Life After College

Firefly

200Firefly come back to me
Make the night as bright as day
I’ll be looking out for you
-A*Teens – Firefly

I remember when we were younger, we used to spend the summer nights catching fireflies, both in New York with our cousins and in Texas with our friends.

We used to go as far back in the yard as we could, to get away from the porch lights to see them better and then we’d bring them to the porch where the adults were watching us and show them and maybe try to stick them in a jar or bucket, like in the movies. If only we could collect enough, we’d have a lantern, like in the movies. So, we’d spend an hour or two hopping around the yard, trying to catch them and sometimes succeeding. Then, at the end of the night, it was time to let the bugs go. We’d dump them into the planter by the pool or the flowerbed by the porch and watch them as they flew away.

One day (probably in early fall in Texas because it’s like a million degrees during the summer), I realized I hadn’t seen the lightning bugs in awhile. We had moved to Lockhart and I was older and there was little time to spend in the heat getting sweaty and dirty. But I looked out the window, and sure enough, dusk came and with it, the fireflies. I watched from my window as they lit up the yard around the house. There were so many, how could I have missed them all these years? And all these memories came rushing back. Of water fights and slipping in the mud we made getting in and out of the pool all day. How could I have not thought about those memories in so long? And then I went back to my life, reading a book or watching a movie.

This week, I was sitting watching a movie and I happened to look outside and I saw them. As bright as ever, lighting up the tree we used to swing from (and break, when we go too big) and the yard we spend many, many days and nights running through, having childhood adventures. And I had the same thought. How can I have gone years without remembering the paint fights and the endless games of tag?

Just like the lightning bugs, those memories were there, like they always have been, just waiting for me to notice them.

College Lessons and Things

Nostalgia

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.

My London Adventure

You know you’ve been in London a while when…

…You don’t make eye contact with people on the street

Here, that is not a thing. You mind your own business. Plus, if you make eye contact with the street vendors, they might try to sell you things, and you have somewhere to be. No thanks.

…You’ve been asked for directions, and can give them

We must have this look like we know what we’re doing.

…You know which line on the Tube to use without consulting a map

Wanna go to St. Paul’s? That’s the Central Line.

Wanna go to Covent Gardens? That’s the Piccadilly Line. And you may or may not stop there, depending on the direction you’re going. You might have to go to Leicester Square and walk.

Also, the Bakerloo and Northern lines don’t currently stop at Embankment because of work they’re doing on the station.

See?

…Crossing the street is no longer a frightening prospect

We don’t even have to look at the arrows anymore. And, we know how to read the patterns of traffic. Watch those blinkers! (They don’t always use them before they turn).

…You learned to use the maps on the bus stops

They don’t label every stop on every route. And they don’t always stop at every stop. Make sure you’re paying attention and push the button, just in case.

…You learned sometimes the bus is faster than a Tube

Don’t try to take the Tube to Waterloo station from Holborn, you’ll be walking extra. Instead, take one of the at least four buses that stops there. They stop right at the entrance.

…You found the buses are nicer than the Tube if you have the time

London is beautiful if you aren’t surrounded by cement. And you don’t have to walk down any stairs to get to the bus.

…Squeezing onto the Tube at rush hour is no big feat

You move down into the car. You use all available doors. And most importantly, you let people get off the car before you try boarding.

…You know the peak times of the Tube

9ish in the morning is a bad time to travel, as is 5-7ish. Also, don’t expect a seat around lunch time.

…You have the thought “oh, those Americans,” before you realize that used to be you

We were coming home from Richmond last week and there was group of students, much like ourselves, who were being loud. We could hear them from the other end of the car. That used to be us. It isn’t so much anymore.

…You say “sorry” instead of “excuse me” when you run into someone or need them to move

I’ve also heard “cheers.” “Sorry” is the one I use.

…You know you either walk and drink your coffee, or you wait; don’t hold up the people behind you

I do not walk and drink, I would spill coffee down the front of my shirt. I wait until I have stopped moving, like on the escalator or at a Tube stop to take a sip.

…You watch movies and think, “been there, done that”

London Movie Collage

…You also know what else is going on outside the frame of pictures

Shakespeare’s globe is on the other side of Millennium Bridge.

The Houses of Parliament are next to Big Ben.

…The constant noise of the city doesn’t phase you

Listening to people walk by my window is even entertaining sometimes. Sirens and car horns don’t even keep me up anymore.

…The loud silence on the tube is not a thing you feel like you need to fill

There’s this odd silence on the Tube. No one talks.

We used to talk on our way places. Now, it’s almost like conversation ceases when we board. All you hear is the Tube rushing through the tunnels and maybe the wind whistling through the windows.

…There’s a certain level of organized chaos that goes with all public places

I spent yesterday morning in Camden Market. While I was alone, it was interesting to see people interacting with each other: vendors with customers, parents with their children, friends, couples. It was interesting.

…The prospect of the Bank/Monument tube stop walk, while dreadful, is no longer foreboding

It’s a long walk, but sometimes it must be done.

…You know you stand on the right side of the escalator and walk on the left, period

There are signs everywhere. And you do not want to get in someone’s way.

…You know bicyclists don’t follow all the rules of drivers or pedestrians

Sometimes, they get off, walk their bike across the street, and get back on and keep riding. Sometimes they don’t stop at the light. You’ve gotta keep a pretty close eye on them.

…Awareness of your surroundings is key

Don’t get run over by a bus because you were watching for bikes in the wrong directions. Also, just being aware of who is around you is good. Don’t let that creepy guy catch you unawares.

…You expect to visit the grocery store again in about 3 days’ time, if not less

Seriously. Things here will spoil in that amount of time, especially the fruits and vegetables. If you don’t really need it today, wait.

…You know which side of the road to stand on to get on the bus

Which way did you come from, which way do you need to go?

…You recognize the landmarks they use on the bus stops

Toward St. Paul’s? Know where that is in relation to my flat. Toward Holborn? That’s near home. Toward Aldwych? I can get us home from there.

…You know you have to ask for the check, or you’ll be sitting a while

Servers will clear your table and still not bring you the check. Ask. Or you’ll be late. On the upside, I’ve never felt like they were rushing me out the door.

…You know you don’t call a taxi; it’s cheaper to get on the bus

Taxi’s are the most expensive way to travel. Besides, a little walking is probably good for you.

…You live in a flat, not an apartment

And apparently not a house, as everyone keeps reminding me. Whatever.

…Seeing people in full business suits is not strange

That’s a perfectly expected way to get to work. So, nice shoes, nice clothes, on a bike.

…Topping up your Oyster Card is different from renewing it

They made it very clear. We needed to renew them because topping them up was just going to add money to them which would then be deducted every time we used it. Not what we wanted from the world.

…You regularly offer people a “cuppa tea” when they come over

But really. We’re all studying? “Anyone want some tea?” All stressed out? “Can I get you a cup of tea?” Just had dinner? “Would you like some tea?” I’m bored. “I’m making tea for myself. Anyone else want some?”

…Movies all of sudden start making even more sense

The uniforms in Harry Potter are standard issue for the schools here, except for the pointed hats; here, they wear top hats.

…Accents are not a thing you notice anymore

It’s gotten harder for me to be able to tell if someone has an accent. I’ve just gotten used to the British accents, and all the other accents, too.

My London Adventure

On The Road Again [and Again and Again]

This post is all about our 10 Day Coach Tour. We spent Spring Break on a tour of Northern England, Scotland, and Wales. It was blast, but not the break I needed, so there’s that.

To start off, I’d like to share a shot poem written by my friend, Emily, over at Mastering History. She read this poem to us on the morning of about the seventh day of our trip. And when she finished, we were not only all impressed by her talent at poetry, but also at her ability to put into words how every single one of us was feeling.

“Ode to Coach Travel” 

We started out with spirits high
Excited, smiling, nice as pie
Music played, voices raised
And out the windows, all just gazed.

Hours passed and we grew weary
Some of us felt rather teary.
But I was feeling worst of all
Terribly, awfully, worse than y’all.

My aching head began to swell
And of my rage, I could not tell
For it was not the kind of day
For being cheerful, come what may.

Running, jumping, bumping, darting
Screaming, yelling, burping, farting
“I’ve had enough!” I loudly said.
“I should have just stayed home in bed!”

But soon the coach began to sway
The noise began to fade away
The cheeks of many soon turned green
And there was vomit to be seen.

Comforted with ginger candy,
I sat back, just feeling dady.
At last, some peace! I sighed, relieved.
I was, once more, no longer peeved.

With that lovely visual, let me tell you a little more about our trip.

We spent the better part of seven of our ten days on a bus. 37 of my closest friends in London. On a bus. For hours at a time. Sounds just like vacation, right? And let me not complain. It was a great trip and I am blessed to be experiencing all that I am; however, when I get home, I will be sleeping for about a month.

Anyway, let me tell you something; packing for 10 days in a carry-on sized suitcase is hard enough when you know what kind of weather to expect. If you could have weather in the 60’s or in the 20’s, it becomes more difficult. I did learn that rolling clothes makes them fit significantly better in a suitcase (my Pinterest addiction, while still very healthy, has at last come in handy). Not sure how that works, but it does. Seriously. Read about it. Anyway. I somehow managed to fit 10 outfits plus pajamas and all the extras (laptop that I would pull out about twice, chargers, converters, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, towel, all that jazz that you need but don’t really think about until you need it) into a carry-on suitcase (which reassures me that I will have plenty of room for the souvenirs I plan to bring home). Anyway, packing was fun. And most of the places we stayed were one night stops, so repacking every morning was also fun. Somehow it seemed that every morning, my suitcase was getting just a little heavier everyday, which doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, because I certainly didn’t make any great purchases.

Anyway. We spent a night in York. Another in Whitby. Two in each Edinburgh, Glencoe, and Ambleside. Our last night was spent in Caernarvon. And let me tell you that my favorite was Glencoe. By a mile. Even when there was no connection, it was the best. Besides the fact that it was the most beautiful place we visited, it was different.

We spent two nights in the cutest little cabin-looking hotel. And we spent a day hiking. And we didn’t have to deal with a million people. That was wonderful. I didn’t realize how much London stresses me out. There are a million people everywhere, and trying to keep up with the two I need to be with is stressful. Because, even though now I am capable of finding my way home (I’m finally beginning to remember which buses stop here, 21 days before we go home), what if they can’t find their way home? Or what if they’re busy worrying about me? Or what if I have something they need? Big-Sister Gabi doesn’t really enjoy it, and I didn’t really realize it until we were hiking up this mountain, just three of us, and I wasn’t worrying about losing Clarissa or Lisa.

And before someone starts a lecture about “you are not their mother,” I am well aware. I just worry about the people I’m with. It’s just encoded in my genes. I worry about everyone I’m with. Confession: it’s nice when the Holcomb’s are with us, because then I feel much less ridiculous, because they can always use an extra pair of eyes on those boys.

Despite getting soaked during our hike, it was phenomenal.

Glencoe Collage
Some pictures from Glencoe. (:

In contrast to Glencoe, with it’s cute little hotel, we stayed at a Youth Hostel in Ambleside. And, I recognize that I sound like a spoiled brat, but I don’t do sharing my bathroom. When I went and visited UMHB the first time, we toured all the dorms and my mom was really excited when we went through Stribling, because I could have my own room. And I told her that I was willing to have a roommate if I got a bathroom that was my own. And all this came flooding back when we lugged our stuff to the third floor of the hostel and found that not only were the bathrooms not attached to our rooms, but they were coed. Uhm, no thank you.

There was a lot of roommate bonding going on in Ambleside, at least among my roommates. Let me tell you, if you really don’t wanna shower, you can make do with what you’ve got. And let me not say more than that.

By day 10, we were all ready to come back to London. Actually, I think we’re all ready to go home, but seeing as that’s not really an option, we’ll settle for the familiarity that is London, with its wifi and kitchens and slight personal space.

London, it’s been fun, but in 21 days, I get to go home and know what menus mean and eat Mexican food whenever I want and I get my own room and I get  to see my mama and daddy. And I am counting down the days.

My London Adventure

Quite A Morning

I’m sure we all remember the shenanigans from Saturday. Well, in the hustle and bustle, I pulled my Oyster Card (it gets me on any tube and any bus in the city) out of my wallet and put it in my purse, so it would be easier to get to. And when I got out of the station I just stuck it back it in my purse.

It was a long, late night, so yesterday was spent in my apartment in my PJs. All. Day. And last night when I took a shower, I had the thought, I need to pull my card out of my purse because I’m taking my other one to class tomorrow. And then I had almost the same thought again this morning. But I forgot and threw my wallet and tablet and keys into my purse.

Now, rush hour in London is just not fun. And one of the stations where we had to transfer lines is, not one, but three stations all connected. And the platforms we needed were on opposite ends of the station. So we left at 8:45, which gave us more than enough time to get to the right place by 9:30.

We walked the 10 minutes to the station and I opened my wallet and guess what? No Oyster Card. And I had just been so proud of myself because I made so many other good decisions. I put my thermals on. I remembered a hat. I had a yogurt for breakfast. I was doin’ so well. And then I forgot my card.

So I took my happy behind back to my flat and grabbed my card. I was leaving here at 9:05. Everyone else planned on leaving well before 9. I hustled back to the station and got onto the train for my one stop. I got off and there were 4 escalators (2 up and 2 down) I needed to use to get on the right platform. So, since I was running late, I did something I swore I would never do because I hated when my mom did it: I walked down the escalators. And then, when I got to the two up escalators, I walked up them (which is only slightly better than the St. Paul’s catastrophe). And I was worn out, let me tell you. And it occurred to me, halfway up the last escalator, that this class was about to be at least 2 hours of walking and standing (which, in case we are confused, meant I was gonna be miserable).

So, I got to the platform, glanced at the map and saw the I managed to make it to where I was supposed to be. I even saw Dr. Holcomb and his boys on the train that was leaving (and that meant I made good time because I saw them leaving as I was running back to my flat). I got on the next train, and I was so proud of myself, until I had the fleeting thought, The train Dr. Holcomb was on just went the direction this train is coming from, so this can’t possibly be going the right way, quickly followed by, Nah. I already checked the map.

That’ll teach me not to check twice. I got on the train going east and I needed to go west. So, I got off at the next stop and I could see the other platform across the train tracks. So I looked for a sign to show me the direction I needed to go and there was nothing. Just one that showed the “Way Out” (their signs here don’t say Exit; there are Fire Exits and there are the “way out;” just thought you ought to know). So I grabbed a janitor and asked her how to get on the right platform. And she told me to go up the stairs and go right.

So I finally got on the right platform and the train came I could relax a little. And I got to my stop and hopped off and walked up the one flight of stairs (thankfully) and didn’t see anyone. And then a whole new wave of panic hit me because I had no idea where to go from the station and what if they left without me and oh man.

But, never fear. They were right outside the station. And they hadn’t started class yet, which meant I wasn’t late.

And I wasn’t even too cold standing in the frigid wind (all that running around and stair climbing will get your blood pumping), so it all worked out. Sorta. I am really sore, but I was probably gonna be sore anyway. I did spend all morning climbing around Tower Hill.

My London Adventure

Always an Adventure

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.

Big Ben, all lit up at night.

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.

Dover Castle

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.

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.

It was a long day, and, as always, an adventure.

REMEMBER THE TIME BLOG HOP

Journals in Junior High

This week on the Remember the Time Blog Hop, we’re talking about mail.

I never really had pen pals. I never really read a specific magazine, so we never really subscribed to those. I never really sent card. When I “ordered” things, my parents ordered them and gave them to me. When I got mail, it was usually cards in the mail for my birthday or Christmas. But, in Junior High, I wrote my friends letters.

When I moved to Lockhart, I had a particular group of girls that I hung out with. There were 5 of us, including me. We were pretty close. Anyway, we always got pretty bored in class. We weren’t allowed to have our phones in class. We were supposed to pay attention and take notes.

At some point, someone came up with the idea of passing journals. They were like notes, except we kept them all in a spiral. It looked like we were taking notes, but we were writing each other letters instead. When class was over, we met up, switched our spirals and went on with our day.

I remember those notes were so similar every time:

Hey [whomever and potential other whomever]

What’s up? Not much with me. Just sitting here in class. Did you hear about [new gossipy thing I just heard, or maybe made up]? 

[Obligatory comment about some thing the other person wrote in the previous letter, to show it actually got  read].

So. Anyways. I’m just sitting here in [insert number] period, bored. [Insert joke about teacher still talking]. Well, I’ll see you later.

[Very large heart with ALWAYS written across it]

Gabi

P.S. Sorry it’s so sloppy.

Sometimes, we’d have to do more than one of these journals in one class, because pretty much each pair of us had a separate journal.

After we wrote the letters, we’d doodle on our letters. Or sometimes the front cover of the spiral, because, we had to make it personal.

Eventually, the school banned our spirals because they either distracted us from class or they excluded people, I don’t really remember which. I do remember how exciting it was to get one. Reading what the other person had to say, how their day was going, all that was always so interesting to me. And I got to write them back and they had to read it. The idea that someone wanted to read what I had to say (as ridiculous as it was back then) was an interesting thought.

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