Monday, June 29, 2009

A European Explosion

Prepare yourself. Here comes a completely random, thrown at the screen rundown of all the odd, slightly blog worthy thoughts I have had over the past two or three weeks. WARNING: this post contains a great amount of text, with no pictures whatsoever. This should be an adventure.

Mini blog A: Wherein Rick Steves is God

So, traveling with two older ladies has been a vast, VAST change from bombing around the UK with 30 kids my age. I have never been so resistant to something in my life, but sadly my easy adaptability won out. I found myself quoting Rick Steves opinion at every landmark, treated his guidebooks like the Bible, and exhaled "how lovely!" at every brightly colored apartment building and sparse field of wildflowers. Following my mother and aunts example, I fed "scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera eager to eat the world one monument at a time" (I've been listening to Billy Collins poetry lately. Check out "Consolation"), snapping artsy pictures of lamposts and skylines, churches framed by tree branches and details of statuary. I did resist the 9:30 bedtime, but I still went to sleep far earlier than the 3-7 schedule of London.

Mini blog B: My Soundtrack*

I listen to music far too often, and some songs work to define parts of my life. Drama class in junior year? "Don't Bring Me Down" summons memories of crouching in the wings of the stage, bobbing my head and worrying about the latest scandal with the choir kids before I left that behind me forever. Summer of freshman year? Walking across campus like a gangsta, cruising to "Seven Nation Army". OK, this walk down memory lane was not the purpose of this segment. I swear. What I really meant to talk about was the songs I've had on repeat the past few days, the songs that have embodied my post-London self.

1. West Coast, by Coconut Records.
All right, guy I kind of sort of dated but not really February aught eight. I owe you a big thank you for all those mix CDs. I didn't give them enough attention, missing little jewels like this song I didn't even know I had. I'm sorry I wasn't responsive to your wooing, but you're married now so you probably don't care. Still, thanks for the great tunes.

I played this song over and over the last week of my study abroad. Even though I wasn't heading back to the states, I still identified with leaving places and people I loved, friendships that would never be the same and the desire to take it all with you. And the fact that it's the awkward kid from Rushmore singing to me makes it even more special and bittersweet. Somehow. Don't ask me how that works. Also, the line "rains a lot this time of year" fit perfectly into the theme of my actual travels, which leads us to ...

2. Why Does it Always Rain on Me?, by Travis.
Major kudos to Kate for gifting me this awesome Brit band right before I left, and then to my buddy Grant for noticing them on itunes and giving me this particular beauty. Along with being yet another angsty, reflective song about the past, this quite literally described my trip. No joke, after the third day of traveling every, single, place we went to was cloudy and hazy and then rained at least once. This proved a saving grace in the oppressive heat of Italy, but grey skies make for some tricky, monotonous pictures.

3. So So, by Gary Go
Ladies and gentlemen, this is THE SONG. It is me the week after the program ended. It is the way I felt, wrapped up in one glorious feat of lyricism. Basically, each line expresses the emotions I was dealing with, the sense of loss and growth that I experienced. And have I mentioned how magnificently angsty it is? All of these songs made me so "emo", even though I prefer the term ruminative. Yes, that's it. They made me contemplative and reminiscent, as I was transported to a time, not too far off, that I missed. And Gary Go himself was such a part of my London adventure. From running around town looking for music stores to buy his album, to playing it on Allison's laptop and dozing off in a Stratford guest room with a gaggle of girls, to sharing it with members of the group, Gary Go was the quintessential English music find, and So So is the ultimate in London nostalgia. "Take me back to the London Town, when it felt good to be around..."

Mini blog C: Spew, a.k.a., Random Observations from the Road

When you are in the Italian countryside, the air tastes like wheat and sun-dried tomatoes and you almost fall in love. And then you get to the city, where the air tastes like garbage and acrid cigarette smoke that makes you miss English tobacco, and then you almost vomit.

Clouds that wisp like sulfuric steam rising from Roman baths of old are pretty neat.

Absence does not make the heart grow fonder.

Italian men are an even bigger letdown than the British accent's aphrodisiac power. Hint: ear piercings aren't as cool as you think they are.

Venice manufactures romance like it's cheap insulation, but you still fall for it.

You never know who you will run into and where. And how you will look when you run into them. And when that time comes, you will always regret not taking a shower that morning.

Germans are definitely not Nazis anymore, and are in fact quite warm and hospitable. And make freaking amazing food.

What is it about countries where they speak a different language that suddenly makes you want to eavesdrop on every conversation you hear?

*From now on, I've decided every song I mention on this blog can be found on the playlist to the right (with certain exceptions, like Gary Go, which is not on but you should look him up anyway). Important ones will be near the top, but all should be found by browsing, along with several other great tunes that help me survive at work. Enjoy!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Major Issue

So this study abroad has been dominated by two groups: the English Majors and the Theatre Majors.

I hope you envisioned a West Side Story-style rumble right then. I know I sure did.

We don't really have a rivalry. Not a blatant one anyway. It's just been very easy to see the difference. I mean let's face it. In the immortal words of Batman, "it's what I do that defines me". And majors most definitely define people.

Think about it. I say Information Systems. You think: person, slightly socially awkward but not too bad, really good at fixing your computer but will most likely judge you for not using your machine to it's fullest capacity. Or MFHD majors: yeah, they're here to get married.

It makes perfect sense. Different personality types are attracted to different careers. And this is oh-so-evident when you are living and traveling and spending every waking moment with a very select group of people.

Let's just say, it's very interesting/hilarious to see the English and the Theatre people interact. They are like two cultures, circling each other, with wary eyes and distrusting demeanor. I expect to hear the tribal drums any second now.

Only a few more days in London. I don't really want to think about it. This place has been incredible. Woah. Get ready. Here comes a change in tone. This place has been ... dare I say life-changing? That feels a little bold, but I think it's accurate. The atmosphere just suits me so well. In London, everything is busy, but not in an overwhelming way like big cities in the States. It has this gravity gifted by history, by a knowledge that the building you just walked past is guraanteed to be at least a century older than our entire country. And it only gets better when you leave London and venture into the countryside, see the green and yellow hills and smell the air, air you couldn't believe could taste so fresh.

They sell a T-shirt in those hole souvenier shops that says "Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to London". I chuckle a little at it, but realize how misguided it is. London is heaven, one and the same.