My favorite place in the world is inside a airplane. I never feel so in control, free, and yet extremely grounded and safe anywhere else in the world. On the flight to England all I had to do was bend my head down a little bit so I could no longer see any horizon line. It reminded me of my childhood dream of being an astronaut. The dream was good, however the math was not. I could see all of the stars unobstructed out my small window and since everything in the plane was dark I could easily pretend I was actually in space. Now that i’m on my way back it seems fitting for it to be completely light out and this is where I feel grounded. Grounded to the Earth that I call home. Below me is where all the happiness, joy, exploration, evil, and pain are but above me is peace and being. There isn’t thinking about being above me. There just is. As a physical person i’m bound to everything below me by nature, but as an aware person and product of this universe I belong to everything above me as well. I don’t have to worry about anything in an airplane. I could if I let my mind do it, but I don’t because up here sandwiched between peace and humanity worrying about one or the other is unnecessary. This is a place for reflection. This is why my favorite place in the world is inside of an airplane.
“I’ve been to a lot of places, i’ve seen a lot of faces.”
So today i’ve hit the wall. The travel wall of tired. So far we’ve been going out close to every night for the past week. We did this last year… everyday we walked around in a blurry haze until starting it all over again at half 8. But as i’m completely out of my routine of getting up at 8am (lately its been 11:30am) i’m feeling pretty guilty about that. So today I let the girls at home sleep and I snuck myself out for some me time.
I took a roll of black and white film as well as myself to the train from the University of Birmingham into Birmingham’s city centre. I’ve been back for a week and this was my first time back at the Bullring/Birmingham’s shopping centre. It was nice to have this time to myself because traveling can cause overstimulation of the mind… and I needed a breath. So I went down to the open air markets to snap a few pictures and then did myself no favors by walking into New Look, I started to hyperventilate a little bit because I wanted to buy everything in there. American fashion is behind and more casual. The United States are way more into comfort than fashion and there is a drastic difference between the US and the UK.
I treated myself to a vanilla latte at Costa coffee, which I might add is located in Europe’s FIRST Forever 21…. and also the BIGGEST Forever 21 i’ve ever seen. 3 huge floors is pretty overwhelming I must say.
On the train ride back to University Station I hit the climax of my strange awakening that has happened slowly on this trip back to Birmingham and my home. The last 9 months have been a painful and frustrating transition back into American life and culture. I spent my year in England going going going going all of the time. Always something new to see, things to do, people to meet, and places to go. Coming back to the US was all of a sudden the brakes to the high speed train that was my life, and anxiety to leave and continue my life creeped in. My plans are to end up in England when i’m done with University, and maybe I shouldn’t be taking this approach but I feel like thats when my life with start once again. I explain to people that the day I got off the plane on September 14th 2009 my life began, truly. So basically the last 9 months have been a dream, a dream of the US. Now that I’m back in Birmingham… its amazing, it feels like I never left, like I could go back to Maple Bank accommodation, flat 54 and go crawl into my little bed… and then it gets weird and strange when I think about how 25 of my best friends aren’t here, I can’t walk over to their flats for tea and a laugh. We won’t be getting on the coach to have an amazing time in some city in England for the weekend. I don’t even get to see any of them on a regular basis, as most of them are still going to University in Duluth. My realization is that my Study in England year is over. it is, i’ll never have another year ever like my SIE 2009-2010 year. Then I got a little worried, will I have another year that makes me as happy in my soul as that year did?! Only time will tell. The train rolls on along side of the canals used in the industrial revolution to transport goods to London and it passes Maple Bank…. I can pick out my old kitchen’s window and see the windows of my friend’s rooms, they are cracked open…. like they are home. But they aren’t. What I still do have is all of those amazing memories and those amazing people that are what make my life what it is today. It gives me purpose in my life… to lead this life i’ve carved out for myself. I can’t thank my experiences, my friends, and myself enough.
Traveling changes you. That is why we travel.
Last night was a cool night. I was attempting to unload the full extent of my 3 years of high school Spanish onto a friend. I’m not quite sure how many times I repeated to him “Me gusta hamburgesa, lechuga, tomatas, y papas fritas” and “En el supermercato, no lechuga” as well as “donde esta el sacapuntas… en el mochila?” but i’ve realized how much I can still understand or at least recognize. My friend matt had over some of his mates from France who speak little english, so learning some french last night was quite interesting considering I have zero experience in French….. at least in the language. I’ve now learned 1-8 in french, thank you, as well as I’m sorry (which I actually don’t completely remember at the moment).
I’ve always been fascinated with the amount of culture you can pack into a night. I’ve had more interesting experiences with that before, but to be in England, speaking (sort of ) Spanish, and learning some French was nice and refreshing. I shouldn’t make it sounds like there isn’t cultural exchange in Minneapolis because there is, I just feel like there is a whole lot more talking about it all then the actual experience and sure-ness about it all.
Funny story, for class I worked on a book as well as a webpage that had the word Je Pense (I think) over and over in it…. I really wanted to slap myself in the face when I asked my friend how to say I think in French. Ha!
I just love the possibilities that other places can present!
Over 2 days in London went off without a hitch.
We stayed with my friend Ali who has a flat with her boyfriend out by the royal docks. Her flat is absolutely gorgeous. It is at the top floor with 2 balconies, one of which looks over the Thames. It is very british in the sense of space and square footage, but it is super cozy and absolutely adorable. The first day we got to London we all had a cup of tea (PGtips my favorite brand) and listened to the Beatles on vinyl. It was a beautiful morning.
The best thing about England for me is my friends. Spending time with those people whom I don’t normally get to on a daily bases. So being picked up at Gatwick by my friend Phillippa was an amazing and surreal experience. I met both Ali and Phillippa when I hosted them for th one week they were in MN touring my uni, Minneapolis College of Art and Design but we got on so well that one week felt like years and the ability to see them again soon after they left has been amazing, I missed them so much!
Oh, I also lied about the going off without a hitch bit. I absent mindedly lost around 60 pound. I couldn’t find it when i looked for it the day after I exchanged it at Gatwick. I was clearly in a panic and was told by my travel partner Grace that I should call the location that I exchanged it at to see if I had left it there. Thank god I called because they ended up refunding my money, it just required us to ride the train for another half hour back to Gatwick. On the ride back we realized that our Oyster cards would not cover our trip back to Victoria Station and as the ticket man came to check our tickets we told Ali not talk and we proceeded to use the American accents purposely to our advantage (we were excited that this could now come to our advantage) by explaining in perfect stupid english that we didn’t know that we were not allowed to use the Oyster cards. We got by with only needed to pay 3.50 for our journey. Ha! The joys of being the foreigner sometimes.
We did make a half a day out of being tourists. Grace, Ali, and I had all never been to Abbey road and I started my art project. Grace and Ali held up the posters of my face there, in front of Big Ben, and the red phone booths. I can’t wait to turn this projects in!
We also did of course find a fish and chip shop that was a bit more expensive then we were used to. We paid 9 pound when we’re use to paying around 3 pound at a Kabab shop. Cod is the fish normally used for proper fish and chips…. but since they apparently were out of cod, we had catfish. I think we were much to hungry to really realize the difference. So catfish suited us just fine.
While staying with Ali we had 2 nights out! 🙂 The first night was with Ali and Phillippa as well as their friends. We drank at the pub on campus at the University of East London where Ali and Phillippa go for Graphic Design. Yet again we experience something new in regards to drinking culture. This was called the “Stawpedo”, this requires a lesson in simple physics before going ahead with the drinking but basically if you have a bottle with a bent straw in the top and you drink out of the open bottle (not out of the straw) then you are able to take it in quicker (oops sorry mom). The rest of the night was a lot of fun and may have included hanging out in a random hotel lobby asking for wine and crisps.
Then last night we hung out in the flat of Ali’s neighbors and friends. This all included playing Perfect Dark on Nintendo 64 and the creation of an American Country Western playlist for our cultural exchange, complete with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Reba McEntire…. but funny enough what brought together 2 Minnesotians and 4 Brits was Dolly Parton’s Jolene and Bob Dylan.
Our time in London was amazing, seeing the sights, drinking tea, cobblestones, the crazy mess that is the tub, and of course my friends. I love my girlssss and new friends deeply for making our short 2 days a spectacular experience.
So after missing our first coach (off without a hitch, i’m telling you) We shelled out some more pounds for a new coach, and finally off to Birmingham. We had our pictures taken by a random guy because we apparently looked like we were off a Bob Dylan cover, and we exchanged life stories…… scratch that ….. he told us his life story which was rather interesting. ha!
Off to Birmingham. New post will be coming VERY soon……. oh my god….. here we go!
Here I am! North Carolina and its pouring. My plane for London boards in an hour and I’m SO excited!
The Charlotte airport is my last taste of the “Ultra American”… complete with a Wendy’s, Burger King, AND a Pizza Hut (I ate chinese) and i’m ready to leave this behind for a good 20 days.
There is just something about airports that just get me. They are a location to wait, but a anticipated waiting… a waiting that symbolizes going and getting to other place and i’m more than welcoming that waiting.
This trip is going to be interesting… not only do I need to manage lots of fun time, but also homework time, so i’m thankful that my homework is fun! For my Media 2 class we had to take a picture of ourselves and then post them somewhere (street art-like) and so I have the posters of my face ready to glue myself to London all in the name of art. This project is inspired by a French street artist’s global project. Check out his website to learn what its about…. and then check out his talk on Ted.com . He’s extremely inspiring… and i’m excited to join the project for a short time. Here is my picture i’ll be posting
Random: but the toy across the seats from where i’m sitting keeps rolling around and laughing….. should I waste my money to buy it, just to break it for some peace and quite? Time will tell….. good thing the plane will board soon….
Follow my blog on this trip! Keeping things updated daily (as time allows) 🙂
I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to meet up with my Design Department head to possibly get ahold of some design connections that I could possibly network with while i’m in a London for the short time that I am. Long story short I got involved with hosting two absolutely wonderful girls from the University of East London. They came with their group of 7 students and tutors to tour MCAD, so I was their hostel of sorts for the week. It was amazing how quickly we all got along and by the end of the week it felt like we were all flatmates, the week felt like years of friendship. It was really sad when they left and my apartment became really quite but it got me thinking about cultural exchange and its importance.
One of the moments we were waiting for the bus to visit the Mall of America for their first time there was a comment made about the changes you go through while you travel. Something shifts in your soul and changes you as a person when you throw yourself into another culture and share with people, your culture. And I should clarify that while you make significant changes when you travel anywhere, but I’m referring to the change that happens when you’re no longer a tourist, but a traveller…. exchanging the currency of culture. All of a sudden thousands upon thousands of doors and windows of your mind fly open, thoughts and ideas can rush into your mind. But it can also be a really confusing time, all of a sudden you are no longer who you were before you left your home country and you are open up to so many new paths to go down that it can feel extremely overwhelming. For example the girls were even more confused and anxious about where they should in regards to where they want to go and what to do in the design world. Their trip to America was a catalyst for their future whether realized yet or not and it does lead to anxiety to do well and an anxiety to know what the future holds because now more than ever nothing is certain. This is what makes traveling exciting! You never know where it might take you and your mind!
The little moment of discovery while Ali and Philippa were with me just made living in America that more fun for me in the last week! Simple things like going to the grocery store had a new aura about it! We were going down the aisles and i’d point out the “super american” food that they do not have in England, such as Kraft Mac & Cheese, Kool-aid, Lucky Charms, Marshmallow fluff, and other various junk food. They pointed out how shiny our apples were and how big the strawberries are and we all wow-ed over how expensive a tiny 20 teabag box of PGtips is ridiculously expensive over here. That little box of tea is about 5 dollars and for the same price you can get a hefty box of 70in England. (I just ran out of my tea this morning, good thing i’ll be in England in exactly two weeks to replenish my stock, gah!) The girls went to a real American keg party complete with the red plastic cups. This still strikes me as funny. All of the British friends i’ve met are so excited to use the red cups because they are in every American movie were there is the typical college/high school party. The red cups have made themselves an American icon for the 20-something generation.
The girls and I are completely excited for me to come and tour their Uni and see “their” London and truth be told i’m SO excited to see it too. I’ve been to London countless times before and from different points-of-view but now i’ll be going around with design students and now friends to see that side of London.
But like I said this exchange of culture is much more than the free-bird fun it might seem like it on the surface. There is something bigger and more important happening. We are creating international bonds, we are creating open minds and important friendships built off of the foundations of learning, teaching, and open-minds. It is our jobs as young people to create these types of relationships because we are the future. The future politicians, the future communicators/artists/designers, future business correspondence, and we’ll be running the show so the more understanding of others we can we create the better and brighter our future/s looks. Plus, it is really fun! 🙂
14 days and counting!
Ticket has been book!
I used studentuniverse.com because I found it to have the cheapest tickets and generally their flight prices don’t fluctuate as much as other websites. The catch with this is that it requires you to validate your “student-ness” so basically you have to be a student to get these prices. I’ve also received a few discount emails, first one was 15 dollars off, which I didn’t use. I eventually used the last discount I was sent for $50 off a spring break flight. So my round trip to London ended up costing me $656, not to bad for a 20 day trip i’d say? 🙂
Since this has a more “going home” feeling than it does a “touring” feeling i’ve had a couple interesting goals in mind for this trip.
1. Take all photos with a disposable camera = film is a dying photo art form, and the grainy raw-ness as well as its riskiness of actually turning out is really appealing to me. The results could be something interesting…. and i’m going to find out how interesting that could really be.
2. Networking = The design department head at MCAD is Welsh and so i’ll be meeting with him soon here to get some good design connections to look/meet up with while i’m in London since ultimately England is the country I want to make a life in after my time at MCAD. Excited! 🙂
So i’ve already been thinking about what I can check off on my life list while I’m back in England… so i’m especially excited about Networking. But also the fact that my visit will be a little during class and spring break I have the potential of using this trip as my disposal for class project 😉 A’s all around? I’d like that!
However I’ve got to make it to Birmingham for the real guts and purpose of my trip. Already been thinking about booking megabus/train tickets and pleasantly yesterday it was possible to book round train trip for about 5 pounds, about 7 dollars…. seriously, gotta love Megabus!
Birmingham has such a terrible reputation throughout the UK. This is one of the greatest cities i’ve ever experienced. At every turn there is something to do and experience. It is one of those cities overlooked but unfairly.
More to come, leaving the nest soon 😀