due to her plans for the next morning.

So on Sunday, we woke up early and headed out to the beginning of the marathon! Elizabeth had always wanted to run a half-marathon and was so excited that her first would take place abroad. It was bad timing that it was happening the weekend I was visiting, but I didn't mind. I was excited to see her finish! I saw her off at the beginning under the historical arch, and then took the metro to the finish line. It was finishing in another historical place, Grand Place (you have to say it in the French accent even though it looks English), so I got the chance to look around the market and shops as well as the beautiful buildings. To pass the time, I watched the winners of the half-marathon and all the race's crazy happenings. It was pretty entertaining. However, Elizabeth's guesstimated finishing time came and went, and no sign of her. I began to panic about making my train but tried to wait patiently. Eventually, I gave up, knowing that I needed to head out to leave in order to make my train!
A monument on the walk to Grand Place

It was a mad rush getting back to the metro to get my things from Elizabeth's apartment. Luckily, we met up at the same time at her apartment. It ended up that people at the marathon had completely misdirected her in the opposite direction to collect her things and it took her over an hour(!) to locate her belongings! We ran to find a taxi to get us to the train station, and I ran through security and customs (well, I stopped at both to take care of them) and ran to the train. Although the Belgique people had not been very friendly toward me during the weekend, they were surprisingly very nice at the train station in my efforts to make the train. I arrived onto the train at 1:57 with the departure time being 1:59. I was dripping with sweat and wheezing. Elizabeth was not the only one to run the half-marathon that day.

It was definitely one of my most stressful moments, but I knew I would have one of those experiences while being here and so I'm extremely thankful it's over. Phew. The only other hitch to my day was that my train from London to Grantham broke down and so I was two hours later arriving than planned. But hey, it could have been much, much worse.
One of the main buildings in Grand Place

This week has been going on pretty normally for the most part, except for the extremely thick pressure of stress, homework, presentations, tests, and papers around the manor. I've kept mostly to myself this week for fear of the stress outbreaks amongst the rest of the student body. Today however, I head to the Lake District, 4 hours north of the stress and out into the most beautiful area of England! It should be quite the experience!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Country With My Name Everywhere

This last weekend was our first long weekend at Harlaxton. We finished classes on Wednesday with our first British Studies exam (two solid hours of essays) and then the weekend began! I left immediately after the exam, which I feel I did pretty well on, considering it covered 1600 years of history, and headed off to Ireland! I ended up sharing my travels with another Aaron from Harlaxton, even though it was completely unplanned. The timing of hitting the school shuttle, the train and the flight was a little off so we spent a lot of time hanging around the airport. We were flying to Dublin on RyanAir which is definitely not the most high-class airline. But as a traveling student, you take what you can get for really cheap! Luckily, Aaron and I managed to get in the front of the line before boarding the plane and got to choose nice seats. As the nice Irish lady behind me in line informed me, "This is RyanAir. You don't get assigned seats". It was literally a free-for-all rush to the plane to get the "good seats".

I arrived in Dublin roughly around 9:30pm on Wednesday and was greeted by Ian! (I left Aaron to meet up with the rest of his group who were arriving on the flight from London, five minutes later, rather than East Midlands like we had come). We headed to Jen's parents house where they have been living since Lazy F, in a Dublin suburb that I've already forgotten what it's called (it's hard when everything is in Irish!). I was greeted by Jen and quickly offered tea as we caught up for a bit. It was great to bring back the old Three Amigos from Lazy F!

[Side Note: I'm very aware of the fact that Ian and Jen will eventually read this blog post, so if you want to know the REAL story of my weekend, make sure to ask me about it later...

Just kidding! They were fabulous hosts all weekend!]
One of the mounds at Knowth

Thursday morning I was greeted by a traditional Irish fry cooked by the Englishman, Ian. The fry consisted of sausage, "white pudding" (whatever that is), mushrooms, tomatoes, a poached egg, some other things that I think I forgot, and toast, if you wanted it. It was a very delicious and filling meal! We then got ready to meet up with Jen and Ian's friends to head off north to a historical site of Irish tombs older than 5000 years! These mounds are older than Stonehenge and Jen and Ian had never seen them before. I was their excuse to do all of the touristy Irish things! We visited two of the main mounds, Knowth and Newgrange and explored the informative museum. The mounds themselves were pretty bizarre and kind of odd to explain. Basically, the people of the Neolithic Age built giant rings of stones and made them into large mounds as a burial place, or tomb for their people. We couldn't go in the first mound, Knowth, but in Newgrange we were able to walk inside. It had a claustrophobic-style entrance that lead into a large tomb area. It was very interesting, but hard to fathom how much history had taken place in such a weird structure. Fascinating!

Whilst at Newgrange, we enjoyed a delicious meal of home-cooked hot dogs from a backpack, courtesy of Jen and Ian's friends, on the top of one of the mounds. We also got to enjoy the view of the countryside from the top, which was very cool. The day also consisted of lots of paparazzi and photo shoots by Ian and Jen because of their new fancy-schmancy camera. This also meant that we had to pose for a lot of pictures, no matter how many takes it took!

That evening, Jen managed to get the three of us into an Irish Night show at the pub she used to work at. It is normally an expensive evening of dinner and the show so it was awesome that we got to see it for free! We watched Irish dancers, a tenor and a soprano, as well as a comedian. The whole show was great and I definitely enjoyed it a lot.

The next day, we headed into the city center, via the Luas (apparently it's Irish for "tram"), and met up with another one of Jen and Ian's friends. They showed me around Trinity College (where Jen went to school) which I found very fascinating. We checked out the Book of Kells - a VERY old Latin translation of the four gospels. I thought it was really neat to read about in the little museum and then to see. But I really loved the old library that was above it that was full, floor to high ceiling, of hundreds of years old books. We then explored more around the campus where I happened across giant male deer skeleton in one of the buildings that I think has been giving me nightmares....After visiting the college, we went to Dublin Castle, Temple Bar, The Dublin Spire (which was the most ridiculous tourist monument I've ever experienced), and viewed the city from a rooftop! We also had some adventures in the tourist shops, which are, of course, inescapable. We headed back to the house to enjoy another delicious meal with Jen's parents (food with the families here are so spoiling!) and relaxed the rest of the evening.
Me and the Leprechaun!
Our view of the city from a rooftop

Saturday morning, before I headed back to Harlaxton, we took a drive to see the scenic areas of Dublin. We went up one of the "mountains" to view the area and drove to the coast. I enjoyed learning about the Dublin suburbs (which are all Irish names so it took me forever to be able to pronounce them, let alone spell them) and seeing the different areas. We walked along a boardwalk area in Dun Loaghaire (spelled right??), which is pronounced, dun-leary, and I enjoyed an ice cream as we watched a lot of dog-walkers and an outdoor, by-the-sea, workout class. After that, it was time for me to go! So we said our goodbyes and I journeyed the "long" journey back to Harlaxton!

Since then, I've been glued to my desk chair with hours upon hours of studies and homework. I gave an AWESOME British Studies presentation on Monday (my professor said ALL presentations should be like mine!), took an Environmental Science exam yesterday, and have been drawing flowers and fish like there's no tomorrow. I still have a bit more to do, but all will be well because I leave for Brussels, Belgium tomorrow to visit Elizabeth! But before then, I'm off to Peterborough with the school to visit the "big" city in the area. So much to do in life!