Sunday, November 18, 2018

1 Month

Photo Credit: 123Calendars

It seems like having an entire semester to study abroad is a lot of time. You have a long list of things you want to do and places you want to go, and then the time passes pretty quickly. I thought coming for a semester was a long time - since lots of study abroad trips are only a couple of weeks - but so many people here are commenting on how short it is. Most students are here for at least a year.

Photo Credit: 123Calendars
Sometimes three months seems like quite a duration and sometimes it seems so short. It depends on what you're focusing on. It seems like a long time when you think of the separation from family and friends, etc., but it seems short when you think of how much there is to do, especially when most of the time is really spent on classes. Most people say that the time flies - some say it's too long, and they couldn't wait to get back - but I think it's both.
Photo Credit: 123Calendars

Photo Credit: 123Calendars
I've lived here for months, and it's already become quite familiar; my time here seems to be waning so quickly. At the same time, I anticipate going home and enjoying Christmas with family, etc.

People make everything all-or-nothing, but it's really a mix. It's good to look forward to what's coming and remember what's happened, but it's important to be notice the present and appreciate it too. I have to remind myself to enjoy where I am and what I have. If I don't appreciate now, the memories of the past become bitter and the anticipations for the future become grey, and they all lose their values. It's not a new idea, but that doesn't make it any less real or true

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Poppy

Photo Credit: Oatcakes


Veteran's Day. Remembrance Day. Armistice Day. There are various names and various traditions for the date, but the world is united by commemoration.

Photo Credit: csfotoimages on iStock


Today marks the 100th anniversary of the day World War I ended: 11 November 1918. It was called the "Great War" and supposed to be the "war to end all wars."
Photo Credit: lufer(REPUBLICA DE CALIFORNIA) on Pinterest
In England, they wear the poppy flower to commemorate the soldiers. The tradition developed from the poem "In Flanders Field," written by the Canadian doctor Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae when he saw poppies burgeon from the battlefield wasteland

Photo Credit: Sam P. on Flickr

This is the power of art - when words and images coalesce to touch the world


Sunday, November 4, 2018

One Hundred Years Ago...

One hundred years ago, World War I ended.

It was a war that shook the entire world and demonstrated how devastating wars can be. It revealed advances in warfare that no one was prepared for. Dan Carlin has an excellent podcast series on World War I called Blueprint for Armaggedon, and he discusses, in detail, how shocking the war was - unlike anything that had come before; no one could have imagined it. (The series has 6 episodes, each 3-4 hours long, and the introduction is fairly lengthy, but they really are extremely impressive and worth the time - highly recommend). It was an absolute, unprecedented, inconceivable horror. 

We know it was a terrible war - we heard about it; we read about it - but the British experienced it. We were touched by it, but we didn't live through it like they did. We came in late, and we were at a safe distance. For the British, they were in almost immediately from the beginning, and they suffered massively in every way. It was felt sorely by the entire country, and the country still mourns the losses today. There are memorials all over the country - on roadsides, within churches, in city centres, schools, parks. They are integrated into daily life. You will pass by memorials several times a day wherever you go, in any city, and people still talk about them; they aren't just ignored or forgotten. It was only one hundred years ago, and it shook the nation to the core. The effects are still visible today. You can see how houses have been rebuilt and major buildings are still being restored, more commemorations are still being built. World War I was a world war, and it shook the entire world, but it wasn't the same for us, for the US



Birthday weekend

My birthday was on Thursday, so that night Ayame, Yuuka, Yuka, and Rei came over with food and I made pancakes. We hung out for a while, and it was an enjoyable end to my birthday. On Friday came the real fun. Yuuka went with me to Moriyama to get my latest tattoo. I was sort of hoping it would be done in the traditional Japanese tattooing method, but it was done with a gun. I'm happy with it none the less. That evening, a group of the international students went out to a restaurant, and later karaoke. It was a good time. The people here are wonderful.



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Nagahama

My latest adventure was to Nagahama, which is about half an hour by train. It was for one of my classes, but it was fun none the less. The whole class is a project basically advertising Nagahama which is interesting. Our topic is old structures, and we set out with the intention of visiting four specific temples and shrines and stopping at Soba 8 for lunch. As we were wandering the city to get to each of our destinations, we stumbled across four more temples and shrines. They are scattered literally everywhere. I think it's absolutely fascinating because they're just tucked into the city. They're in the middle of neighborhoods, hiding in a back corner on a street lined with shops, and even right beside a cemetery and a playground.

It was a beautiful day for the most part. You can definitely feel fall, and the trees are starting to show it as well. I am really excited for the trees to be in full fall status, but not for the weather that comes with it. Winter has always been my least favorite season. I don't take kindly to cold at all. It'll be more difficult with bicycle being my only mode of transportation, but it'll work out.



Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Total Tourist

People ask me how I like England, and sometimes they're shocked by how much I like it. They aren't impressed with the beauty or history or any of the things I find so fascinating; they think it's boring - because it's so normal to them. Meanwhile, I'm a complete tourist, taking pictures of everything - streets, signs, buildings, statues, scenes - at every turn (thank God for Google Photos!).
Yes, I really am that tourist...
It's pretty fantastic here, but it's actually making me appreciate home more too. Because home is just as fascinating to other people as here is to me. Some people travel to other places, like England, and think it's so marvelous and never want to go back home to where it's boring, but that's how the English feel about their country, and that's how Italians and French and Spanish feel about their countries. We're so used to our cities and countries that we don't appreciate them, and the most amazing things are taken for granted to us. And then, here, somewhere new, the most mundane things seem absolutely amazing.
From the Oxford Botanical Gardens
When I walk down the streets and see amazing sunsets, I pause to relish the sight and feel uplifted. I notice more here, and it just seems better here sometimes. Autumn changes colours, and I get so excited, like I'm a child who's never seen it happen before. But it's just that I'm noticing and appreciating it here. And I should do the same at home and anywhere I go. There is beauty everywhere - sometimes it's a beauty transcending borders (like a sunset or oncoming autumn), and sometimes it's local beauty unique to that place (like the Canterbury Cathedral), and sometimes (usually) it's both - but there is beauty, so much beauty, everywhere. I'm loving it here - I really am - and I'm very glad to be a tourist. I embrace it, because tourist means I find absurd delight in what others take for granted
Just outside Canterbury, past Westgate

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Awesome Accident of Autumn

Everyone said England was going to be cold and drizzly, but the weather has been sensational! We have had rain, and it does get chilly but never terrible. Weather isn't something I normally give much consideration to, but it's such an important factor when travelling. It's very influential and determinative for the mood of a trip - drink hot chocolate or iced tea? go to museums or open markets? visit building or walk the grounds? I like doing it all, and autumn is the perfect blend.

I hadn't even really considered the seasons when deciding which semester to study abroad, but I'm now so grateful it's fall semester, because the weather is so fine as I'm exploring, and I get to see the country transition from summer to winter. I got to see the trees and flowers in their most vibrant dressing, and now I get to see them arrayed in another beautiful set of colors. And I walk a lot, so I'm very grateful for good weather every day. I'm trying to take advantage of being outdoors and able to walk around as much as possible before it gets too cold and less enjoyable. England is so beautiful, and I'm learning to appreciate the power of nature the way the British Romantics did (after all, I am an English major)

I'm learning how to use Adobe Photoshop for one of my classes. I'm quite a novice, but I thought I'd show off my skills and Canterbury at the same time ;P

Kobe

We went to Kobe as a class trip to learn more about SDGs, sustainable growth development. It was an interesting and informative presentation. Japan is doing quite a bit to achieve the goals, and they're ranked 15 out of 156 currently. They've accomplished the goal of quality education. America ranks 35, and hasn't accomplished any of the goals. Here is the website to check it out for anyone who's curious; https://dashboards.sdgindex.org/#/USA. There was also a room with artifacts from all over the world that we could touch. It was my inner child's dream.

After the presentation, we had a bit of free time to explore. Kobe is a port city, so we were right on the waterfront. The architecture is quite interesting, having a mix between very modern buildings, but having some traditional style as well. Very beautiful. We wandered the mall for a bit, which was also neat because it was partially indoors and partially outdoors.



Monday, October 15, 2018

Kyoto

I finally got to travel outside of Hikone! Kyoto is about an hour away by train, so it's not too bad. I went with a German friend, Alex. We didn't set out with any super specific goals, just the bamboo forest and the Golden Pavillion. That left us with plenty of time to just wander and explore.

We found some temples and a lovely path that led us to the bamboo forest. Now I had never even thought about what a bamboo forest would be like, so I was delighted at their spooky vibe. I don't know any other way to describe it, but it was wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though my phone camera would never do it justice. After the forest we stumbled upon a large set of stairs that led to a hiking trail. Neither of us were prepared to hike so we continued to wander.

We found more temples and paths that led us further up a mountain. It was absolutely stunning. A beautiful as it is green, I want to go back in the fall. It will be incredible. I also saw a cat for the first time since arriving! I love cats, so this was very exciting to me. At the top of this path, we could look over the entire city. It was really cool.

Then we made our way to the Golden Pavillion, which was quite impressive. It was also much more crowded than the other places we'd been. We then got lost and just wandered around the city hoping to find something cool before things started closing.

We found a castle that we barely made it too before they stopped allowing people to enter the actual castle. The artwork was mesmerizing though we weren't allowed to take photos. The grounds inside the walls surrounding the castle were also really nice. I love that they have these spaces reserved within the cities. It's quiet and peaceful, but you can still see the city around it.

It was a really great end to the day. I was quite exhausted by the time we got back. I fell asleep with all the lights still on. Definitely worth it.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Just Say "Hi"

Before I left for England, I was talking to a friend and mentor who had recently returned from traveling through Europe for several weeks. She was telling me about their trip and the lovely people they met; she told me, "just say 'hi.'" That little opening led her to some great conversations, and she made some amazing friends on the trip whom she was keeping in contact with, even after returning to the US.

I'm not a very assertive person by any means - I'm shy and introverted, and I tend to keep to myself, even when I'm not being shy and embarrassed - but her words resonated with me, and I've been putting them into practice more these past few days. It's just a simple, "hello" - nothing fancy or difficult. Sometimes conversations develop and sometimes they don't, but it's just a small amount of effort, that doesn't really cost anything, in exchange for some unimaginable possibilities.

As reserved as I am, I love meeting new people, and I'm very happy with the people I've met. And I'm happy to be initiating conversation, rather than passively standing by and being passed over so much. Every person we interact with has so much to them - they bring their unique ideas, perspectives, opinions, knowledge, talents - and we bring our own, and the combination can be quite powerful. You never know how fascinating the person beside you can be and how much you're missing by not saying "hi." Maybe it's just a polite smile or maybe it's a brief exchange, but it's usually very pleasant and sometimes exceeds expectations. Maybe it's actually nothing, and there's just an awkward pause that follows or a stiff reaction, but it's still worth it; at least you still gave it a try, and it didn't hurt. I don't say "hi" to every person I pass by, but I try not to pass by every person I come across either
Photo Credit: Heather Goffrier

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Oct. 11, 2018

Second week of classes almost over. I like the way classes are set up here; once a week, except my Japanese language class which meets three times, for hour and a half time slots. I also enjoy the project based classes. The entire class is for a single, extensive project. It's quite interesting. There's also the lecture/seminar that I've come to like. There's a lecture one week, and a seminar the next based on the lecture and some extra reading.

The two most difficult things about being here are eating and sleeping. I recently went on a vegan diet, but discovered I would likely starve here because meat based meals are very prevalent. Even vegetarian has been difficult, but I'm managing. Not being able to bake is a slight inconvenience because I love baking. As for sleeping, it's taken a while for my body to even start adjusting to sleeping on a futon set on the ground. Well technically loft, but still, ground. I can slowly feel it being less uncomfortable, but I have definitely had to adjust the way I sleep.

Hikone and the campus are both beautiful. It's really cool to have a moat with ducks that I get to see everyday. As for the spiders, I'm not too big of a fan. I usually don't have an issue with spiders, but these are easily an inch across and their webs are right at my face level... I have been told they aren't dangerous, but regardless, I do not want one on me or my face.

When I first got here, I was falling asleep at 8 or 9 pm and waking up at 5 am. I didn't mind the waking up that early, but falling asleep that early was very different. I have finally adjusted to a schedule I can work with, which is going to sleep later, but still waking up between 5 and 6. The sun rises at this hour, so I kind of like it. It's peaceful.

The international community here is delightful. I've met many wonderful people from all over. We have a group chat that includes everyone, and they often invite everyone or anyone to go out to eat or hang out. It's very inclusive.

And lastly, two random things that wouldn't fit in a paragraph on their own. Apparently there was a small earthquake the other morning (I didn't realize it, but my neighbor told me about it), and it appears I've caught a cold. Not ideal, but it happens.

Attached are a few photos from campus and Hikone and the spiders.








Sunday, October 7, 2018

Seriously Though

Yesterday, a friend and I tried something new - something I'd never heard of, and she'd only tried once, a long time ago. We did mortifying badly and were teased about it endlessly, but it was fun. And I was glad to be mocked, because it reminded me not to take myself so seriously. My first reaction was to be embarrassed and bashful, but, funny enough, their laughing set me at ease. They made me able to laugh at myself and laugh it off. Making fun of us was the best way to make us feel better, rather than trying to be too conscientious and polite, overly sympathetic. It was all new and just for fun, and they kept it that way. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves, not take ourselves too seriously

They were laughing at us, but they were also impressed and remarked on our behaviour towards each other, because we didn't get upset or rude. We worked well together - in regards to compatibility, not effectiveness haha. And to me, that was the most important part. Being serious is a good thing, but being focused is more important. You are serious when you're focused, but, when you're too serious, you lose focus of what you're doing and what it's all about. 

It made a great shared experience and fun memory. Because of how silly we were, it made us relish it even better afterwards, rather than just doing it and being done. If it was easy, it wouldn't have meant as much. But it was hard, so we got more out of it in several ways 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Cathedral

Canterbury is famous for Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, but it's also famous for its Cathedral. So many tourists pay to visit that all students are given free, unlimited access - which is a major discount because of how many students are in Canterbury. It was one of the first local sites I visited, and I fell in love with it. I've gone back several times - nearly every day since. The building is beautiful, the inside is grand, and the grounds are beautiful. I've taken so many pictures, but I'm always a bit disappointed with them, because they truly cannot capture the intricate detail and vivid splendor. I'm not a photographer, by any means, but even the professional shots cannot compare the grandeur. Sometimes photos make something normal seem better than it really is, but sometimes the photographs simply cannot do justice. No picture, no matter how well it's portrayed and/or edited, can properly convey seeing the Cathedral. I've taken so many and sent them to people, but they can't truly begin to show what it's like. I've seen lots of pictures of grand structures - ones even more grand than the Canterbury Cathedral - but, even today, technology cannot surpass personal experience. I take pictures and share them with others, but they're really for memory, not accuracy. They're really for my personal memory that no one else can access

Monday, October 1, 2018

Accomplishing Appreciation: Lessons at Sunset

Canterbury is small, but, unlike Columbia, it's designed so that you can easily walk anywhere. They have good facilities and accommodations for pedestrians and public transport, so it contains perks of a big city, and then it also has the perks of a small town without bothersome traffic. I like being able to walk everywhere - because I've always enjoyed walking and because I dislike driving so - but it is time-consuming. I don't mind the walking, but the time it takes me to get to campus or City Centre really does affect how I block out activities and schedule my days. And sometimes I think it's such a shame that I spend so much time just walking, feeling unproductive. I hate waste, and wasting time is one of the worst types of waste.

But waste just means getting nothing out of the experience. Maybe I'm not accomplishing much on my walks - a bit of exercise, a bit of travel - but I think life is just as much, if not more, about appreciation as it is about accomplishment. As I was leaving campus for the night, I enjoyed the most beautiful sky. Unfortunately, I was walking away from it, but walking away from sunset was still absolutely lovely with soft clouds, pale gradients, and subtle textures. I stopped and took so many pictures on the way home. And every time I turned around to look back at receding sun, I was stunned, as if I hadn't see it before.

I see the sky every day. Nature is gorgeous, and the sky is one of my favorite features - sky and water. I live out in the country; one of my favorite things to do is work outside and enjoy the air and view. But even now, I am still amazed by the splendor. I still admire its breathtaking beauty and am swept away by it. Nature's beauty is everywhere - country and the city.

Life isn't just about what I can do or get done. It's about appreciating what already is

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Free Days

Sept. 24

Brett Clements, who studied abroad here at USP a few years ago, visited Hikone today, so Ayame, Rei and I went to dinner with him. It was a small CC reunion. We ate at an Indian restaurant down Bell Street. It's quite lovely at night with lights strung up in the shape of bells. I'm enjoying these last few free days though I am looking forward to having some structure and having something to do. Thursday is orientation and classes start Friday.
(Attached are photos from today. Photo credit goes to Ayame)




Sept. 25

We were taken to city hall to take care of a few things today. Though it should have been a fairly uneventful day, it wasn't so...
I went to the convenience store in the morning, and halfway home I realized I didn't have my phone. I searched frantically both retracing my steps twice and thoroughly searching my apartment. Not a great way to start the day, I must say. I have had this phone for three years and have never lost it. Wouldn't it just be my luck to lose it in another country? It never occurred to me to file a report that it was missing because in America I would have cut my losses and got a new phone, but the woman who took us to city hall took me to the police station to see if someone had turned it in or found it. Lo and behold, someone had turned it in. It was an emotional roller coaster of a day, and I missed out on taking a few pictures, but I'm so very glad to have my phone back.

The Wireless World Still Spins

Photo Credit: SeekLogo
Photo Credit: SketchRepo
Because it’s so expensive to use phone services internationally and getting an entirely new phone, SIM card, or phone number seemed unnecessary for a mere three months, we decided to shut off data use just rely on wifi, communicating via social media and apps like Slack and Whatsapp. The chargers over here are also different. I have an adapter, but I mostly use it at the house; I don’t travel with it. There are a few USB ports, and I have a handheld charger, but I still try to conserve as much phone energy as possible. So because of no data and because of battery preservation – my phone also has a relatively short battery life – I receive fewer notifications and spend less time on my phone. (Admittedly, I am still on it quite a bit; it is the 21st century). I still use my phone a lot, but I’m on it less, and I’m more efficient with it. I get on it because I actually need to use it.

I get so wrapped up and feel this compulsory, panic-inducing need to keep up, catch up, not miss a thing. But, when I have to turn it all off for a few days, I find the world keeps on spinning, and I’m still alive. It’s humbling and helps keep me on track – to take a step back and look at the big picture and remind myself of what really matters. It takes me out of myself while also reminding me who I am, without all the distractions and comparison and anxieties

Monday, September 24, 2018

Swear to Tell the Truth...But Not the Whole Truth: The Real Lie of Social Media

Yesterday, I went to London with a friend. We had fun train rides; we enjoyed walking through streets, past architecture that I absolutely adored; we visited several interesting museums; we found great (and affordable) food; and we had an amazing view of the city from the Shard at sunset. 

That’s what you would know from all the pictures I took and my Snapchat story. Friends sent messages saying it looked great; they were glad I was enjoying myself; they were jealous. They didn’t hear about the cold, windy, wet weather. They didn’t hear about how we were rushing to catch our rides to the Shard and the train back – literally running into the tube as the doors were closing and dashing up and down several flights of stairs, trying to find the right platforms. All of that was actually fairly inconsequential, though, and just added to the fun of the day in its own way – making good stories and adding to the experience in more hectic ways. Nevertheless, they only make it to social media if they do, in fact, make a good story. 

One of the things I hate about social media is the false image it presents. A lot of people hate it because they think it’s intentional, but I hate it because sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes people don’t mean to give a false impression at all; it’s just an inherent, inevitable consequence of how social media operates. Social media is about connecting people, but it’s also about convenience, so, no matter what the platform, it’s based on being short-form. People scroll through social media; they don’t stop to read through it. If you post a long caption on Instagram or a lengthy article on Facebook, few people are actually going to read over it, and even fewer will read it in detail (as opposed to skimming). Even videos, people tend to jump through them or exit out early or just skip them over entirely. If they want to read something long, they’ll go to a blog or an online publication or pick up an old-fashioned book. If they want to watch something long, they’ll go to YouTube or Netflix or get an actual DVD. Social media is so fast-paced that people don’t have time or space to really explain what’s going on in their lives and give an accurate representation.

People heard about yesterday, because it was a good day. They didn’t and won’t hear about today: the first day of classes. They won’t hear about the loneliness; the homesickness; the overwhelming feelings of frustration and anxiety, feeling unprepared and lost. Even if it wasn’t a bad day, they wouldn’t hear about it, because it would be a boring day. And people don’t want to go to social media for boring; they go to have fun and escape their lives. They go to be inspired and amused. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t; it makes us envious, and we feel worse about our lives and ourselves. 

But I don’t think it’s always intentional. People post their highlights on social media. They don’t post the mundane days or boring stuff; they post fun and exciting and intriguing. Even if it’s negative, they make it captivating, wanting to get attention and elicit a response. Whenever people post on social media, they’re posting a narrative. Maybe they’re posting honestly, with honest intentions, and there’s no conscious, underlying agenda, but social media is about sharing your life and connecting with others, and they’re specifically censoring certain parts. It’s not a bad thing – we should have privacy, and there are some things we should keep to ourselves – but it’s important to recognize that social media is inherently short-form, which may mean truth, but it never means complete

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Canterbury to Columbia: Surprisingly Similar

As an international student, many people ask me where I am from and, after I say the US, they naturally ask what it's like or how it's different from Canterbury. It's actually difficult for me to describe because, even though I haven't traveled much (within the US even) and haven't really known much different, and even though this is an entirely new country across the ocean, it doesn't really feel all that different. Even the accents - people are always asking about the British accent - but even that isn't overly noticeable. I noticed it a bit at first and every once in a while it strikes me, but, for the most part, it sounds normal. Part of it is because I've been decently immersed in British culture prior - I've read a lot of British literature and seen several British shows - so there hasn't been much that's surprised me. And part of it is because I don't think there really are that many major differences. Originally, we adopted our culture from them, and then, as we grew, we've become such a dominant culture that the rest of the world is adopting ours.

England is a first-world, Western country with more than just a shared language. Actually, one of the first things I noticed was how similar we are. They listen to largely the same music; they have television and radio programs like ours; they advertise like us; they even have several American brands (Asdas, which is Walmart; Aldis; H&M; Starbucks; Subway; McDonalds). And they have local brands that imitate ours (instead of Starbucks, they have Costas).

In fact, Canterbury is even more like Columbia because it's a small town that's enlarged by being a university center. Because of all the students, it becomes busier. Half the population is students, and the permanent inhabitants are mostly families, which affects what sorts of businesses are here. It has the bustling air of a big city and some of its layout and benefits, with public transport and taxis, but it is still a small town - or a small city simulating a large one. But it doesn't have the modern architecture of big cities with towering office buildings and skyscrapers. It doesn't attract innovators or innovations; it adopts them in time, but it doesn't produce them - and, in this way, it is a bit different from Columbia, because Columbia isn't a major hub, but it does have a number of startups and small entrepreneurs. It isn't as expensive as large cities. It feels like I've come to the British version of Columbia.

One of the main and most obvious differences, though, is its history. I told my hostess that I was surprised they grant students free access to the Cathedral year-long, and she said it's because they have so many tourists, mainly Americans, that they don't need to charge students. And, at night, the inside is closed to the public, but the grounds are open and free to everyone. Even the townhouses have a more quaint architecture to them. They have a beautiful blend of progressive modernity and ancient history that coalesces, rather than clashes.

Photo Credit
Because they're so close to the European continent, most of them have traveled to many different countries and fairly cheaply, which I'm a bit jealous of. The US is so large that the mainland contains four time zones, five including Alaska. From the UK to Russia is only three. So, for us to travel around in the same country is the same as for them to travel around the Continent to multiple countries, experiencing different cultures, cuisines, languages, and histories. I am a bit jealous of that.

The other differences are much smaller. They smoke a lot. We do too, but much more with vaping, with less aroma and litter. And I think they actually dress more liberally than we do.

Photo Credit
The housing is different here too. We mostly live in apartment buildings or have our own houses and private lots with space in front, back, and on the sides, but they mostly have townhouses, each self-contained and individual but all conjoined together, side-by-side. They have front and backyards, but they're smaller and no outside area to go back and forth. In the halls (or dormitories), they are much more like apartment buildings. They're arranged suite style, so students each have their own rooms, and then they share a common bathroom or two, living space, and kitchen.

So when people ask me to describe where I'm from and how it's different, I don't have much to tell them. There are differences, but I've noticed more similarities

Friday, September 21, 2018

Columbia to Canterbury


I called home the other night, and everyone was asking what it's like in Canterbury.

Walking through City Centre is like walking into a fairytale. It reminds me of the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast (my favorite because it's a princess who reads!). I recalled that early scene when Belle is walking through town to the bookstore. Canterbury is a  beautiful blend of history and modernity. It has thrived through the centuries, so it has a quaint, traditional air without feeling decayed or outdated. It feels like you're visiting the past but not stepping back into it. There are old, brick shoppes and modern office buildings. The streets and sidewalks are cobblestoned but bustle with cars and buses.

It's actually a lot like Columbia as a small, student city. Because it has so many schools and universities (University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, King's School - to name a few), it imitates the large city vibe with lots of pedestrians walking everywhere, buses and taxis always transporting, and two trains going in and out all day. Most of the inhabitants are students or families.

As a university city, a large portion of the population is international. It's England, but there are many visitors from all over the world. Some study for just a few weeks, some for years, and some to live here permanently. People ask me about hearing the British accent, but I hear foreign tongues and global accents just as much. There are shops and cafes advertising cultural shops advertising British paraphernalia and cuisine, but there are also Thai groceries, American candies, and French boutiques.

Walking through City Centre is like the "little town" Belle sings about, but they also have Westgate Gardens, which feel like a fairytale in a very different way. There are large willow trees, a river, bridges, outlooks, and rock walls. It's a little oasis from city life with the fresh feeling of autumn as school begins



Thursday, September 20, 2018

Japan

I arrived on Wednesday around lunchtime. I didn't get to my apartment here until almost 8 in the evening. By that time I was slightly grumpy. I had been in a plane for 21 hours and sitting in airports for an additional 12. I was exhausted and in desperate need of a shower and nap. I have since done both of those and feel better.

There have been so many firsts. I had never set foot in an airport before, much less flown, so that was an adventure. Turns out I don't mind flying. I slept most of the flights, although the sleep wasn't particularly restful. It was also the first time out of the country. There was a layover in Taipei, so now I've been in three countries. I had never seen the ocean either.

There are many differences that I've noticed in my almost 24 hours here. It is quieter. For being a city about the size of Columbia, I assumed there would be city sounds. The cars are quiet, there's no sounds of people talking when the window is open, even though many people walk or bike. My apartment sits between two auto repair shops and even they aren't loud. I find it odd. The trash here has to be separated in three ways, which will take some getting used to. The bathroom set up also is interesting. The toilet seat is heated which will be nice in the winter. The bath and shower are separate ,but in the same room. There is a sink and mirror in this room as well. To quote the meme, "I am confusion," but I'm enjoying observing and experiencing the differences.

I haven't gotten to do much exploring since it's raining today, but I look forward to that.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Getting Orientated

I arrived Saturday afternoon, had registration Sunday, and just began orientation today (Monday). It probably seems like rather a lot all at once, but I’m glad of it, because it keeps me busy. I think the bigger issue is having time. When I’m not busy, I start to feel more lonely and miss home, but, when I’m busy, I’m distracted and occupied. It’s been a good balance – not too much to be overwhelming and exhausting but not too little either. And, because I don’t have an overly pressing schedule this early, I can take my time to familiarize myself with the city and newness better, get more comfortable. 

I was nervous for orientation, because, in America, we have all sorts of wild events and games that I hate, but, here, it’s more calm and conducive to my introverted type. We have lots of free time to chat and get to know each other better. The events are more like social gatherings, so we go to different places – like the Student Center or a pub – where there are activities available, but they’re not pressed on you like in America. They’re available for you to join at your own will, and then you can meet more people like you. Otherwise, you can mingle and meet people that way. 

I think it’s a better system. I was more capable approaching people, and there was more opportunity to talk without disruption. There’s a lot of free time, so sometimes conversations got stilted and ran out, but that also helped us move on and meet more people and find more things to do together. It’s much more fun exploring the city with other people than alone – and it was safer. I used to wish I’d arrived earlier to travel to more of England and even the Continent, but I think it will be better, cheaper, and safer with others. It's still early and rough, but it's smoothing out better

The Comforts of Homestay

It’s my first time away from home, and it’s in an entirely new country for the next several months. I don’t know anyone, and I’ve only just arrived yesterday. I was feeling a bit low. People would probably say I’m homesick, lonely, overwhelmed, jet-lagged, and experiencing culture shock; I'm not sure.

Regardless, my hostess noticed I was a bit low – I’ve been in my room a lot, slept a lot, haven’t eaten – and she was lovely. She came and comforted me, and then she brought me up hot chocolate and a granola bar; I think she worried that I haven't been eating much. She gave me some time alone to sip the cocoa and eat, and then we began chatting when I took the mug downstairs to wash. She made me toast, which was sweet – the homestay really only provides breakfast. And we began talking a lot. 

We talked for an hour or more. She told me lots about herself, her family, pets, her one holiday 4 years ago to the Caribbean with her youngest Jessica (where they swam with stingrays in the ocean), her work and homestays. We talked about movies, music, and then books. She’s reading books from the same authoress I enjoy (Cathy Glass), and she showed me. She’s lent me a couple that I haven’t read plus another that’s similar and sounds good. I feel much better now. Maybe I was a bit lonely and homesick and overwhelmed – I don’t know – but I feel much better, and I’m very grateful to her

Humanity in the Hectic


I’m living with a host for the semester, but, two days before leaving, I found out that she wouldn’t be available to meet me at the airport or the station; I would have to arrange transport and meet her at the house. I’ve never traveled alone and never internationally, so I wasn’t really prepared.


The airports were manageable but, after landing in London and getting my passport stamped, I was a bit more frazzled. I wasn’t scared, really, and it wouldn’t have been so bad but for managing the large luggage bags. (I cursed myself for packing so much!) 

I was supposed to pick up pre-paid train tickets, but I couldn’t find the kiosk – they were all for buying new ones – and no one seemed to be able to help me. I’d walked a long ways down to the underground, was sent back up, sent in circles, and then directed back down again. I was so frustrated because I knew I could figure it out, but the luggage was weighing me down, and I was miserably sore. That was the beginning of a mildly hectic journey that was a bit rough but really made me appreciate humanity again. I work in retail, and it’s not just the angry customers but also the ones that lie, accuse, steal. I get cynical about the state of humanity, and then I was also cynical because of numerous warnings about pickpocketers, traffickers, etc. But, on my little journey, I found the best in humanity instead 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The 3 Things I Will Miss Most

Tomorrow, I leave for England, to study at Canterbury Christ Church for a semester. I haven't been outside of the United States since I was a baby, and I've only flown on a plane one other time. I've never left home before, and now I'm going to travel to another country alone.

People ask me if I'm nervous, but, strangely enough, I'm really not, which is especially unusual for me, because I worry about everything. And I think the reason is that I haven't really been focusing on what's coming up as much as what I'm leaving behind - not in a sad way but appreciatively. They say you don't appreciate a good thing until it's gone, and maybe that's true, but I'm trying to appreciate right now. 

I made a little list of the 3 things I'll miss most when I'm gone. (I'll miss the people most - family and friends, especially - but everyone misses the people most, so I'm not listing them).

The weather. We've had amazing weather these past few days, and I live out in the country with a beautiful backyard. My mother is an amazing gardener, and we don't have the nuisance of city traffic, so I love sitting outside while working on things. I also love rain, though, so I think I'll enjoy drizzily, English weather.

Knitting. My mother taught me how to knit several years ago, and I recently began again. One of my favorite things is to knit with her while watching television. It's a soothing pastime that's very different from anything else I do. I just picked it up again, and now I'm setting it back down again just as quickly.

Our wood-burning stove. We have a cozy wood-burning stove downstairs, and one of my favorite things to do during winter is cuddling up by it with a cup of hot cocoa and a book (or homework, but that wasn't so fun). Or my mom and I would watch television on the couch with the fire going. I loved the cold outside, so I could snuggle by the warm fire.
Most people, including me sometimes, think that living at home during college is embarrassing and distasteful, but it's also something to be grateful for. I've shared some very special times with my family these past few years. I don't want to live at home forever - soon, I will move out - but I want to appreciate every part of it that's left. When I was a child, I was too anxious to grow up and be an adult. Now, I don't want to run away from adulthood and responsibility, but I also don't want to throw away what I have and be ungrateful. I will always be my parents' child, and they will always care for me
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