Monday, July 29, 2013

Thoughts on Experiences.

"Oh, it will be such a great experience!"
"Oh, you'll have so much fun!"
"Oh, you'll have such a great time, and get to travel so much!"

I heard all of this, and more, as I prepared to head off to London to study abroad. Funny, no one really mentioned me learning anything, and most people did start off whatever they said with "Oh!". Though I will be the first to admit that my semester had less than I would have liked to offer me academically, I learned more life lessons in these past six months than I expected. By a long shot.

I didn't really experience the whole "no-one-can-possibly-understand-what-I'm-going-through" phase, or, the "intense-homesickness" phase that we were all warned about it that mandatory study abroad meeting last fall. I did have intense mexican food cravings by the end of the semester though, and honestly, at times, I missed that more than my family (I'm not heartless, but skype works much better connecting me to my family members across the ocean than it does with connecting me with Chuy's). Luckily, I lived in a predominantly Bengali neighbourhood, and only a couple of blocks away from curry mile, so I was able to be placated with some fantastic curry. Curry that I will never be able to replicate, and I am sure in a couple of months my curry cravings will rival the mexican food ones. My semester had a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle shifts mirroring my experience with mexican food and curry. And, as with everything in life, I even managed to learn some lessons.

Lesson one: Public transportation, when functional, is one of the most phenomenal things ever. Living in a climate where it is tolerable to be outside for more than 30 seconds is pretty great too.

Lesson two: London does not have good Mexican food. Full Stop.

Lesson three: London has incredible curry restaurants. If anyone can find me a reasonably priced curry restaurant in the states that can come close, they will have my everlasting gratitude.

Lesson four: Street signs that exist and are consistently placed in the same general area are helpful, and often necessary for navigation (I'm looking at a whole lot of European countries here).

Lesson five: Trainers are for tourists, and London is not easy on the feet.

I could go into the deep, meaningful, breakthrough moments I had while abroad, but every time I try to talk about those with someone, much less write them down, I sound ridiculous. Honestly, I learned a lot more about how little I know than anything else, and came away with more questions than answers. I think that's a good thing though. As soon as I decide that I have all, or even most of the answers, my world has obviously gotten too small. I do know that I need some more time "out there" to learn a little more about myself. Though I am still set on that PhD in psychology, I want to take a year off to live somewhere else. I want another year where the routine is often overwhelming, where I am far enough out of my comfort zone that I am not getting back in anytime soon, so I might as well just go with it.

I'm not qualified to get anywhere close to "settling down"yet. I don't know enough about how I function, and what works best for me. I don't know nearly enough about my likes and dislikes, or what is really important to me. This all seems absolutely ludicrous, as out of anyone, I should know myself best. Then again, that's not saying much.

Thanks for sticking it out with me internet. I will let you know when the next adventure comes along.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Foyles at Haz-Beans.

Hello there. I feel super special, because my friend Elizabeth from back home asked me to write a guest post for a blog she and her dad write, called Haz-Beans. Go check it out!


Monday, June 3, 2013


For the past couple of months, I have been going to a Friday night Capoeira class taught by my friend Dafne. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art, and a whole lot of fun. Cartwheels, handstands and spinning kicks are in abundance, and music is a big part of it too. On Sunday, I went to a roda with Dafne, and got to see a bunch of people play. It was in a park, and we had gathered quite the audience.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Queen of Hoxton

On Saturday, we went out to celebrate Charlie's birthday. We went to a great rooftop bar in Shoreditch, called the Queen of Hoxton, and I would highly recommend it on the rare nice days here.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I'm Not Complaining, Honest. (This Time)

This seemed like a cliche enough picture  for a post about self-discovery. 

I never thought I would be complaining about not having enough stuff to do. Well, that's not completely true. I really do enjoy being so busy that I don't have time to sleep, and the only way everything gets done is by strictly adhering to an ever-changing schedule in my brain. I like to sleep sometimes, obviously, but only in-between the busy bits. Free time is also a plus, but even that should feel productive in some way (baking, running, hanging out with friends, plotting to take over the world...).

It's when there is little to do and only really, really long term deadlines (a couple of months or more) that things begin to slide. When I have too much time, and no hard and fast deadlines to adhere to, nothing gets done. Nothing. For my three classes here, I had three hours of lectures a week, some suggested reading, one paper, and one final. No job, and my only extra-curricular with set practices is a Friday night Capoiera class that I keep missing because I am out of town.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am absolutely not complaining about this really awesome experience I am in the middle of. London is fantastic, and having the free time to explore London, as well as being able to travel to Europe is incredible. This is more some soul-searching self realisation about how I function as a semi-competent human being. Now that most world governments recognise me as an adult, I should start figuring this stuff out, right?

I have already learned never to schedule early morning flights so early that the public transportation you need to get to the other bus or train you are taking to take you to the airport isn't running. Night buses are not super reliable and waking up at 3 AM is not fun.

I have learned that public transportation (where functional) is awesome.  I do not miss driving, but will miss walking almost everywhere, and sitting and reading a book on the tube to my destination.

I have also learned that I travel well with certain types of people and not well with others, and yes, It does make a huge difference.

I have learned that routines of some sort are my friend. Or at least schedules. They don't even have to be consistent, really. Also, deadlines. Deadlines are awesome. (I really never thought I would say that.) Basically, having copious amounts of free time and a travel schedule that prevents me from picking up those little (or big) responsibilities that give my life structure isn't going to work for me long term.

Not to say I wouldn't want to say, hike through Turkey for a month, or spend a few weeks backpacking in New Zealand, but this whole class-three-days-a-week-no-job-travel-every-other-weekend-and-randomly-for-two-weeks isn't going to cut it. Can you spot the difference? Here it is- one has structure. Boy, do I sound boring.

Did I mention how excited I am about the tupperware I get to purchase for my apartment next year? Because... yeah.


P.S.- I feel like I should point out again that I am really, really happy in London, and this has been an incredible, eye-opening, and life changing experience for me. Part of what has made it so great though, is how much I have learned about myself. Not really what I was expecting. I have learned all sorts of things about different cultures, how to travel without making a complete fool of myself, and that Londoners are sadly deprived of real cornbread and decent barbecue. But I think some of the most important things I have learned are things about how I function, and under what conditions I excel. These are lessons that will help me make decisions for the rest of my life. Would I have figured all this out back in the states? Probably. Did I already know some of it? Yeah. Did being here, in a mostly alien environment make me face it and figure it out a whole lot faster? Absolutely. 

An Invasion of Disney Princesses (sort of).

Disclaimer: We are really nothing like Disney princesses, except for the whole woodland creatures sitting on shoulders thing. 

We are really good at timing. Reeeaaallyyy good at timing. The week after Katie and I went to visit Rachel in Spain, they came to visit me in London! In our defence, the Murcia trip was already planned when we found out that Keston Cobblers Club was playing in London the next Sunday. So the next weekend it was!

Rachel got in on Thursday night, and Katie came in on Friday afternoon. Rachel got in and I made her a super-late (by normal people standards) dinner, and the next morning we headed out to explore the British Museum, and then we went on to Borough Market, where we met Katie. I told Rachel that she had to at least try some British food, but when I suggested some sort of a meat pie, and mentioned that I had had a really great chicken and mushroom one at the market a few weeks earlier, she assured me that it sounded gross. I insisted we get one anyway, and lo and behold, she loved it.

Pie and mash in hand, we went to the courtyard of the Southwark Cathedral to enjoy our food. We stopped by the reconstruction of the Globe Theater, and I introduced Rachel to delicious (lactose friendly!) goat's milk ice cream. After meeting up with Katie, we wandered over to see Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.

We took it easy on Friday night, and Saturday morning we headed to Buckingham Palace and then to Hyde park to wander around for a bit and have a picnic lunch. We ended up with a little bit more than we bargained for, as we discovered the animals inhabiting Hyde park were veeeerrrry friendly. All is fun and games until Rachel's one-eyed attack pigeon decides to roost in somebody's hair.

We made friends with some pigeons, lots of geese and swans, and even a squirrel. It was a very Disney day. After unentangling ourselves from the critters, we headed to the Science museum, where we promptly lost track of Rachel. Fortunately we had anticipated this, and had a prearranged meeting point. Katie and I explored the alchemy exhibit, while Rachel made her own way through the museum. The museum was cool, but I am pretty museumed out at this point in the semester. There are some incredible museums here, but there are also a whole lot of them. The gift shop was really cool though. They had Doctor Who tea sets, and some spiffy futuristic lunchboxes, as well as ice cube trays for making ice cups.

Nicholas Flamel!

Saturday night was a lot of fun too. We went to Roadhouse, the same bar Emily, Rani, and I went to. It was a fun evening, but the best night was yet to come.

Sunday morning we pulled ourselves out of bed, and walked to the Columbia Road flower market, as the weekend tube closures created a blackout zone between where I live and anything west of me (read: anything worth going to). The walk wasn't bad, but the closures did make our transportation much more complicated. The flower market was beautiful and bustling as always, and we were able to explore some new shops around the area.

After the first market that day, we headed to the second market of the day and the third of the weekend, Camden Markets. We stopped for lunch in the Loch Market, where I had a delicious but eye wateringly spicy jerk chicken wrap, and Katie had a kangaroo burger. We then wandered the market, and picked up some matching shirts for tailgating purposes next year. After the market, we hightailed it back to my flat to grab dinner before heading to the concert.

Keston Cobbler's club did not dissapoint, and neither did the other two acts we saw that night, Rue Royale, and another act that I can't quite remember the name of...but it started with an S. Check out some of their stuff on YouTube, it's great! The venue was also pretty cool, it was a downstairs room under this teensy bar near King's Cross Station.

Rachel had to skip out early the next morning, but Katie and I managed to visit our squirrel friend one last time before she headed back to Bradford.

Thanks for visiting guys!


P.S. -- Thanks to Rachel and Katie for help with the photos!

Out of Context in Green


It may still be cold, but judging by how green everything is, I think we can officially say that spring is here.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spain. It's Warm Here.

This weekend, Katie and I headed to Spain to visit Rachel! After waking up at 3:30 to make a 7:45 flight and arriving in Alicante, we managed to make it on the right bus from the airport, and found our way to Murcia. We were particularly terrible about documenting this trip with pictures, but that's okay, because we caught the most important things...the BEACHES (and the ducks)!

Rachel made us some delicious sandwiches, as the gas man hadn't made it yet, so we couldn't use the stove or oven (he didn't make it till Monday). Luckily, with lukewarm showers, we managed to keep the hot water going until we had a new tank.

Jimmy came too, of course. 

Friday we went to the beach at Alicante with Rachel, and only had a slight  snafu with the buses (totally not my fault, Rachel was in charge). Katie and I were expecting Rachel to come to the beach with us out of more of a sense of duty as host than anything else, as she hates being cold and she hates swimming. It turned out that she was even more excited about the beach than we were. Apparently she had never really been to a beach (including a school trip to Hawaii...I know, it doesn't make any sense to me either). Anyway, she was thrilled. She played in the sand, we taught her how to make drip castles, and with a little bit of persuading, she went wading in the ocean.

Later on Friday night, we ate some more sandwiches, and then went to Rachel's friend Amy's house to try sangria. We had a lot of fun trying a couple of different kinds (Katie and I made the one that was voted the best - score!).

On Saturday we headed to the beach with Rachel's friends Arisvet and Amy. The beach was beautiful, and only a little bit cold. We stopped for tapas and beer, and immensely enjoyed the fact that sunglasses were a necessity (A necessity that I managed to forget -- thanks for having an extra pair Rachel!).

Top: We are really good at pictures. Bottom:Spotted duck!

Sunday the plan was to go climbing, but Rachel wasn't feeling great, so we slept in instead, and figured we would go hiking. Unfortunately, the bus to the place we wanted to go hiking doesn't run on Sundays. Plan C was then put in motion, and we took a picnic lunch to Rachel's university, fed some ducks, lounged in the sunshine, and I found out that I am most definitely still allergic to grass.

Katie and I headed back to the beach in Alicante on Monday, and made the walk to the bus station without a map or any wrong turns, which was really exciting. Though we managed to get on the right bus, a couple of hours before Rachel, a "cinco minuto" stop at a gas station that turned into a 45 minute break, and a search by drug dogs at Alicante meant that Katie and I only got to the beach about fifteen minutes before Rachel did. The drug dog search was actually pretty amusing, once we figured out going on. The dog was much more concerned with the crying baby and the bread in my bag than it was with any of the bags shoved in his face by his handler. We weren't sure if the dog was in training, or if it was just...Spain.

Spain was most definitely a successful trip, and I absolutely want to go back. I would love to go back when it's a tad bit warmer, to spend some more time swimming, and I really, really, want to go hiking and rock climbing in the mountains. I don't think there were nearly so many places I wanted to travel to before this semester, and now the list just keeps getting longer and longer and longer. :)


P.S. -- Thanks to Rachel for stealing my camera to take pictures, and thanks to Katie for taking some pictures on her camera and then letting me use some of them. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Three Generations in London

Last weekend, my mother and grandmother came to visit! We had a blast exploring, eating lots and lots of food, and hanging out with family.

Wednesday they met up with Gill, and we explored for a little while. Thursday, we headed to Hyde park, saw some nesting swans, and wandered down Oxford street and through Selfridges.

Friday we headed to borough market, ate delicious paella, found some souvenirs, and tried goat's milk ice cream. The ice cream was pretty delicious, but a little weird. It was raspberry and chill flavoured, though you didn't taste the chill till it hit the back of your throat. After the market, we went to the Victoria and Albert museum and looked at costumes and jewellery. And a really fancy staircase.

Friday night I had a capoeira class, but we met up on Saturday to spend the afternoon with the rest of our family near London. There were some familiar faces from Veronica's birthday lunch in February, as well as some people I hadn't met before. We ate tons and tons of food, played some games (Giant Jenga!), and swapped stories.

Saturday night, we ended up eating a really delicious impromptu meal at Zoe's house, and she very nicely drove us all home. 

Sunday morning, we made it up for the Columbia Road Flower Market, which was packed but awesome. The weather stayed really nice (for London), and we had brunch at a pretty good Mexican place (they exist!).

Sunday afternoon, we went shopping! I am now the proud owner of two new sundresses. Thanks Mom! Then, on Monday, we went to the Tate Britain, and then my mother and I had tea, and went to see A Chorus Line. We ended up in the third row! The show was fantastic, and I am really glad we got a chance to see a West End show while my mother was here.

They headed home early on Tuesday morning, but I am glad they made it all the way over here to visit!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

These Moors Aren't Near Depressing Enough.

This weekend, I took a short trip up to Bradford (it's near Leeds) to visit Katie. It was just what I needed. We went hiking on the Ilkely moors on Friday, and on Saturday we traipsed over the moors that supposedly helped to inspire Wuthering Heights in Keighley.

Oh, and did I mention that is was sunny? Because it was. It was pretty glorious. I wore only a t-shirt and jeans for parts of the hikes (It got cold really fast when you stopped moving, or when it was the afternoon, or when the wind was blowing...). I actually put on sunscreen, and still managed to come away burned. Only me.

Anyway, when we went to Keighley, we discovered that the footpath actually led over a rock wall and across the sheep pastures. Did I mention it was lambing season? I really, really wanted to pet a sheep. I was successful in this endeavour (Anyone surprised?).

I was unsuccessful for a while, but finally managed to pet a baby sheep. It was soft, and fuzzy, and wonderful. The trick is to sneak up on them when they are asleep, and after the initial surprise, they will decide they like you much more than their obviously irritated mom (Don't worry, I didn't steal any sheep, and the mother calmed down and was fine. No sheep were harmed, psychologically or otherwise, in the making of this post.).

After the pastures, we continued accross the moors, in search of ruins that we eventually decided didn't exist. Kind of like the Ritter Sport Store in Berlin. We followed a "path" for a while, and ended up playing the fun game of "Find the Ground!" You should try it sometime. Moors are really, really springy. There are also a plethora of hidden streams, hidden under unstable ground.

I didn't think the moors were near depressing enough to inspire Wuthering Heights, but then again, it was sunny, and daytime, and there were baby sheep. I can see them being much less inviting the rest of the year. Oh, and downright creepy at night.

We caught the last bus back to Bradford, and after a delicious meal of curry at Ambala (We had curry three nights in a row, and it was worth it.) we watched some good old Relic Hunter (Availible on Netflix!), that we discovered when Katie came to visit me in February. Overall, this was a really laid back, relaxing trip, which was nice after the chaos that was Easter Break.