Monday, June 28, 2010

The beginning, the end, and some thoughts

As usual, the problem is where to start! I'm taking a much needed break from packing to finally try and catch up on my blog which was temporarily abandoned for my painfully short 2 week backpacking adventure. With so much to say, I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. This could take a while so please bear with me and keep checking back for more stories.

For once, I can legitimately say I was a real backpacker. Somehow, with muscle and will power, I crammed everything into my 1 piece of hand luggage--my loyal North Face backpack. Lilly's last minute "did you pack this" interrogation was also helpful. I don't think I'd ever traveled so light. Almost busting at the seams, I headed to the airport Friday afternoon (June 11th). I met Sydney at the train station and we said our sad, final goodbyes. Luckily she lives in Montreal so I will hopefully find time to visit her. After waving farewell to Sheffield, I trained to Manchester airport and caught my Ryan Air flight to Dublin. Discount airlines are great but don't have the best departure times, so I got into Dublin pretty late but was able to catch a shuttle to the city centre. I walked the rest of the way to Abbey Court, the hostel I stayed in for 3 nights. It was a pretty nice hostel on the Liffey and I shared my room with about 9 other people. Little did I know, however, that one of my roommates would be an insane, self-medicating, alcoholic Irish hairdresser insomniac. Let's just say she made my first night very interesting...

Side note: My blogging stamina is not what it used to be so I'm thinking short spurts might be how things get caught up. Or, if I'm ambitious, I could spend my airport time on Wednesday working. Meh. Oh, did I mention, I'm flying to Chicago on Wednesday!! Craziness

It's so hard to think about my trip when I looking at my final days here and at my half-packed room with an exhausting mixture of sadness and excitement. England and Sheffield especially have definitely come to feel like home even though I've only been here 5 months. On the other hand, that's no chump change and I've spent almost a half a year away from all my wonderful family and friends back home. I've definitely missed people, anniversaries, weddings, and other important things but I wouldn't give up my time in Sheffield for anything. I have had new experiences, good and bad, and made life-long friends that have changed me forever. Although difficult and frustrating at times, I did enjoy my university work as well, and took some modules that have really expanded my education. As with most things though, I will definitely remember the people I met, the people I lived, danced, laughed, cried and traveled with. I will miss 27, although may be not its perpetual dirtiness. Besides people, I am sorry to say goodbye to savory pies and pasties, professors that sound like Harry Potter characters, the controversial fashion choices, dance clubs in the student union, cheap pints and pubs with character, really cheap taxis, TEA!!, people calling me 'love' and saying 'cheers'

Things I'm happy to leave behind: hills, jeggings, mini skirts, English milkshakes, the weather, the pound (and pound coins), plug adapters, food packaging sizes (I go through those tiny peanut butter jars way too fast), risking my life every time I cross the street, house inspections, 24/7 world cup obsession (can only be taken in small doses)

Things I'm excited for (besides people of course): My wardrobe!! No more living out of a suitcase. An actual TV, buses I understand, using my new cooking skills, fresh-water beaches, my bike, Wisconsin dairy products, Netflix, seeing where life takes me...

I can, at the end of it all without hesitation, say I've changed, although only time and reflection can really say how.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

So long junior year!

I can't believe I'm done! My final exam is in the bag and I'm flying free...literally. Well flying at least but not free. I wish. It is somewhat surreal completing my third year of college. I have to seriously start thinking about what to do after next year. Scary. At least I have the summer to ponder my life before the craziness begins again. Anyway, since my last blog things have been pretty chill aside from the all day mega study sessions in the library and my room. I think my desk chair is happy to have a break. My mind has been living in the fragmented and unconscious ramblings of modern writers for almost a week, so I am glad to be back in the real world. I did spend some time with friends trying to get some quality time in before we all head our separate ways.

Orange Wednesday--the mobile company Orange offers 2 for 1 tickets on Wednesdays so I talked the b-boys into going to Four Lions. It's a comedy, shot in Sheffield actually, about four men who want to be terrorists. A bit controversial but hilarious. I didn't understand some of it due to accent and British type humor but it was still great. My seminar instructor also happened to be working the till and let me and a friend in for free. Definitely pays to get to know your profs! We went to the Common Room after for some pints and Luke and I planned his hopeful visit to the US which includes us road tripping across the country. Time to start putting together the ultimate American road trip playlist!

Friday we went to The Place for cocktails in celebration of Steph's birthday. It was also perfect preparation for seeing Sex & the City 2 later that night. It was reeeally long but okay. Not much happened. Most of the party went to the club right next door after it was over but I needed to be fresh for study group the next morning so left with another girl. It was a nice night so we decided to walk home. I don't think I've ever walked through city centre that late before...crazy! They even have police and ambulances on hand to deal with the massive bar crowds. Since there's no smoking inside, you also see more people because everyone needs to go outside to smoke. As a side note, Milwaukee is going smoke free this month! I am so excited that I won't have to smell like an ashtray all day when I want my cheap diner pancakes. As we were approaching campus it started to pour so we caught a city bus which thankfully was still running. I'll have to remember the 52 runs late.

Studying studying and more studying. One bright side is that our window seats in the library had a great view of the city.

Ahh I detest in-class essays. Especially this one. What really got on my nerves was that we were expected to research at least 3 works/authors not knowing what was to be asked and to be able to cite secondary criticism without notes. That's not even testing our critical thinking, just how well we can memorize research, research which is guaranteed to be less than optimal since we can't know the themes or what to focus on. Despite my bitterness, I think I did okay. I know I don't have enough research but I think my second essay was good. The first part, close analysis, not so much. I just couldn't think of anything else to say so it was really short. I found the whole testing process to be a little strange. We were put in this huge exhibition center where they had set up temporary desks and asked us to check our bags in the cloakroom. There were about 5 different subjects/classes all testing in the same room at the same time. Everything is very official and you have staff walking around and checking your ID and making there's no cheat sheets. Where's the trust? Well, they were certainly very efficient. After, I walked home, relaxed, booked the final legs of my Europe trip, and got some boxes ready to mail home. I'm dreading packing for Ireland, Portugal and Germany since I've committed to not checking a bag and just using my backpack. I am going to have to really condense.

I hope the rain lets up soon. I have a million errands to run before Friday and I'd rather not slog around in the puddles. Although, I must say the rain is much more pleasant when it's warmer out. Well I suspect tonight will be an early night since I am exhausted and need to get pumped up for our final Corp night tomorrow! I better find my shirt and tie.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Little Italy

It's officially June 1st! Countdown 7 days until what I anticipate will be a somewhat disastrous final on Modern Literature. But let me not dwell on the negative...

This past weekend proved cold and wet...perfect weather to suit my lazy mood. The plus side of not doing much, however, is that the small moments become very memorable. Here are some highlights:

Thursday, after my last post, my housemates, some various internationals, and I hit the dance floor at Plug, sadly for the last time (probably). I finally got to witness chat roulette night which was somewhat scarring. Chat roulette is a website where people go on their webcams and are randomly paired with someone else on a webcam anywhere in the world. Either person can move on to another person whenever. I've never done it but Plug had a webcam facing the dance floor and the person we were 'chatting' with on tv screens around the room. I mostly ignored it since at least 50% of the site is used by creepy naked men. Yes, I know, too much information. But at least now you've been warned.

Sunday, Lilly and I had tea time at Cocoa, a delicious chocolate shop and cafe that looks like a doll house. We each had a cupcake which was sooo good but extremely sweet. And if the equal parts cake and frosting weren't enough, they also baked in a strawberry jam center to, I don't know, make it 'healthy'.As you see though, still delicious. We walked back through the botanical gardens where I saw these lovely flowers:
Lilly and I also decided, rather spontaneously, to meet up the next day for hiking in the Peak District. So, Monday we meet around 8am and took the bus to the train station. Our train got into Hathersage at around 9:30. Since it was so last minute we didn't really have a plan and were further handicapped by our lack of a map. Lilly wanted to see Stanage Edge ( where Kiera Knightly stood in Pride&Prejudice which is just outside of the town. We got a general idea from the map on the wall of the train station and headed off. The walk to the walk was quite a trek in itself but did give us a nice scenic tour of the area. I was a little camera crazy since I haven't taken many photos lately. We finally made it to the rocky cliffs which are popular with rock climbers. We walked along the ridge, ate lunch and soaked in the vast rolling hills and plains while trying to catch the patchy sunshine. After, we walked back into town and had tea outside a cute cafe. The plan was to then follow the river to Grindleford, another village. There is supposed to be a walking path according to a map in the North Face store. We tried taking a road to get there but ended up on a highway getting beeped at by oncoming traffic. Fearing for our lives, we decided to turn around and find another path. We never did find the footpath to Grindleford but did end up taking a nice hike along a river through Goose Nest Wood and some lovely farmland. Eventually we got back to Hathersage and took the next train out. Back in Sheffield, I stopped at Staples for boxes and bubble wrap. Time to send things home!

Today I'm desperately trying to study with little success. I ended up going to an Italian cafe up the road called Remo's for a latte and lunch. I'm in love with that place! The man who I assume owns it is extremely friendly and seems to know everyone. It's one of those rare places that creates a family of regulars but still feels welcoming to newbies. I got to talking with the owner who introduced me to some Americans who happen to frequent the place. One has been in Sheffield for 6 years and the other 12! A lady I talked to said Remo's is like home for stranded Americans in Sheffield, especially for the New Yorkers I met. The woman also had a ton of suggestions for places to see before I left and even gave me her contact info if I needed a travel companion or advice. So sweet! Being an Italian cafe, there was, of course, a grizzled, old Italian man who apparently makes and brings in lunch specials on certain days. He spoke mostly Italian but was able to educate me on the flourishing mafia in southern Italy, to which he apparently has connections. He said I'd be safe there as long as I don't own a lucrative business, but he could give me his name to drop in case I ran into problems. The owner kept winking at me but from the looks of this guy I am tempted to believe him. Either way, he's hopefully as close as I will ever be to the Italian mafia. Everyone was so friendly and insisted I come back often. I'll definitely be back Saturday afternoon to try the 'special' and meet some more colorful characters. Best lunch ever despite getting no reading done.

Now I'm trying to study and NOT think about travel plans. Planning and studying at the same time is stressing me out so I'm going to focus on one thing at a time. Besides, I'm trying to plan a relaxing vacation and stressing while planning sort of defeats the purpose. I wish someone would just whisk me away somewhere wonderful and warm...and perhaps pay for some flights as well. I'm trying to fly into Frankfurt my last week to visit friends but budget airlines don't fly directly there. That may be my big splurge, getting to Frankfurt. I still have to decide when I'm leaving Ireland and where I'm going. I may end up just touring the UK since there are tons of places I haven't been. And there are some nice beaches down south!

Well, tootles until next week most likely. Enjoy your summers!