Wednesday, December 24, 2008


There are moments in life when I'm just completely and incredibly blown away by the plans that G-d has made for me, for the gentle pushes and graciously loving way He continuously draws me towards Himself at all times, during all seasons.

This Sunday was one of them. My Saviour met me. He found me where I was, he touched me as I worshiped Him among my fellow believers for the first time in months. How wonderful is our G-d! He did not stop there, His presence followed me. I ended up at the house of a family, the members of which are old friends of mine, and I got there as they were ending their house church meeting. In that final prayer, G-d used a simple man to speak His simple words, ones that were precisely what I needed to hear.

This is how great my G-d is; this is my astounding Lord who saves.

This late evening, I have found myself caught in the past, glancing through some of the many memories clouding my thoughts, but lead through them by Yeshua. As always, I see things that I would do differently now, but rest secure in the knowledge that it is the experience of those moments that have made me into the person that I am today.

However, I saw something different in them today. I clearly saw... a thread, a plan, a design, a purpose in a brief flash, a transient moment. Everything that has happened in my life, big or small, has been part of his continuous process of molding and shaping me more into the person he has destined me to be with each day. I rest secure in that.

I can still see that the process is by no means close to nearing its end, that the work He has left to do in me and through me is gargantuan. But at this moment, I can only find my heart echoing the words of a favored song toward the throne of G-d: "You know the way / I've let go the need to know why / For you know better than I."

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26

Who knows what joys He has waiting for me around the next bend, behind the next tribulation?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The City of Lights

How am I supposed to capture my experience in the beautiful Paris within these swift scratchings on a page? The entire time I was there, moment bled into moment, memory into memory. I do have distinct recollections of the specific monuments and buildings that I visited, but when I attempt to pierce the dreamy fog of my experience, I find it difficult to separate one museum from another. This is not because I didn't treasure every painting that and sculpture that I could, but there was just too much art to take in at once!

Even now, I can still dwell in awe upon the The Raft of the Medusa, gaze in rapture at Psyche and Cupid, or even stand in amazement before Nike of Samothrace. So many pieces of art struck me and enthralled me that I cannot begin to ever remember them all.

However, the beginning is always a good place to start. My friend Laura and I had the opportunity to leave Harlaxton on November 12th, a Wednesday afternoon. So, we caught a train to Nottingham and then made it to East Midlands Airport. From there, we flew into Paris. When we first arrived, I realized that Paris was going to be the first place I really had to work hard to navigate. But, after some work, we made it to our hostel, this first one being where we spent two of our four nights.

The next morning, we took off and begun our exploration of Paris at a place that I had always wanted to visit: the Eiffel Tower. The line was not too long, so we got up to the third and uppermost level of the tower pretty quickly. I still cannot decide what I liked more, the tower or the view. Looking around, I saw Notre Dame Cathedral for the first time far off in the distance, caught a glimpse of the Arc d' Triumph, and even spied the Louvre. It is just an absolutely gorgeous city, one easily dominated by this iconographic tower, an engineering marvel.

From there, we went straight to the Arc d' Triumph. There was a small, pleasant museum inside of it, but nothing extravagant. I had always envisioned seeing this monument, a dream which was not disappointed. The friezes that decorate the outside of this arch are magnificent. Once again, I found myself wistfully wishing that my own country was so dominated by historical markers while I gazed over this city from the top of this wonderful piece of architecture.

After that, we made it to the Louvre, which was the first French palace that I ever approached, but definitely not the last one. After all, the number of French palaces is almost without number. With so many large buildings that can have no other possible purpose, it is no wonder that so many museums are housed in Paris. I remained in the Louvre until it closed, and I focused mainly on sculptures this first time. I saw a lot of Greek sculpture, the Venus de Milo, Nike of Samothrace, wandered through every piece of sculpture I could find, and found myself transfixed before Cupid and Psyche. Something about this piece of artwork simply captivated me. I also did make it to a group of paintings, which included the Mona Lisa (which I found less impressive than the world does), The Raft of Medusa, and Liberty Guiding the People, just to mention a few.

That evening, Laura and I had a mix-up when we tried to regroup, so I continued on the Orsay Museum, which is full of works by pre-impressionists and impressionists. I can still see a painting by Ingres before my mind, which is simply the first of many artists that flitted across my vision that night. I still remember my surprise at seeing two rather large paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec, my joyful relaxation at seeing more works by Degas, an eager fascination with a Van Gogh, my peaceful enjoyment of Monet's light study of Rouen Cathedral. I wish I could vividly remember each and every painting, but I cannot. Memory is like a sieve.

I made it back to the hostel that evening, and the next morning we had to continue on to our next hostel. So, we made it to Gare Lyon and started wandering around. At one point, I asked a Frenchman for directions in English, he made it clear that he did not understand English, but asked if I knew Spanish. Thus, an American got directions from a Frenchman through Spanish. It was quite entertaining. We eventually got where we were going, and then hopped back onto the Paris tube and went to the very heart of the city—the Île de la Cité upon which Notre Dame Cathedral stands.

It was so utterly... majestic, so uniquely impressive. I've seen cathedral after cathedral, church after church ever since I've been here, but the uniqueness of each one never ceases to surprise. I loved the chance to explore the cathedral and then to go up into the two main towers. However, seeing the inside of the bell tower was fabulous, the largest bell being the pinnacle of the journey, which Quasimodo would have rung only on special occasions. ;)

After that, Laura and I grabbed a quick lunch before we went back to the Louvre. I blazed through as much of that museum as possible, knowing that I wouldn't be able to make it back there for some time. To finish it off, I added some more prints and postcards to my collection. We then tried to go back to the Orsay Museum, but had my knowledge of museum hours proved themselves inaccurate. After that, I went back to the Louvre again, discovered that I had displaced my museum pass, and so just grabbed some dinner before grabbing the tube back home.

However, the third and final day proved to be a ridiculously busy day. We started off with some time well spent at the Orsay Museum, and this time I added to my already large number of prints and postcards. Instead of tackling the whole museum again, I stopped by The Spring by Ingres, Manet's Olympia, and The Fifer, also by Manet. After that, I went up and just resolved into quiet contemplation of the impressionist gallery.

From there, we went to the Orangerie Museum, which had eight absolutely magnificent waterlily paintings by Monet, as well as another set of impressionist paintings—and there's a series by Renoir that catches my focus every single time. I can't help but find any of these particular paintings captivating when I lay eyes on them. After that, we went to the Rodin Museum and I got to see the original Gates of Hell as well as all of the pieces of sculpture that it inspired him to create. It was absolutely spectacular. I loved it.

A quick saunter over to Napoleon's Tomb was the next on the agenda, which had the misfortune of taking a while. It was in an area behind a cathedral, one which I actually found unremarkable for a cathedral. After that, it was back on to the tube. Laura then went back to our hostel and I continued on to the Eiffel Tower again and walked up to the second of three stories because it was cheaper, even if my feet were rather upset by the end of it.

After that, I ended my last free time in Paris with a night river tour of the Seine. My time at Eiffel Tower and upon the river truly revealed with this magnificent place is called the City of Lights! It was absolutely gorgeous. It was so enjoyable to simply sit back and listen to the history of the place, even if I cannot remember a word of it now.

The rest of my time was spent stopping by the Gare du Nord to grab some train tickets back to London, and since the best prices were for the earliest train in the morning, we took it and arrived safely back in Grantham.

Despite how much time I spent there, I need at least another week there to see everything I want to in the time that I would like to. So much to see and so little time.

All the World's a Play

My third time to London began with a British Studies field trip on November 7th, with requirements to first stop by St. Paul's Cathedral and then to spend some time at the National Art Gallery. However, the first part of the day left me with an interesting question: is a cathedral still a cathedral if it is more dedicated to remembering people than to remembering Christ?

St. Paul's Cathedral was, without a doubt, the least religious one I have ever set foot in, though the word 'religious' is not quite right. I think the words 'Christ glorifying' might get the point across better. This cathedral was all about celebrating the military exploits of Britain, with a section behind the altarpiece devoted to Americans that died, if I remember correctly, in World War II. I found more references to Admiral Nelson than I did to Christ. It was a glorious cathedral, and I greatly enjoyed going up to the balcony surrounding the outside of the dome and getting a magnificent view of London, but it was difficult to truly find G-d there.

From there, I met up with some friends, and we made a stop at Twinings on our way to Trafalgar Square. I could not resist, I just had to get some tea and a couple gifts.

Now for one of the most amazing highlights of my time over here, which still strikes me as quite ludicrously funny. We got to Trafalgar Square, we being Annie, Jon, Bethany, Katie, Leil, and I, and started eating lunch. After a few moments, Katie decided to see if one of the pigeons would take a bite out of her apple while Katie held it in her mouth. I still chuckle when I remember seeing her bent over on the steps in front of the National Art Gallery trying to entice a pigeon to bite a piece out of the apple in her mouth.

Of course, then we started making it even better. We all had raisin packets in our sack lunches. Using this resource, many of us became pigeon whisperers—we started using raisins in our hands to get pigeons to land in them or on our arms. We had such a blast! I had two or three on my right arm at one point in time... of course, this was a motif of the day—my friend Ana had actually caught one before we went into St. Paul's Cathedral.

Then, once we finished having our fun, we found a sign just a few yards behind us.... One that said there is a possible 500 pound fine for feeding pigeons at Trafalgar Square.... Lucky that there weren't any police around, eh?

After that, we finally made it to the National Art Gallery, and they have quite a few phenomenal paintings, but it was my second trip, so I focused on the pictures I wanted to see more than trying to cover everything, which for me means focusing on paintings from around the impressionist period. I enjoyed myself. From there, it was off to see War Horse, which was an absolutely fantastic play. They puppetry of the horses was astounding it was just a wonderful story.

The next day, Laura and I remained because we had made plans to see Les Miserables. So, we had a good, lazy sort of day. We walked along the Thames River, passing by the Globe, and eventually stopped at the London Eye. When we got on, it was pretty cloudy, but by the time we had made it to the top, the sun was shining bright and the rain had already made its escape. It was a splendid day.

Les Miserables was simply breath-taking. The actor who played Jean Valjean had a magnificent tenor—very clear and distinct. I also greatly appreciated the differences between the play, novel, and movie that I've seen. I like how Eponine is portrayed in the play. A lot. Overall, it was just marvelous, simply marvelous.

The next morning, all we did was return to Grantham since I had a volleyball game that afternoon.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


As I sit here alone in a hotel room, I find myself once again contemplating the reason why we celebrate the holidays.

The easy answer is that we celebrate it in honor of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. However, it is most highly unlikely that we celebrate his birth anywhere near the right day of the year. Don't get me wrong, I still celebrate it and love it for that reason. But I can't help but think it is something... more, that celebrating his birth is the starting point at this time of the year.

I was just contemplating this season and a sudden revelation struck me. I really don't care about getting even a single present under the tree. I mean, let's face it, we all have our lists of things we would like to receive and such, but this year I would much rather walk in on Christmas morning and watch the surprise and happiness light up the faces of my family rather than anything else. I know it's because of this semester and how incredibly blessed I've been with everywhere I've been and the things that I have seen, but all I want is to be home for Christmas, and I absolutely can't wait.

So, may all of you have a happy Christmas (as they say here in Britain), and remember the reason for the season. Celebrate our Lord's birth joyously and treasure every moment with your family and friends. After all, it isn't the season to be first, but to put yourself last. <3

Sunday, November 16, 2008

From the Haunts of William Wallace

Making it to Scotland was a fun adventure in and of itself. Just watching the English countryside roll by as we made our way north was so enjoyable. I especially loved it when our train started following the east coast since I got to watch the waves wage their inexhaustible war against the land. It was a wonderful sight to behold as we passed into this country that has become so dear to my heart, or at least its northern portion has.

The time I spent in Edinburgh was fairly brief and only lasted for the part of Friday that we were there for, starting around eleven. Finding our hostel was a fascinating challenge since I had never received the e-mail that told us where we were staying, but Jaci and I found the tour company that we had booked with and got it all straightened out. After that, we really just walked around the city. The only thing that really peaked my interest was King Arthur's Seat, and it was too late in the day to try and begin to climb it. So instead, we just walked around for a while and enjoyed the wonderful architecture of the city while shopping for souvenirs and gifts. Overall, it was quite the enjoyable afternoon evening. I wouldn't mind making it back, but a day or two would be more than sufficient for me there.

But. Then came my favorite part of the trip. The next morning, we left bright and early for a two day Scottish Highlands tour and I consequently fell in love with the place.

What words can I use to describe it? Even if a picture is a thousand words and you count the couple hundred or so that I took, the novel still would not begin to state what a wondrous place this was and the magic that it worked upon me. I fell in love with the landscape, drawn to it like Odysseus to the siren's call.

The first morning we stopped by to see a specimen of the Highland cattle; the name of the species escapes me at the moment. The stop was brief before we drove into the Highlands. It was so completely breath-taking that I can even feel it as I write this, weeks later.
The lochs that we passed through that morning were like glass, reflecting the magnificent landscape surrounding us like a mirror. The crags enclosing us on every side; the beautiful pine tree forests with their myriad and riots of color; the distant mix of gold, brown, and gray on the mountain slopes; all of it just completely overwhelmed me, heart and soul. If there was ever a place that I felt G-d's peace and his simplistic joy, it was here. It was here where the entire land looked as if G-d had dragged his fingertips along the ground, creating lochs, glens, straits, and mountains at his own pleasure.

What made it all the more enjoyable were the many stories that our guide had in store for us. We heard stories about Rob Roy, William Wallace, the many different clan wars, everything you could imagine--including the filming of Braveheart and how our guide supposedly took Mel Gibson's wife out bowling (I learned to take a lot of his stories with a grain of salt--ask me for 'em some time, I have plenty notes down to do a decent retelling :).

Our path was winding and twisted but it was a blast. After we stopped by Fort William (and were recommended that going through Fort William by rail takes you through some of the most magnificent scenery in the world, as if it could get any better than what we had!), we actually stopped by the location of the Harry Potter bridge because one of our tour members (the young enigmatic school teacher's assistant from London) wanted to see it. We ended our day by settling down in a hostel in Inverness after making one more impressive stop.

Seeing Loch Ness was such a fun experience. This loch, enclosed on all sides by mountainous terrain, was so long that it looked like air and sky met from where I was standing. And to hear the stories! Apparently, it isn't just Loch Ness that has its fair stories of hidden, lurking creatures. It's common, even to this day, to hear of fisherman with stories of dark shadows, unknown creatures moving across the lochs, especially the ones that are off the beaten track.
To finish the evening off, we went and grabbed some wonderful Thai food at a traditional Scottish pub (yeah, odd mix, right?) and enjoyed a wonderful night of music. I absolutely adored Abigail Gray, the folk music band that played some absolutely beautiful music. The heavy rock band that followed it was enjoyable, but they really weren't that good. I just enjoyed feeling the bass vibrating the entire building.

From there, we continued driving through the Scottish Highlands for a bit longer before making a quick stop at a place where one of Scotland's many rebellions first started. I believe this one was Kett's rebellion, the final result being that the Highlanders were once again defeated and the English made it illegal for them to carry claymores or wear kilts. However, it was really cool to see how inaccessible the Highlands were until the last couple hundred years or so. I can easily understand why it was so difficult to stop the Highlanders from rebelling constantly.

After stopping there, we continued on to St. Andrew's, the birthplace of golf. It was a fun stop for a couple hours and I got a chance to pick up, as usual, a couple of books by Scottish authors, this time choosing The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle as well as Ivanhoe by Walter Scott. But just before we left, I got a chance to stop on the beach for a moment, the beach where the opening scene of Chariots of Fire was filmed.

Then we got back to Edinburgh pretty late that evening, but it had been a good weekend. So, Jaci and I dropped our stuff off at our hostel before going to grab dinner with the group one last time--and it was so much fun. I can't really remember their names (let's face it, our group talked but really didn't use each others names that often--I guess we figured we'd only know each other for a couple of days). I had a chance to try a little bit of Haggis and have decided that I actually like it and also discovered that my favorite Scottish whiskey is MacAllen 10. All in all, it was a wonderful evening to end a wonderful trip. We listened to live music, chatted, hung out, and then Jaci and I grabbed a very early train the next morning back to Grantham.

I am going to make it back to the Highlands of Scotland. End of story. Part of me is still there, exploring the hills, mountains, lochs, glens, and straits. I'll just have to go back and get that part. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Beautiful Day in Cambridge

This post is going to be pretty short since I really only spent a day in Cambridge, but it was an absolutely beautiful day.

From the beginning, my quest was to find a copy of Lyrical Ballads by Coleridge and Wordsworth since that was where the two poets would have first crossed paths. But it was a wonderful day exploring the city with my friends Brian, Jordan, Amy, Amanda, and Lindsay. We had a fun time exploring the town and walking around. When we made it to the outside of King's College, I was entertained because everyone was stopped looking at a clock in the window across the street from the college instead of at the college. Now, it was a truly impressive watch that appeared to have a grasshopper making it move slowly and surely, but it still made me want to laugh at the irony of it. :)

The only real stop that I made was at King's College Chapel. However, since no one else wanted to pay for the entrance fee, I went in alone. I must say that I found the inside of the place absolutely astounding. Out of all the many churches and cathedrals I've seen during my time here, this one was completely unique, and I loved the beautiful and luminous atmosphere that its Gothic architecture created.

Overall, It was an absolutely beautiful city and the architecture was phenomenal. My pictures keep a better account of what I saw than any amount of words could.

On my way back to join up with the group, I finally found the bookstore that I had been looking for the entire time and picked up Lyrical Ballads as well as three books by P.G. Wodehouse since they were on sale, three for two. It was a lucky find since I actually headed to the wrong marketplace on my way to meet up with the rest of the group, though I did love the little artistic market that accidentally discovered. It was full of wonderful unique works of art and I loved the chance to glance through it.

After realizing my mistake, I headed to the correct market and found met the group on the way. The most entertaining experience (of perhaps the entire day) was with an Englishman that was high. He was going on about how he loved the South and was talking about all of the stereotypical views of the South (and seemed stuck in the Civil War era--he entertained me, a lot).

On the way to catch the train at the station, we took a really scenic route back to the station, first following the river along the backside of a few colleges and eventually walked by the botanical gardens and finally made it, just in time to catch the later train that I had scouted out. It was definitely a wonderful day and I got to see enough of Cambridge to satisfy me. Who knows where I'll end up next?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Unfortunately Effective Suffolk Workhouse and Beautiful Belvoir Castle

On October twenty second, I had the opportunity to see excellent examples of the extremes of Victorian England. With the Suffolk Workhouse epitomizing the aristocratic solution to the "Victorian problem" and Belvoir (pronounced "Beaver") Castle epitomizing the opulence of the extravagant lifestyle of the upper class.

Because of the uninhibited drive to create a large amount of profit quickly through Britain's unique start into the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, the poor conditions and payment of the workers resulted in a large problem soon after. Not only were many families unable to support themselves with the meager money that they earned, but many of the workers were permanently disabled because of workplace accidents.

The solution to this problem came in the form of places such as the Suffolk Workhouse. At the workhouse, not only were families divided, children with children, men with men, and women with women, but the healthy were also divided from the infirm or disabled. Families were only allowed to see each other for an hour on Sundays and the smallest infraction against the rules could result in this privilege being revoked.

The building was not designed to remain warm during the winter and the working conditions in the cellar, where women would take care of the food preparation and storage. Just looking in the cellar, it is possible to see the erosion caused by the water that would have been freezing and up to the knees of the women working down their in the winter, with their dresses slowly soaking up the water the entire time. The men, however, were required to keep hard at working cracking large stones into smaller pieces to be used for pavement. These places were designed to discourage use and children were separated from their families because it was thought that the parents were stuck in such a low position because of their own faults.

Overall, this austere building revealed these attitudes toward the poor and the deplorable conditions that they were forced to live in. Just a short drive from this place is where one can find the ostentatious Belvoir Castle.

In the same way that all Victorian architecture tended to mimic a variety of classical styles, and even the Elizabethan copy of classical style. Because of this, the fourth iteration of Belvoir Castle was created in the image of a fairy tale castle at the request of the then current duke's wife. Even though the work was not completed until after her death, this castle remains an impressive monument to the aristocratic ideals of the day.

But, like all manors and castles created during this time, the area inhabited by the high society family was completely separated from the areas that the servants lived and worked in. Throughout the day, the only servants that should ever step foot in the state rooms would be the maids keeping it clean and the butler. All of the servants were supposed to be out of sight and out of mind.

However, this does not detract from the beautiful rooms of this castle, which is still inhabited by the Rutland family to this day, though the ornate state rooms are rarely used except for being exhibited through tours. Although, it is possible to rent the rooms for an evening, as long as one is willing to pay 3,000 dollars per person per night; after all, that's the price that one pays to spend the evening in the same room as royalty and some of the most famous figures of today, such as John Lennon.

All in all, it was a wonderful day and Belvoir Castle truly was like a fairy tale come to life with the richly ornate state rooms and the decorative use of the remaining old weaponry. I have the distinct impression that my time here will have an indelible effect on my design tendencies. Not that I will be inclined to be ornate when it comes time to design my own house, but some of the characteristics of Belvoir Castle and Harlaxton Manor will be making a reappearance.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Musings of a Saddened Mind

What am I supposed to do, in light of receiving condemnation for all the traits and qualities that I hold dear? Am I supposed to turn over and accept the condemnations to my character and immediately agree, accepting only one person's view of Christianity? I cannot. I must not. I will not.

I've been told that the United States Constitution is subservient to law--the complete inverse of this government's foundations. I've been told that it is not possible for a godly person to vote for Obama. I've been told that McCain is the only godly choice and condemned for considering that Obama could further the Kingdom of G-d.

I supported McCain.

I'm tired of being slammed against the wall by those determined to teach me the error of my ways. I'm tired of being told that my simple faith in G-d is not good enough. I'm tired of people claiming that I called them names when I only discuss their arguments. I'm tired of people's ignorance of their own government. I'm just..... tired of having to defend myself against those who should give me unwavering support.

I'm tired of friendship not ringing true.

For those of you who have supported me, who do support me, who are willing to quietly listen to what I think without taking arms against me, I thank you. I miss you. I can't wait to see you again. I can't help but think that those of you I count in that number are small indeed but worth all the treasure in the world.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Fading Echoes of Music

What a wonderful place this is! Even though I know that I will be easily glad to leave here and make it home, the sheer wonder of this place will remain with me many years. This evening, a pianist from Bolivia came and played some absolutely beautiful pieces of music. She specialized in music written by female composers, but the big deal is that one of the composers (Violet van der Elst) owned this manor for about 15 years and this was the first time her compositions had been played here since she vacated the manor.

Sitting in the Great Hall and listening to the wonderful music resonating off of the walls of this beautiful two-storied room was just absolutely phenomenal. The piano was on the wooden dais located at one end of the hall and was accented by the light and plants that sparsely, but adequately, decorated the area around it. The ceiling arching overhead and the tapestry hanging on the wall behind the pianist, it felt like a scene out of a Jane Austen novel. It was wonderful.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

From the Shores of Éire

The adventures of being here seem to go on without ending, from the beautiful lands of country after country. However. There was just something about Ireland.... the beautiful shores, the wonderful inland channels, the gorgeous hillsides overrunning with the multi-colored green landscapes. I fell in love. I might even try to make it back one more time and see the northwest since my trip focused on the southeast.

I arrived in Dublin fairly late on Wednesday night of October first, and even though I split off from Chelsea and Safire (who I went with), I found another group that was coincidentally spending their first night at the same hostel I was before leaving for Galway the next day. So, Paige, Devin, Kent, Jake, and I all went out for a little that evening and just walked around for a while before finally stopping at a bar and grabbing a couple of drinks (I had a Bulmer for the first time and discovered my taste for the cider). We got back around two in the morning and I didn't see those guys the rest of the trip.

The next day, I first tried to meet up with Chelsea and Safire, but after waiting from eleven to twelve (I think that was it--I know I waited until an hour after they were supposed to arrive). Since I didn't find them, I grabbed a spot on the hop on/hop off tour that went around to all of the major spots in Dublin and, after taking it almost a full circuit, went to the National Gallery. I discovered that I really like Thomas Gainsborough's work and that Thomas Roberts is a god of landscape painters. But then again, maybe he just had some of the most beautiful countryside to paint from.

After that, I tried to go see Dublin Castle, but was disappointed to find that it had been pretty much consumed by the city. However, while I was there, I randomly came across Chelsea and Safire exiting from a revenue museum.... It was completely random and there was no one else on the street, so it was just one of those cosmic coincidences. We then grabbed a quick bit before going together to Christ's Church Cathedral, which was phenomenal. I loved it. On our way back out, we came across another group of Harlaxton students--this one was comprised of Jaci, Laura, Lea, Will, and Doctor.

I split of from my previous group at that time, since it was late in the evening and they were heading back while the new group was staying at a hostel really close to mine. Interestingly enough, I had only booked two nights out of five before I got there and then booked the last three at their hostel. That evening, we all went to a pub and I grabbed a quick meal while they got something to drink and then continued on to go see a film that I had been wanting to see: Death Race. Honestly, it was better than I thought it was going to be, and now I'm going to need to buy it 'cause it will always remind me of Dublin and my first trip to Ireland.

The next morning, I meant to make it to the National Museum, but the hostel didn't give me the wake-up call that they said they would (figures). So, after making it to the area where I was going to meet Chelsea and Safire, I just grabbed a couple books, which were Dracula by Bram Stoker and Gulliver's Travels by Jonathon Swift. Ya'll can surely guess that I like to collect books from the places where authors were born, and Stoker and Swift were both Dubliners. After that, we stopped by the Guinness Brewery for a tour, and though I decided, once and for all, that I just don't like the taste of Guinness, I did find the tour fascinating and enjoyed seeing the process of brewing beer.

We then went to Kilmainham Gaol, which was a political prison and had some significant films created there as well since it has not been used for a while. Then I took off and made it to the Old Jameson Distillery on my own, just in time for the last tour. The cool thing about this stop is that I was one of the lucky few chosen to take part in a whiskey taste-testing. That means that, on my first time to try whiskey, I got to try a Scottish one (I can't remember the brand for this one), an Irish one (Jameson), and an American one (Jack Daniel's!). I decided that I liked both Jack and Jameson. Also, though I do like them alone, I prefer them as mixed drinks, typically with coke. But yeah. I like whiskey. :)

The next day, I made a slightly expensive trip that got off to a rocky start, but it was really cool. I was supposed to catch a 7:00 train to Cork, but I barely missed it (by 23 seconds) because, twenty minutes earlier, I had barely missed the right tram service to the train station. Luckily, someone else had the same problem, which was how I met Anthony. How is the best way to describe this guy? He was a nice guy that likes to get drunk, take drugs, and pretty much everything that goes along with those two. He also had a rather hippie perspective on life and was very opinionated. However, he also spends half of his life traveling because he works for six months and then goes and spends all of his money traveling.

Anyway, once we made it to to Cork, we had to go catch up with the tour group that was already in Blarney Village. Cool part? They said the taxi was going to cost 50 euros total to get from the Cork train station to the village, but it ended up being less that 17. So, with my student discount, I still paid less for the tour than full price. So once in Blarney, I went to the castle and kissed the famous Blarney Stone, which apparently means that I am now going to be eloquent for the rest of my life. We then also had an extremely short stop at the famous Woolen Mill, though there was just enough time to look around before taking off.

From there, we took a coach tour of Cork, a big, southern port city of Ireland, and ended up in Cobh. Now, here's what I absolutely loved about Cobh. First off, which is rather important for its history, it has been known by three names: Cove, Queenstown, and Cobh (which is the Gaelic spelling for Cove). When it was named Queenstown, the Titanic made it's last stop there before heading to its doom. I love the story of the Titanic. There was a cool little museum that we stopped at, as well as a cathedral towering on a hill over the docks. However, I found this absolutely gorgeous print there of the Titanic, and though it was pricey, I just had to have it. Luckily, they gave me a nice tube to keep it in until I get it back from overseas.

On the last full day, I went with Chelsea and Safire to a little fishing village by the name of Howth. It was wonderful. For the first time, I really got to get a full breath of the salt air into my lungs. This quaint little town was just cool and I loved it. The beach was nice, and the three piers were awesome. I found myself just sitting on one of the piers while watching the huge waves crashing up the side as the sailing boats tried to make headway against the fierce wind that was blowing into the harbor. Overall, it was just a beautiful, tranquil day.

The next morning, before I caught the coach to the airport, I was able to stop by St. Patrick's Cathedral, which contained the tomb of Jonathon Swift. The coolest part? I got to watch and listen to Sung Matins. Also, I was able to squeeze in a stop by Trinity College, which has become fairly well-known, you might say. So, overall, I'd say that I had a phenomenal and busy time. Oh, and if you did the math and are wondering why I got back to Grantham late Monday afternoon, I have a logical answer: I skipped my Monday classes. :)

Here are some brief impressions that I jotted down about Ireland as I was going through it:

Wide green fields, changing slowly and displaying a myriad of green. Sheep-cleared fields, populated by herdsmen, cows.

Sinking tombstones, buried in water, moss, gravel, and slowly overtaking grass of many green colors.

Cart path--GREEN--two ruts on the side with extremely tall embankments on either side.

Scattered houses and farm buildings, surrounded by grazing and farming lands. Fields are lighter in color, almost tan, but still green for the hay fields, but an almost uniform, deep green for grazing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Coventry and Trudging the Streets of Stratford-Upon-Avon

Our first stop of the day, which was September 27th, was a fairly brief lunch stop at the cathedral in Coventry. The old one that was first created in 1043, founded by Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and his wife Godiva, and it remained more or less intact (despite the dissolution of the monasteries, which did destroy a lot of monasteries and cathedrals) for many years. However, in 1940, the old cathedral was destroyed when the Luftwaffe bombed Coventry.

The ruins of the old cathedral have been preserved, with mainly just the walls and the spire still standing. In 1956, the city started laying the foundation for the new cathedral, having decided to rebuild the morning after the bombing. Though it is not the most impressive design I've ever seen, I enjoyed the stop. It is really cool seeing the old and the new right next to each other, almost co-existing. Pictures are to come.

Then we made it to Stratford.

I can't begin to describe what it felt like to walk into that place. There was just something in the air. Now, I am sure all of it was in my mind, but to know that I was walking the streets of the town where Shakespeare was born, where he grew up, where he married... it was all just way too cool.

The first place me and my friends went (a group of Laura Summers, Adam Dirker, and another girl whose name will come to me--I want to say Marissa) was to Shakespeare's Birthplace, the house still standing as it did so many years ago. I walked through that place, enjoying the sites of where Shakespeare would have slept, the workings of his father's glove making trade. It was just really cool. This place then shows up again later.

The next place that we headed off to was the distant location of Anne Hathaway's house (which was a decent haul from the center of town). It was a beautiful little cottage. It was what I had always imagined as the picturesque thatched roof cottage. Unfortunately, we didn't go in (to see everything, we didn't really have the time and it would have cost more money than the ticket that the school trip had provided us with), but I got to see the outside of it pretty well and the gardens surrounding it, so I was satisfied.

From there, we headed back into town to see Hall's Croft. This is the place where Shakespeare's daughter and her husband lived. It was a really cool house, and apparently the husband (Dr. John Hall) was an excellent physician and had some treatments that were controversial at the time but were correct by modern practices. Who would've thought? He also kept good records of all his patients and the treatments he used, which had one of the typical, dastardly long titles of the period.

Anyway, I then trudged up to New Place on mine own, which is where Shakespeare's house once stood, but it is now commemorated by a beautiful little garden instead. The house next to it, Nash's House, is named after and was owned by Shakespeare's granddaughter's husband, Thomas Nash. This was a pretty nice little place, and I really did enjoy the gardens that were small but had wonderful and color-coordinated patterns. Nash's House was also an excellent example of a typical (if slightly more expensive) house of the time.

After that, I decided to go back to a bookstore that I had noticed across from Shakespeare's birthplace. I walked in, and I saw a couple things that just caught my eye. There was this absolutely gorgeous copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets in a medium-sized leather hardback. I fell in love with it. Unfortunately, there was also an excellent deal on getting twelve of Shakespeare's plays.... so, let's just say I considerably added to my library a lot of Shakespeare's works that I didn't own before and were bought literally right across the street from his birthplace. It made me pretty happy. :)

I've also realized, yet again, that books are my greatest weakness. I just can't get enough of them.

After that, I went with the entire rest of the school and we saw The Merchant of Venice, performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. The acting was pretty darn impressive and I really enjoyed watching it (even if I was in the nosebleed section :). However, maybe it was just a result of them having the usual theatre under renovation, but I just didn't think that the set design and the costume design was as good as it could have been. But, overall, I did enjoy the show. It was definitely a good weekend.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Scratchings of an Exhuasted Mind's Thoughts

Day turns in upon day,
Moment upon moment.
The steady, cyclical flow
Of time continues onward.
The future becomes the past
and the long-forgotten past
returns once more.


God never ceases to surprise me. I look back at my life, and I see unbelievable coincidence following unbelievable coincidence, and I can't help but realize how inexplicably blessed I am, how overwhelmingly attentive God is to my life and to my needs.

I finally realized, truly understand, why the Bible seems to be so distant and inapplicable sometimes. It isn't because it is that way. In fact, it is the most practical and informative piece I have ever read. The parts of life that have no precise advice in the Word are the parts when our actions define us, create us, mold us.

God is not insufficient in anything he does; on the contrary, he gives just enough me information and provides me with what I need when I need it. Lovingly, he has never allowed me escape from the consequences of my actions, shaping me and molding me, this oh-so-imperfect lump of clay, more into the figure and form he wants me to take.

God. Mold on.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Pilgrimage: From Grantham through London to Canterbury

What does it mean to Pilgrimage? Is this a medieval phenomenon that cannot be repeated by those of us that go today? Is it negated by not slowly going on foot from one place to a distant other? I am not sure, but I do know that I found myself making my own pilgrimage, in mine own way. And God met me there.

So. The start of this wonderful journey began with a rail trip to London on Friday morning, September 19th, where I was able to make it into the most phenomenal performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream that I have ever seen--and it was in the Globe Theatre. It was definitely lucky. The show was already all sold out, but since tickets are often returned, I waited in line and eventually gained the second to last ticket available. It was amazing. The changes between the fairy world and the waking one was done so well, and the play within the play impressed me most of all. I loved how well that part was done and how the rest of the characters became part of the audience so easily. It was... magical.

Afterward, my friend Emily and I went to a quaint, old bookstore. While I was there, I absolutely fell in love with a book of short stories by Rudyard Kipling published in '72. I also found a good deal on a three-in-one star wars book, so I had to take it, thus beginning the small library that I put together over the course of the weekend. I've realized that my love of books has stronger pull over me than I over it....

Anyway, after dinner and a nice theological conversation with my friend, we eventually made it to the hostel where we spent both evenings on the trip. It was not exactly my favorite place ever, but I had a bed and got to sleep, despite some confusion of which bed was mine.

So, the next morning I began the final stage of my pilgrimage. We hopped onto the first train into West Canterbury station and sat back for a fairly long trip, on which I was thankful to have just bought my new star wars book. So, once we finally arrived, I stood out on that street and was just overwhelmed with thought. I was standing in the town where Thomas Becket was martyred, the place of perhaps the most amazing story of dedication to the church that I have heard.

Soon after stopping by Costa Coffee to grab a muffin and some hot chocolate, we made it to Canterbury Cathedral, and split up pretty much immediately. The moment I walked into the cathedral complex, I found myself standing there in awe staring at it. In so many ways it could have been considered just another cathedral in another town, but there was just something about it. Each one speaks to me. In this one, through this one, God spoke to me. Clearly. I cannot describe it, and it left me at a loss for words even then. I lit three different candles, one at each of the places available. One in the area where Thomas Becket fell, one in the crypt, and one at the end of the nave where his shrine once stood. God was there. I met him in a cathedral, a huge monument standing for His glory. Oh yes, I also bought a copy of the Canterbury Tales at the shop within, finding myself unable to resist its pull.

From there, I alone then went to the remains of the Augustinian Monastery, another amazing place. Likely the birthplace of Christianity and England, and consequently for America, this monastery is the place that At. Augustine established while on his missionary journey to Britain. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and the moment I got there, I just wanted to sit and relax, drinking in the sun, the wind, and the area. I felt like the area was exuding peace, saturated in it. The couple of hours or so I spent there was far too short for so wonderful a place. I drank in the remains of the cathedral, the crypt, the cloister, and the chapter house. I turned my back on the place and left regretfully. It was wonderful.

Yet again, another two and a half hour train ride back to London and then a quick stop for dinner, we made it back to the hostel for the evening. Unfortunately, our morning plans were dashed. We made it to Westminster just in time for the eleven O'clock service, and just in time to hear that they were having a special service in honor of those that served for the military. So, we continued onward to Trafalgar Square, and though it was initially closed, we walked around and returned to Waterstone's Bookstore.

After grabbing a quick, inexpensive meal at Costa inside, I made my exit toward the National Gallery, but not before grabbing a copy of Brisingr, the third book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, for an amazing price. The National Gallery was amazing--I got to see so many pictures by so many artists that I cannot begin to number them. I saw works by Constable, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, and Turner, only to mention a few of my favorites. I escaped with only a couple of prints dangling at my side, as I turned to make it home. It was a good trip.

I completed a pilgrimage to a place that so often received pilgrims in the past. I left a piece of me in that place, but I feel like I brought back within me something so much more.


Sunday, September 21, 2008


Life is so indefinable, so elusive, so... unique. After so many centuries on this globe, each person continues to defy close similarity to another. New inventions are created, ideas transform, mold, continue to grow--organisms of their own. I wish that the country of America was not without lasting edifices to display and encapsulate the flow and change of ancient history.

So. This past Wednesday, my British Studies class (and everyone else's at this college--which means that all 172 students were there) made a trip to the beautiful town of Lincoln, and the day was divided into four parts.

It fell to my lot, that first fourth of the day, to just explore the town. And quite a town it was. We went down steep hill (which is definitely the steepest street I've ever seen). We made it by Jew House (which, incidentally, became famous because Jews were killed after being blamed for killing a young man that they did not kill). From that point on, we continued down to the river where my group found the most amazing swans. These swans were vicious. People were throwing bread in the river, and those swans were going at it. I mean, if I needed to fight a war, I'd want a single regiment of these swans. And I'd be sure of victory. And oh yes, the final most exciting thing that I found: The Green Dragon (definite reference to The Lord of the Rings!) as well as the The Witch and the Wardrobe (obviously C. S. Lewis). These events made my day phenomenal.

During the next fourth of the day, I got the wonderful chance to explore a castle that was almost entirely in tact. It had been used as a prison almost continually until about a hundred years ago. And all of the walls were still standing, more or less intact. And we had the most phenomenal guide! At least, we did after we were halfway through the Magna Carta exhibit (the real copy of which was not on display--though, cool story, this one of 41 copies of the original was randomly found within the library of the Cathedral several hundred years after it was put there). So, our new guide walked in and showed us everything. We went through the main tower where they hanged prisoners for many years. In fact, apparently the first jerk-drop sort of hanging was first used there to kill prisoners.

After a very quick lunch (because my group chose to let our castle tour continue onward into our lunch hour until it was fully completed), I moved on to the Cathedral. And it was gorgeous. This impressive Cathedral showed many different types of Architecture, starting with the Romanesque style of the Normans and later additions (because of an earthquake and additions) in the Gothic and Perpendicular Gothic styles. It was gorgeous, with three beautiful towers looking down upon the beautiful cross-shaped structure. I found myself very overawed by this place once more. I have officially decided that I absolutely love cathedrals.

After the slow, wonderful tour of the cathedral, our group finished the last fourth of the day with a brief tour of most of the Roman remains scattered throughout the town. It is so odd to realize that the level of the town streets had raised about ten to fifteen feet. It is really truly astounding. Perhaps the most poignant example of this is the Newport Arch. This arch is still in use--cars still pass beneath it. That means that this former gateway to Roman Lindon Colonia was extremely tall, considering the rise of street level since then. The remains of the Roman forum, the sewer system, and the water storage system were all quite impressive.

And that ends my trip to Lincoln on Wednesday, September 17th. It was.... beautiful beyond words. Life on this side of the pond continues to amaze, astound, and dazzle.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

From Where You Are

by Lifehouse

So far away from where you are
These miles have torn us world's apart
And I miss you
Yeah, I miss you

So far away from where you are
I'm standing underneath the stars
And I wish you were here

So far away from where you are
These miles have torn us world's apart
And I miss you
Yeah, I miss you
And I wish you were here


I miss so many of you all.
You know who you are. :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Of Legends and Myths

What is it within us that thirsts for belief in those mythical figures of the past? Why do we desire to hear the glorious tales of King Arthur, the legendary exploits of William Wallace, and even the mythical deeds of Robin Hood? I doubt we'll ever know.

But, I will be frankly honest, it is the desire to see the place where Robin Hood resided, to walk the streets of this place that held such close ties with this mythical figure. And there was something about it, something to intangible to define, that touched me. I know that at some time this past Saturday, I must have matched steps with this inspiring person.

Of course, I know that this left me with expectations that Nottingham failed to meet. The town was absolutely gorgeous--with ornate architecture adorning every building and much of it older than my own country. But, I was suprised to find it so commercial. I guess what surprised me is that it was not a large tourist place at all; in fact, it was mainly the commercial hub of the surrounding towns, a place for locals to congregate.

That doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy myself, though. My group consisted of two of my latest friends (Kelly and Emily) and we had a blast walking around the city. We soon found the walls of the castle ruins with an inn that claimed to have been around since the crusades lying at the bottom. From there we went and saw the Robin Hood statue before making our way to the castle entrance, the gatehouse being the only true remaining piece of the castle. We explored the extremely knew (at least, in comparison with everything else I have seen since I have been here) grounds and had a good time.

From there, we went to see St. Peter's Church, and it was just magnificent. A church had stood on that spot for over a thousand church, the builidng that we saw having parts dating almost 600 years old. My group handled my desire to find a book fairly well--but I was rather disappointed when I found it impossible to find a fictional book of Robin Hood that wasn't in the kid's section. The bookstore said there was a classic book about the tales of Robin Hood, but that they didn't carry it (seriously--Nottingham doesn't carry Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood?).

From there, we eventually made it to St Mary's Church, just in time to hear a wedding going on inside and hear the wedding bells go off. It was wonderful, until the priest came to the side door, and without saying a word to us, shut the door in our faces.... I have to admit, that was a first in my life. But I guess you just have to take life's fickle changes one by one. Overall, it was a good day, albiet a long one.

And it did not just end with our trip to Nottingham. That evening, Emily and I headed over to The Gregory pub that is just across the street from Harlaxton's mile long driveway and each had an... interesting beer. Grouse was in the middle of the name, and it was served flat and warm, English style. But what was the most phenomenal part of that evening was not the drinks, or even the location, but the Englishwomen and her Portuguese friend that sat at our outside table shortly after we sat down. It was a wonderful experience. Emma, the Englishwomen in her early thirties, actually works at the Gregory most days and is from the Grantham area, while her friend Patricia is about the same age and spoke in a noticable English accent. Both of them were smoking, and apparently they had made it halfway through the 20 plus beers that the Gregory was serving temporarily for a summer festival.

It was so enjoyable to just get to chat and hear a decidedly British perspective on the Harlaxton students, travelling around the area, and even getting information on the best places to go to in Portugal. They were also a tad tipsy, and that just made the conversation all the more entertaining. Oh yes, this evening also marked my third finished alcoholic beverage since I have turned 21. All in all, it was definitely a good evening. Who can say what is going to be next around the river bend?

For Nottingham pictures:

But you know what amazes me most? Every semester, God is faithful to place friends into my life. Every season it is the same. Though my group of friends is dynamic while I'm here at school, I know that I will always settle into the place he has designated for me by the time all is said and done. God is good all the time, nu?

Monday, September 8, 2008

London Town

How does one begin to talk of travels? Of sights, of sonance, of things experienced and learned? It's almost like trying to bottle time. But, perhaps, I can succeed in at least not making a mess of it.

With my arrival in London, I was first driven around this beautiful city and found many of my pre-imaginings to be false, unreal. Thus, as soon as I tossed the little luggage I had into my hotel room, promising myself to make it even less in the future, I immediately came back down and met my friends Chelsea, Kaitlin, and Safire and off we went to the closest underground station.

After a little luck, I succeeded in getting my rail card linked to my oyster card (which is the most convenient way to travel the underground) and off we went to Kensington Gardens. London has all these gorgeous gardens scattered all around and even though I could not quite put my finger on it, I found this garden to be wonderful. We started around the pond after spending some time in the first fountain area and discovered a statue of Peter Pan as well as this random, intricate, bordering on gaudy, memorial.

Continuing onward, we made it back to the underground after passing through a few embassies (including those of Japan and the Czech Republic). From there, we continued on to the British Museum. It was... beautiful. I loved seeing the Parthenon exhibit and many of the ancient texts. However, despite being open until 8:30 on that evening, most of the exhibits did close early, so that I was not able to see many exhibits at all. But, I got to see the Rosetta Stone, as well as some drawings (including some by George Bellows that were amazing). Then I walked into this gorgeous room so full of artifacts that I had to make my way through at a fair pace--it was just too much in one room. I think one of my favorites was the world atlas made of at least 118 thick books (at least, that was the highest number I found).

After we eventually got out and found dinner at a thai place (my group having swelled some in size and having decided to eat wherever they first could find a seat, against my advice of waiting for an London pub), most of us returned back to the hotel in preparation of the long day to follow.

This evening gave me perhaps my strongest lesson in what it means to love. One of my hotel roommates, Lukas, brought up my friend Ana, my now-friend Dusty, and some beer. Well, after some insisting that they were not bothering me, and a break for ice for the drinks, we ending up having a conversation about religion and what it means to believe. This evening was perhaps one of the most touching of my life. All four of us were conversing ernestly, listening to each other, engaging each other. This made it one of the most touching moments of my life. I had a revelation that night: oftentimes we Christians spend so much time trying to convince another person of what is right that we forget to love that person. When did we get caught up in trying to be right when our purpose here is not to convert but to love and talk? That feeling of acceptance that we all shared that evening is something that I will not forget any time soon. I felt it in my gut that what happened that evening was a G-d thing.

So, the next morning started with a bit of walking around and underground traveling. We first made it to Leciester Square too early to get any theatre tickets, so we went ahead to meet the rest of our group at Westminster Abbey.

This place... it over-awed me. Going inside was one of the most phenomenal experiences of my life. I saw graves older than America, memorials innumerous. I saw dedications to Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Keats, Tennyson, Geoffry Chaucer, and even once looked under my seat to find the name Rudyard Kipling. I saw the monument dedicated to Sir Isaac Newton, listened to the boys and men choir sing, saw the most touching dedication to The Unknown Soldier (to be buried in Westminster Abbey alongside the names of the past!). In short, I found the place to awe inspiring. I may not make it back again this time, but I know that this is a place I will always want to see again and again and again.

Following this, we made a short stop by Cleopatra's Needle, an obelisk from Egypt that stands next to the Thames river. It was pretty cool on its own and I enjoyed getting to see a piece of that country so far from its original place.

After this excursion, we went back to Leciester Square again (this time finding theatre tickets too expensive for our group) and grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at a nice little Italian place, the group then kind of just scattered. One went straight back to the hotel while the rest of us played around with the idea of getting a movie ticket before I split off on my own.

Though it was a tad lonely at first, in many ways it was a relief to break off from the group for a while. There is so little privacy here at Harlaxton that it was nice to be alone and I must admit that I found a member of the group a little... caustic and enjoyed the chance to get away from complaints about traveling (such as not eating when they wanted, having to walk a lot, etc.).

From there, I caught the underground to a point across the river from the Globe Theater and walked over the Millenium Bridge, which actually has an interesting story to it. Though it was structurally sound and safe when first made, it moved too much for the comfort of the pedestrians walking across. Thus, while it was safe, it felt too unsafe and thus required improvements to fix this unfortunate defect.

As soon as I made it to the Globe, I went to the box office and was told that the groundling (pit) tickets were sold out but that I might have the chance to get one if I went outside to a return ticket area. Sure enough, someone there had a groundling ticket to give me, so for five pounds I got to go see "The Merry Wives of Windsor" at the Globe. It was truly a unique experience and I am going to try and catch a least two more productions there. Jutting out from the stage in a large circle was a little walkway and some groundlings were allowed to be inside; and, for both halves of the play, I made it inside of that area and had actors moving all around me. It was such a unique experience that I just loved it.

From there, I walked along the river until I came to Westminster Bridge. However, it was the walk that was such a blast, even though my legs and feet hated me for it afterward. I found this guy playing a cello in a tunnel and it was so amazing that I just wanted to stand there and drink in the sound. It felt so poignant and profound to me, listening to this lone player under a bridge. But, time is always against one. So, as I continued onward while taking pictures of sites along the Thames, I then found what can only be described as a Jamaican rock band. Once again, I paused and soaked in the rhythym and beat before continuing onward.

After a brief encounter with a Chinese guy who was in an exchange program, I continued to the underground near Westminster and made it back to the Holborn stop. Unfortunately, I got a little mixed up on my way back to the hotel and initially went the wrong way, adding ten to fifteen minutes on to my walking time. But I made it and fell into bed exhausted (almost literally).

The next day, on the way back from London, we made a stop by Hampton Court Palace, which had been initially constructed by Lord Chancellor Wolsey. Unfortunately for him, King Henry VIII wanted it, took it, and then it later became the home of William III and Mary II. The palace was phenomenal, albiet slightly eclectic in styles, and its gardens were gorgeous. But, that evening, I was more than glad to finally make it back home and relax for a while. All in all, this weekend had been enlightening, educating, and exhausting.

For pictures from London, here is the link:


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Living... :)

What does it mean to live life to the fullest extent? To breathe in the moment and throw yourself completely into where you are and what you are doing? I get more of an answer each day, from everything I do, everywhere I go.

So, I just had one of the times of my life, and it happened here in jolly England. I danced, and danced, and danced, and even now I can still hear the faint rhythm of the Irish and Scottish country songs and the beat of feet trying to move in unison... (which is saying something because I'm listening to Jon Foreman's Fall EP as I type). There is nothing like the chance to throw yourself into a mess of people all trying to figure out what they're doing. It was phenomenal--despite the gradual yet noticeable decline of people, especially with every break. But I danced until the end. Oh, and have I mentioned that it was held in the Great Hall? Which is a gorgeous, almost three story room. The walls have a fairly intricate wood design and the huuuuge chandelier is amazing and the ceiling has a beautiful plaster design. And.... it's just amazing.

Now I gotta go pack, but I'll make it brief. Moral of the evening: never let anything keep you from experiencing the moment, drinking in every opportunity that reaches you. Find G-d in the moment. He's there waiting. L'chaim.

Cheerio. :)

Monday, September 1, 2008


So... I finally finished Orientation here at Harlaxton and am starting my first day of classes, having finished my 8:30 lecture hour a few moments ago. This place is so amazing and astounding it is almost impossible to put into words.... but I'm going to try.

I'm living in England. And the countryside out here is gorgeous. Now, to give you an idea of where I am, the name of the town is Grantham, where Sir Isaac Newton received his education. We are in South Lincolnshire close to Nottingham. And the bus ride out from London was gorgeous, even though I saw rather little of it due to my lack of sleep during my previous 16.5 hours of travelling (trust me--7.5 hour layovers are not fun :P).

But the manor house is absolutely amazing. I am going to carefully document the entire place with pictures just to give you an idea.... but let's see of I can begin to describe it to you all. I have my lectures for British Studies in the Long Gallery. And if you want a fairly good picture of it, just think Beauty in the Beast. It's a beautiful gold filigreed room shaped in a long rectangle. I then have my British Studies seminar in the Gold room (same sort of decoration but just about a fourth the length of the great hall and a little less wide) which has a beautiful painting and appears to have angels holding the chandelier in the middle of it. I still don't quite know where my Structures class meets, but we are finding each other at the Cedar Staircase (a magnificently filigreed room that I can't begin to describe--I'll just have to post pictures of it) and my fourth class is in the Gold Room again.

I can't begin to emphasize how much of a fairytale this place is. We have a bell that rings every quarter hour and also chimes the hour, there are multiple hidden passageways (though, unfortunately, most of them have been made into emergency exits only). In fact, I can't disagree with the assessment that living here and studying here is almost like living and studying at Hogwarts. You can't get much closer here on earth. Look for the pictures I'll soon be posting. I haven't taken many yet, but I've just been absorbing where I am in the little time I've had to relax so far. But don't worry--they're coming.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Death of a Muse


What is this that clings so hopelessly
To life? why do you refuse to wilt,
Following the slowly dimming embers
Of the fire?

It is time.

It is time to make that final passage;
Even immortals face mortality, and
You, my once most dear muse, must
Now lie beneath the dark seamless veil

This means not that those sweet
Memories will fade, that those bright,
Flickering flames be extinguished.
No, it means that you, O fading
Origin, must finally vanish in smoke.

You graciously visited my poet's dream
More often than I can say; clouding
Truth with chimerical fantasy,
Continuously whispering, spilling out
In endless ink on page after page.

With joy I will treasure the flames that
Remain, memorials of that which once was.
All love and hate, all blame and praise,
Immortalized in swift scratchings on pages
And scraps, yet etched within my mind.

So let the ember dim to dark, sinking
Into the dreams of another; while your
Flame here slips into the deepest dark,
It will burst forth for some other.

It is time.

Your mouth moves in a soundless
Whisper, last words trembling in air.
With a smile dancing across your lips,
You vanish, a muse of mine no more.

Asking for time to decipher the signs...

What is there to know? I'm just another guy trying to figure out what it means to truly love, to truly live, to embrace life to the fullest. If I ever get some answers, I'll let you know. "So live on, / Breathing in every sigh / Hurt and joy / Truly living life to its fullness / Leaving no dream unturned / Or unfulfilled / Live on / Life awaits" -excerpt from "Nostalgia" by me.