As I sit here tonight, knowing in less than 48 hours I will walk the stage, I look around my room and can’t help but laugh. It’s a disaster and my dad will be here tomorrow to help me move and I couldn’t even bring myself to start packing today. I couldn’t even start the tidying-up process. I have shoes and clothes everywhere. I didn’t do laundry yet. My kitchen isn’t clean. There’s paperwork all over my table that needs to be sorted through (and probably thrown away). And it occurs to me that as silly as it is, maybe I didn’t do any of those things today because I don’t feel like I’m ready to leave.
I’ve spent the last four years living on this campus. I spent the last four semesters in this apartment. This has been the place I’ve called home for the better part of four years. And tomorrow (or today, because it’s the crazy late middle of the night) I’m moving most of my stuff into a new home.
This week didn’t go like I planned. Today didn’t go like I planned. Like the rest of life, the last four years have come with their own set of trials and tribulations, but it definitely wasn’t bad.
This week I was talking to a friend, a guy I met in College Algebra freshman year many, many moons ago, and we were laughing about the crazy professor we had. The stories he told us, in the middle of his sentence explaining the math problems. The random ramblings of a crazy man who stuck a wrench in a freezer at Walmart. And we laughed. Hard. I remember how much I hated that class because I was so bored and it was at 8 a.m. and no one wants to do math, even if they are good at it, at 8 a.m. But he was right when he told me I’d miss those days.
In four years, I’ve grown. I’ve grown to make mistakes and learn from them (or in some cases, just learned how to better deal with making the same mistake over and over again; it’s part of my charm). I’ve grown from a goofy high school kid to a goofy almost grown up. I’ve grown to learn that sometimes you just need to call it good for the night and try again after sleep. And I’ve grown to learn that my decisions are my own.
UMHB, the campus, my apartment, has been a home for four years. And now I’m ready to make a new place a home. But before that, tonight and tomorrow, I get to feel nostalgia for the memories I made and the friends I shared them with.
Last night we went to see Wicked as our “end of semester treat.” And this week marks a lot of lasts. We had our last art class. We took our theater final. Our semester is quickly winding down.
And this semester has taught me a lot. I mean, I learned about London and its history (more than I like, if we’re being honest). I learned about Children’s Literature. I learned about Art and Theater. But I really learned about life.
I learned about the unfamiliar. I learned to cope with living with 5 other girls. I learned about grocery shopping. I learned about a different way of life.
And I met some of the most wonderful people on the way.
At graduation, 2 years ago, a few girls sang this song. And I had never seen Wicked, so I never really had a context for this song. Lemme give you some context. In the musical, Elphaba meets Glinda and they are stuck as roommates. They eventually become best friends and this song a duet is near the end of the show, when they have gotten over their differences and are parting ways forever. So, woah, go graduation. Good choice, ladies.
But, in context of this semester, I know I have made a few really close, really strong relationships. And I also know I will never see most of these people again. And for some of them, that’s not such a bad thing. I know it isn’t going to be bad for me to never see them again. They taught me what they needed to teach me, and that’s that.
I think it’s valuable to learn that. Sometimes, you just have to let people go, because they weren’t meant to be in your life forever. And if you learn what you were supposed to from them, they never really leave, because your relationship with them was fruitful.
My flatmates taught me so much. They taught me patience (which is going to be an ongoing lesson, for a long time; but they did help it along). They taught me to bite my tongue. They taught me the value of communicating. And that sometimes, you just have to walk away and cool off, all of which I knew, but needed to practice.
My roommates taught me to be confident when I get dressed up. And apparently it is okay for me to wear a mini-skirt and not look like an idiot. Not that I think I’ll be wearing them a whole lot. But apparently I can dress cute and not look dumb. And also, Ali was apparently right, and you have to wear mascara with eyeliner or your face doesn’t look right.
In addition, if nothing else, they taught me I don’t ever want to live the 5 people to whom I have no relation. 2 other people is a stretch. Not 5. Ever again.
My teachers taught me a bunch of things. Dr. Romig taught me about understanding Children’s books. And reminded me how much I love to read. I forgot how important it was to me because I was always so busy, that if I was reading, I knew I should have been reading a textbook, and Sneaky Gabi got around that by just not reading. She reminded me that reading is good for me and reading fixes my life.
Ian’s Theater class reminded me how much I love theater. I love the fun of it. I love watching it. And I need to do something with that when I get home. And I learned I can appreciate a show without loving it. And he taught us to express our opinions, which is not a thing we are frequently taught. He taught us that just because your opinion “might be rubbish, it’s your rubbish” and we need to be proud of that.
The Holcombs introduced me to all kinds of new foods I had no idea I liked, because I was so sure I didn’t like them. Uhm, hello. Try new food. You won’t always like it (fish and chips) but you might be pleasantly surprised (Thai food). And Mrs. Dr. Holcomb gave me some pointers for studying, because that is a skill I am still honing.
My new friends reinforced my feelings about family dinners (which have always been a big thing in my family). That needs to be a thing for me, always. That’s a deal-breaker. We need to eat together, and talk. Not just eat in front of a movie or show or a phone. Dinner is a good time to socialize. But don’t talk to me with a mouthful of food, because that’s gross. And I learned all kinds of new games for a night in. That’s been wonderful.
And I learned how much my parents taught me, how much they instilled in me: good manners; intelligence; common sense. You don’t show up to someone’s house to eat without something to contribute. You always offer to help with the dishes, even if no one else does. You say please and thank you. If you go to someone’s house and they serve you something you’ve never had, you try it and pretend to like it, even if you don’t; you can always get something when you get home. You look both ways, twice when you cross the street. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Don’t be a space cadet.
So, to everyone who had a hand in my education, formal or informal, I thank you. I do believe I have changed for the better. I have grown this semester (though not physically, because some of us haven’t grown since 7th grade). Thank you. And if this is good bye, good luck.
Later this week (Friday) we leave for our 10 coach tour through Northern England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. And it’s going to be a wonderful 10 days with 39 of my closest friends. And I may or may not have an internet connection, so you may or may not get to hear about my adventures through rural United Kingdom.
Anyway. Tonight, Lisa and I went to the grocery store to pick up some snacks and things to bring with us in case we don’t like the food or need snacky things for the bus or whatever. So we got some nuts and some grapes and some candy bars (because sometimes you just need some chocolate to make things better).
So we get over to check out and we remember some of our friends telling us that at this store, if you do self-checkout, you can just dump your coins in there and if there’s too much, it’ll spit out the smallest number of coins for change. So, Lisa and I, who are carrying about a ton of coins (if you don’t know why, learn about it here), are all for that. We can get rid of the coins? Uhm, yes please.
In all reality, if I knew what they looked like just by size, it wouldn’t be so bad, because I’d use them. Since I don’t, I hate holding people up and usually cave and pay with a bill or the £1 coins, because they’re all I really know how to use. But, at this store, there’s none of that. Everyone said you just dump your coins into the machine and the machine counts it out and that’s how that goes. Very exciting.
Well, that’s pretty much exactly what Lisa and I did. We pulled out these coins by the handful and dumped 6 or 7 at a time into this poor little machine. And the machine was not happy about that in the slightest. We had about £8 worth of coins (and mostly small coins, like 5p and 10p) into this machine when it stopped counting and started spitting them back out. So very logical Gabi picks them out and tries to put them back in. And then a message popped up and said “Please Wait for Assistance” or something. So we’re standing there, a little like lost children, and this guy comes over and looks at the machine and scans his little ID card and proceeds to open this machine. Like, swings the door open.
He was very apologetic: “So sorry; this’ll be fixed in just a moment.” Like it’s the machines fault Lisa and I tried to make it do too much math.
So we’re standing there and he’s like, “So, how much have you already put in here?” And I look at Lisa and told him “Uhm, no idea. At all.” And he laughed a little bit and did some magic and made it work again. So we figured out that we should probably only put a few coins in at a time. So we did that and it started spitting coins back out at us again, and we decided it must be done with our nonsense. So, we paid for the rest with a note and called it good.
But, lemme just tell you, we spent about £25 on snacks and paid for more than half with just coins. Like, almost £15 in small coins. It’s just crazy to me that we can carry that many coins around and be okay with that.
So, that, readers, is how you pay for groceries in coins in London and almost break the machine.
Absolutely not, because I’m in London and it’s beautiful and not snowy.
This weekend, we spent Saturday in Greenwich, which is where time starts. Lemme tell you a little about Greenwich.
First of all, the Prime Meridian is there (that’s the line that splits the Easter and Western hemispheres). So, you can be in two hemispheres. Like this:
And let me tell you why this is so valuable. So back in the day, before phones and clocks and things, sailors needed to tell how far East-to-West they were. They’d already figured out the Equator and North-to-South, but since they couldn’t tell how far East-to-West they were, they could never pinpoint exactly where they were. This made for extra dangerous travel.
So they figured out time could help determine where they were. If the world in 360° (which it is because that’s how circles work), and we do a full rotation in 24 hours, by doing some magical math they figured out that every 1° was equivalent to 4 minutes. So, that’s really helpful. If you know what time it is at home, and you know what time it is where you’re at, some math will tell you where you’re at. But, since there were no digital clocks, and all of their clocks were based on rotation (or something, my teacher was confused and did a kinda terrible job explaining it) being out at sea messed up the time “at home.” So then they tried using the stars, but for that they needed charts and they built the observatory, which is where we went this week. And eventually, when we figured out time zones would be a great idea, we started in Greenwich because that’s where the Royal Observatory is.
So, we took cute pictures on the Prime Meridian…
…went through the museum about time…
…and then spent about an hour taking pictures and enjoying the sun.
Let me tell you something about spring in London. It’s so different from spring at home, probably because [usually] our winters are significantly more mild than they are here. But, here, this winter has been the wettest in a very long time, so while we haven’t been frozen, we have been wet. And that isn’t fun. And we had a few genuinely nice days. Like, 55° and clear and sunny. And it’s amazing what the sun does for our spirits and our moods.
Spring in London is beautiful. Sunday, when we finally got going (which took until after noon), we went and read outside in the sun. And everyone and their dog (literally; there are lots of dogs in London, and they’re well-behaved) had the same idea.
So we sat in the sun, Lisa and Clarissa and me, and read our books and listened to the people around us. And that was really cool for me because in London, like I imagine any big city, people just ignore each other. I always feel very isolated from the people around me on the tube or the bus or on the sidewalk. And being in the park this weekend, while no strangers came up to me and made small talk (there was one case where some boys were playing football- or for us Americans, soccer- and they accidentally kicked the ball toward us; the older one told the younger ones to apologize and when I told them it was fine, he laughed and told me to not tell them that, “don’t give them ideas” or something like that), I felt like we were more a part of something. More a part of the life.
At home, that’s always a thing. I never feel isolated from the people around me. Telling a complete stranger “hi,” while walking through the grocery store is normal. And here it really isn’t. Everyone kind of goes on doing their own thing. But it seemed like being in the park changed that. And that is amazing.
I have now been in London for a full week (well, actually 10 days, but whatever). I went to all of my classes once. I explored the city some. It really is always an adventure.
I finally feel like I’m not so jet-lagged (and by that I mean, I feel no more tired than is standard for me). I finally stopped eating a path through everything (if you didn’t know, I was eating and never really felt full; my theory was that eating was my body’s way of dealing with jet-lag). I’m finally getting comfortable with the city in that I know where I live and where the basics are relative to that.
I’m still adjusting to living and sharing my space with 5 other girls. I’m still adjusting to how early it gets dark. I’m still adjusting to texting with that little bitty phone.
But, even with all that adjusting still going on, it’s about time that we start going on adventures.
Thursday night, Lisa, Zac, Adam and I went out to take some pictures of London at night. Some of our other friends took some really nice ones and we wanted to try that. And lemme tell you, London is beautiful at night.
So we went all over Westminster, essentially. We walked around for a while. We started near Jubilee Gardens and ended up getting on the Victoria Underground Station. And of course it was cold, because I’ve been warm enough in just my jacket. Of course, being out on a bridge over the Thames is much windier than you’d expect. And the wind here is never a warm breeze; it’s a frigid gust. And it cuts through whatever clothes you chose to wear. So, there was that. (And you’d think I would learn: gonna be outside for long periods, wear thermals. WRONG. You’ll see.) And once we got to Victoria station, the most direct route home was closed. So, we finally figured out a roundabout way back and watched a movie and called it a night.
Friday, we spent part of the afternoon in Covent Gardens. We watched a street performer. He was pretty funny and totally not politically correct, which made it all the better. After we watched him, we walked around all the cute little shops. On our way out, the boys took pictures with a floating Yoda. On our way home, we stopped at the grocery store and picked up some stuff so I could make the boys dinner. I made pasta (and by made, I mean I opened the jar and put sauce in the pan and boiled water and cooked the pasta and felt like a terrible Italian). But, nonetheless, I cooked them dinner, watched a movie, and called it a night.
Yesterday, we spent the day out of the city. Our first stop was Dover (of course as soon as we got off the bus, it was freezing, and guess who wasn’t wearing her thermals, again?). We went to see the castle there (walking from the parking lot to the castle was killer because of that frigid wind I was telling you about). This castle was used by King Richard the Lion Heart, among others. One of the workers explained to us that Richard hated England and didn’t want anything to do with it. He was quoted as having said that he would sell London if he could find someone willing to buy it.
After doing a tour of the castle and climbing to the roof of the castle, we went on a guided tour of the secret tunnels. These tunnels were used during World War II as a headquarters for the English Navy, Army and Air Force. These tunnels were bomb proofed. In addition, this is one of the places to which they evacuated the French and English troops when they were retreating from the Nazis. In the battle for the last stronghold in France, they were working to evacuate people and they expected that they wouldn’t be able to evacuate more than 45,000 troops; in reality, they evacuated something like 200,000 or 300,000 people.
After our tour, we took our bus to Canterbury. Once we got there we had a hot lunch, which was amazing (wraps with mozzarella, chicken, sun dried tomatoes, and pesto). After a quick bite and ducking into a few small shops to look around, we went on a tour of Canterbury Cathedral.
It is the oldest Anglican cathedral. This was the “headquarters” of the English conversion from pagan religions to Christianity. The Christian queen who lived here convinced her pagan husband to show the missionaries hospitality and when they came he was converted. He gave them this land in thanksgiving for his conversion and eventually a monastery and cathedral were built on the grounds. The oldest parts of the cathedral are almost 1000 years old and the newest parts are over 500 years old.
In addition, Thomas Becket was killed here. He was an archbishop. He was killed by some knights who believed the king wanted him dead. When he was killed, a shrine devoted to him and pilgrims from all over the world came to pray at his shrine.
After our tour, we grabbed some hot drinks (because it was still pretty darn cold) and went back for Evensong. This was a special Evensong, as it was the first time an all girl’s choir performed since the 1100’s. After that, we walked all the way back in the cold and got on our bus. It should have been about an hour and a half or two hour drive, and they expected that we would be home around 8. As soon as we hit London, we also hit wall-to-wall traffic. After sitting in traffic for almost an hour and moving a few blocks, the bus driver told us we could get off and walk to an Underground station and take the tube home. We got off the bus and it was still freezing but we walked, about 12 of us to the tube station. There, we took a tube one stop, walked about 15 minutes, and finally found the right platform (it’s like 3 stations all connected so you can get on various lines, but it makes for quite a hike from one end to other.
When we got on the right platform, we got on the train and headed home. The walk from the station wasn’t bad, but it was after 10 before we got home and then we still needed to eat.
Besides having parties (which when I was little, happened all the time) we used to go all out decorating (and by “we” I mean my dad because Mom asked him to and let’s be real, little four year old hands aren’t all that helpful and get distracted when bugs go by) for all of the major holidays, Halloween included. In addition, we always got dressed up really cute like. Mom used to make our costumes. One year, I think we were all pumpkins (I don’t think I was really happy about that one, but maybe I was; who knows?) Another year, Ali and I were mermaids (because, hello, Disney phase; to be clear, I have yet to outgrow that phase). And one year I was an angel.
I was super excited about that one. All nine kids were going Trick-or-Treating with our moms while our dads stayed at my house and passed out candy (Mom always let us have extra candy when we had friends over; 10ish-year-old Gabi very much enjoyed that). I was gonna be in a super cute white dress and I had feathery white wings, which I’m sure shed all over the house. And a headband halo. Oh yeah. I was excited.
And then horror struck. (And I’m sure now we’re all thinking I spilled red grape juice on my white dress; well you’d be wrong, I hate grape juice, and also, by some miracle of God himself, I managed to not spill anything on my dress.) Texas weather.
For all of us who do not live in Texas, let me use a picture to explain:
The weather was fine all week, probably hot actually, but you never know. And it came to Halloween and it was cold. Frigid, actually (and by “frigid,” I mean probably in the 50’s somewhere). So cold, in fact that I needed to wear some clothes under my costume (because you can’t wear a jacket on Halloween, duh). So, Mom and I spent a while digging around in my closet, and couldn’t find anything white for me to wear under my dress (which makes prefect sense if you know me; I’m a stain magnet; I should be in a Tide commercial…or Shout). So, finally we pulled out a gray turtle neck. And black sweat pants, neither of which I think I liked. And even more than that, I was so disappointed that I didn’t get to wear all white. What angel is flying around with black seats? None of them.
Even after the weather fiasco, it was a good night. And on the upside, I was a warm angel as opposed to an angel ice cube.
And after we went Trick-or-Treating, I got to trade my candies with the boys, so I ended up with lotsa chocolate and not a lot of other things (because I was a picky kid when it came to candy, which is strange, I know).
This week we were given the opportunity to choose what we want to write about in our Remember the Time Blog Hop.
Lately, Roseanna and I have been really jammin’ 90’s boy bands (N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, mostly). And I mean jammin’. Like serenading each other in the kitchen/living room while we’re cooking. Or when we’re trying very hard to be productive. This is a fact that I’m sure our neighbors know and really appreciate (that last part is mostly sarcastic, to be clear).
Anyway, there are a few songs that inspire very specific memories. One that consistently brings memories to mind is I Want It That Way (go on, watch the video; you know you want to).
For my…seventh birthday, I think, someone got me a karaoke set. And let me be clear, that thing was so cool. You plugged in a bunch of wires and BAM! words and music on a screen. It really was super cool. (And I was a master with that TV; now with all that technology, I can barely work a remote; not really, only sometimes. TVs are hard.)
Now, my parents used to throw these parties. And they were the best. There were sometimes other families but the standard people who were there were the Heaters and the Floreses (which may or may not be the proper way to make that be plural; whatever). The Heaters had two girls, Sarah (who would have been about 10) and Julia (who would have been about 4ish). The Floreses had two boys, RJ (who would have been about 8) and Cris (he was about…5 or 6, something like that) and Veronica (she was about 4ish also). And then, there was my siblings and myself. All six of our parents were also pretty close. They would sit and chit-chat, about “boring adult stuff,” you know, and we would play in the pool or play board games or watch movies or dance or spin or whatever until late and pass out in pile on the living room floor (it was magical: we would wake up in the morning in our own beds without any extra guests in the house).
Now, the “big kids,” that is Sarah, RJ, Ali, and me, hung out a lot. Like, we kinda did everything together. I distinctly remember going back-to-school shopping (and getting in trouble) with these kids. There are a lot of stories surrounding this group.
Anyway. Back to my karaoke story.
This particular night we decided to play with my karaoke machine. (Now, lemme explain something, I do not like hearing my voice recorded. And that’s how this mike sounded.) We were all really excited. It had some really cool songs (I think Yellow Submarine was on there and to this day that is the only Beatles song I know, along with a bunch of others, including I Want It That Way). But not one of us was really brave enough to stand up and sing into the mike in front of everyone else and that became evident very quickly, as you can imagine.
So we decided to play a “game show” with the mike instead.
First (and only question I remember really): Sarah asked Joe John who he would like to marry: Julia or Veronica. His answer: “I think I want to marry Juju.” They were all about 4. We were cracking up. And of course 7 year old Gabi was very excited to see the look on Daddy’s face when we told him his son’s plan (especially since Dad always told us we could date when we were married; he got that from The Proud Family, a great show from my childhood). All of us ran out to the patio to tell him and all of the adults just laughed.
Joe John has not lived that down.
I’m also not quite sure what our obsession with marriage was, but that was a thing that was always on our young minds. When we played Life, we sang Here Comes the Bride to whomever was getting married. Every time. It never failed. Loud and off key, it was there.
Anyway, that is how a karaoke night turned into a game show about marriage.