Tambillo Treasures & Peruvian Time

Tambillo

Before I left for Peru, a friend of mine put me in contact with a woman who lives in Cusco.  She is originally from Tampa, but she is 100% Cusqueña :).  She has been a guiding light for me here in Cusco.  She has introduced me to a local Peruvian Tribal Fusion band named “Amaru Pumac Kuntur” (who actually just made it to the finals of Peru Tiene Talento!!!!) which I’ll explain the meaning of later.  She has shown me around Cusco city and has acted as my Spanish/Quechua dictionary.  By knowing her, I am getting deeper into the heart of Cusco more than I ever would in just four months.

Today I went to Tambillo with Lisa for her friend’s birthday party.  It was about a 20-minute taxi ride up the winding mountain road until we came to a long dirt road. Looking down into the valley, the city of Cusco looked like thousands of scattered Monopoly-houses.

The wind and the sun blinded us.

We arrived at the home of Lisa’s friend.  In the back, there was a sweat lodge in the process of construction where everyone was sitting and enjoying food.  A circular stone-structure with remnants of cloth overlaying in a tipi.  There were just a few of us, and I already felt like I was one of the family friends they had known their entire life.

The Peruvian way of life is much more inviting.  Strangers are simply friends you haven’t seen in a while.  It seems like everyone’s got some catching up to do.  No one is made to feel like an outsider here–simply another piece of the puzzle.  Even the neighbor’s dog came over and was welcomed with chicken bones, chomping down until there was nothing left.

Everything is slower here.  I’ve heard talk about being on “Peruvian Time”, and it’s actually true.  Time works in different ways here.  There is no rush to do anything and trying to make plans will just cause you frustration and chaos.  There is an emphasis on enjoying the present moment rather than sticking to the routine schedule.  America–take lessons, please.  There is hardly any rush to do things here, and things still get done.  This has been a total process of surrendering for me.  Having to take public transportation multiple times a day has taught me how to let go of control–there are some things not worth stressing out over, and it’s important to learn how much control of a situation you really have (and you’ll probably find, surprisingly enough to your mind, that it’s not much).

After we left the party, we walked a little way up the path to a place called Amaru Machay.  Amaru means snake in Quechua (the original language/language of the Incas).  In Inca tradition, there are three worlds: Amaru, Pumac, Kuntur.  These are the worlds of the snake, puma, and the condor.  The Snake is the internal, subconscious world.  The Puma represents the world right here before us: kaypacha.  The Condor represents the higher world.

Amaru Machay  is also called Templo de la Luna.  It is a pre-Inca archaeological site.  It is considered to be the womb of Pachamama (mother Earth).  It is carved inside of a rocky hill.   The opening is in the shape of a vulva.  Inside the opening directly to the right, there is a petrified snake and above that there is a carving of a larger snake.  A crack of skylight leaks in from up above and shines onto a flat altar which is big enough to stand on.  We weren’t allowed to wear shoes inside so I was barefoot.  I felt charged standing upon the altar–pathways in my feet opening up and releasing tension.  This is a very sacred place.  Lisa told me stories after we had left (thankfully) of dark magic being performed there.  People have been lured up there and killed.  Decapitated bodies.  Dead children.  I guess there is darkness to every light.  In any event, there was such a palpable spiritual/magical energy to it that is incomparable.

Peru is a mystery I’m not sure I’ll ever get tired of unfolding.

Inside Amaru Machay   Inside Amaru Machay.  Note how the silhouette is in the shape of a llama!!!  What a “coincidence” (not really)

Intuitive Decisions

 

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I have been in Peru for about two weeks.  When I first got to the airport everything seemed so unreal. I felt like all the strings around me had been cut.  I felt as if I had been given a new life.  Some would shy away from traveling because they are afraid to be alone, but from the moment I left my family at the gate in the airport, I had an unusual feeling of confidence.  Sure, I was physically alone because there wasn’t anyone else beside me, but I didn’t feel lonely because I knew I had myself.  And really, being there for yourself is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.  It’s amazing–the depths you can reach when you know that you can no longer go back–that you have to grow–that you have to experience life.

I chose to study abroad because I knew it would be a life-changing experience.   I wanted to be completely thrown out of my comfort zone and immersed in a different language to prove to myself that I could find my way.  There is only so much growth that can be done in one place.  When you are in a new environment, you start to notice more and more of the world around you, but you also notice your own habits (and maybe even how they aren’t helpful for you anymore).  While venturing into unknown territory with a bag full of habits and fears, it is harder to hold on to them than it is to make a change for the better.  You have to adapt to the world around you.  You have to let go of the way things used to be–the way you think they “should” be.  But that doesn’t mean you lose yourself.  It actually gives you more room for creativity to be yourself.  As you grow aware of the world around you, you grow more aware of yourself.

I wanted my trip abroad to be completely different than anything I was used to before.  I have always wanted to go to South America.  It always seemed like a place of mystery to me.  Something inside of me knew I would visit someday.  When I first started looking at programs, I was open to all of them.  I scanned through lots of study abroad programs all over the world.  Greece.  India.   New Zealand.  None of them felt right for me.  I decided to stop resisting this feeling deep inside of me and began looking at programs in South America.

I have taken one year of Spanish in college, and all of the programs that I saw in South America only offered classes taught in Spanish.  I wasn’t at that level of proficiency yet.  I eventually found one program that offered classes taught in English: Cusco, Peru.

The program that I chose was through IPSL (International Partnership for Service-Learning).  Part of the program involves living with a Peruvian family, and another part involves service-learning projects within the community.  I knew both of these would help me (or anyone) learn more about the culture and language.

During my time in Peru, I hope to learn to speak Spanish, to visit ancient ruins, and to visit the Rainforest!!  I’m sure I’ll be adding more to this list as time progresses.

So I guess to end this post, I’d just like to encourage anyone who has a dream that seems so unattainable to never give up hope.  Keep going, keep working toward it.  Things don’t happen instantly, but eventually they DO happen.  They take time, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit around waiting for “someday”.

Creating dreams and watching them turn into reality is what life is about.

Someday is everyday.

 

 

 

 

London

So let me catch up on the past month that I’ve been here.

Arriving in the UK was really exciting and overwhelming. I wanted to explore immediately. To meet people and see new places. I spent my first couple days tired and jet-lagged while attempting to experience everything. A word of advice: don’t do too much too fast. You have 5 whole months to explore! If you don’t slow down, you might end up sick and in the hospital waiting room in the first week like me.

Besides feeling terribly ill for my first week, the UK has been great! I’ve had a lot of opportunities to visit different cities and see all the sights. So far I’ve been to Windsor, Canterbury, Oxford, and all around central London. I’m taking a class called British Life and Culture which had given me a lot of great opportunities to meet other international students and go on some really interesting tours.

I’m really glad that I chose to study at Kingston. It’s really fast and easy to get to central London. London is a great city if you’re interested in fashion, music, art, sports, food; anything really. Camden market is great for shopping on a nice warm day, there are so many people just playing music on the streets, many of the museums like the Tate Modern are free or discounted for students, and walking along the Thames there’s tons of cafes and street vendors selling great food.

Attached are pictures from Central London. Pictures and details from my other trips to be posted soon!

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Me by the Tower Bridge

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skate spot along the Thames River

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Carousel by the London Eye

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Street Performers

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St. Paul’s Catherdral

Un-Happy Holidays!

So the past week has possibly been one of the biggest nightmares for those of us studying abroad.  The few inches of snow that has surfaced in the past couple days, although seemingly nothing to those of us from the States, has resulted in a Holiday Season Fiasco!

Starting with Saturday, Dec. 18th, the overly anticipated  arrival date of my family in London turned into a disappointed night alone in the amazing flat my mom rented in Kensington for our family’s holiday :/.  I arrived early at the flat on Saturday so that I could stock the fridge with groceries for when my family arrived that night.  However, a phone call saying that their flight had been canceled from Washington crushed my hopes;  Heathrow Airport completely shutdown!!!  I spent that night weather-watching and taking numerous phone calls from my mom with updates of their travel agenda.  My poor family had to rebook their entire flight for Sunday night and then spent the remainder of their time in a hotel Washington.

Sunday was spent preparing for their arrival and hanging with a few friends around the Kensington and Notting Hill area, my cheerful mood was deterred when I got the news that United Airlines canceled their rebooked flight and was told them they would most likely be unable to fly out until Thursday night arriving on Friday, Christmas Eve morning.  A fantastic family holiday spent in London came to a crashing halt!  Monday afternoon my mom told me that the whole trip was off and explained the difficulties not only in trying to arrive in Heathrow, but also the fact that a 12 day long trip spent site-seeing, touring museums, going to shows on the West End, and dining out  was now diminished to less than 6 days, 3 of which fall over the holiday weekend :/

As of yesterday, I have been informed of my family’s inability to come visit and also booked a flight last minute home on Christmas Eve.  What will probably be the most hectic and exhausting travel experience ever, I have to fly Friday morning from Heathrow Airport to Dublin.  Then after switching planes I have to then fly from Dublin to Boston, to then have my my mom and sister pick me up to drive 5 hrs. back to Syracuse, NY.  If all goes as planned I have my fingers crossed in the hopes that I will be with my family come Christmas Eve.  I know that many of my friends and fellow abroad students have had great difficulty trying to return home, there have been numerous delays and cancelations of over the past 3 days and all anyone wishes is that we make it home in time for Christmas!

Recap of November…

I think that I literally have lost track of time this past month.  My inability to keep up with each week has been a gift and a curse all at once.  Time has been passing me by so quickly because for the past month I have been on a whirlwind of adventures.  However, I have also failed to realize that my time here in the UK is also coming to a quick end 🙁

So taking it back to the beginning of November, on Thursday, November 11th, myself and three of my friends ventured off to Leicester Square in London (the cinema and entertainment centre of the capital) and stood outside in the cold amongst thousands of people for the Harry Potter & The Deathly Hollows Premiere.  It was an amazing experience just to be in the presence of so many dedicated fans, although we could only really see most of the event from the big screen tv’s they had overhead.  Nonetheless I got to see the red carpet and was super excited because it was the first premiere I have ever been to, and what’s cooler than going to the Harry Potter Premiere in London?


the premiere was inside the doors by the flaming fire...

The next day, on Friday, my British Life & Culture class went on a really cool field trip to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre & to Parliament.  I personally loved the tour of the Globe Theatre because our guide was charismatic, outgoing, and a very good actress if I do say so myself 🙂  The most interesting thing I learned on the tour was about the reconstruction of the Globe.  The original Globe was built in 1599 built by Shakespeare & his playing company the ‘Lord’s Chamberlain’s Men’.  The modern reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, named “Shakespeare’s Globe,” opened in 1997 and was founded by the actor and director Sam Wanamaker.  Wanamaker built the site approximately 230 meters from the site of the original theatre that had been destroyed by a fire in 1613.

So this year was my first time experiencing Thanksgiving away from my family.  For most of my friends I have made while studying abroad, it was our first time being away from home for the holiday…and due to our sadness of not being able to participate in the festivities in America, we decided to make our own version of Thanksgiving the Tuesday before the actual holiday!  A big group of us students, about 19 in total, all gathered at my friend Sven’s apartment in Central London and made a grand feast!!!  Each of us made a dish that is a tradition in our household and shared in the good times of laughter, wine, football matches, and DELICIOUS food!!!  What made this occasion even more special was the fact that we invited our friends studying abroad from Hong Kong, China, along with several of Sven’s friends that were from Australia & Sweden.  It was the most diverse Thanksgiving I have ever shared in meeting other students that were Indian, Pakistani, and of course us Americans!!!  It was extremely fun to expose our newfound friends to the traditional feast that we partake in every year!  I’m pretty sure they all loved it just as much as we do =]

sven's delicious homemade fried chicken!

look at that beautiful bird 🙂

boiling the shrimp

table full of food!

not even all of the food i ate that night is on my plate...lol

some of the gang!

On Thursday, Thanksgiving night, myself, fellow New Paltz students Elexis Goldberg and Mike Dauernheim, and our friend Sarah from Michigan all camped out at Stansted Airport awaiting a 6:20 am flight to Cork, Ireland.  We had a delicious second Thanksgiving meal beforehand put together by the lovely abroad staff at Kingston.  This was another dinner that involved bringing a favorite dish to pass around with your table so we all contributed in preparation for the meal.  Right after we ate, we took the train to Central London, hopped on a bus, and then travelled 2 hrs. to the airport.

We spent the night in Cork and on Saturday morning we went to the Blarney Castle; the castle originally dates from before AD 1200, where a wooden structure was believed to have been built on the site.  Although no evidence remains of this, it was replaced by a stone fortification in about 1210 A.D.  It was destroyed in 1446, but wasy rebuilt by Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muscry.  The castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and at the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone.  It is tradition while visiting the Blarney Stone to hang upside down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is supposed to give the gift of eloquence.

Blarney Castle

the stone structure from inside...

view from the top

kissing the blarney stone :-*

the crew at the top of the castle: right after we each kissed the blarney stone!

Saturday night we took the train from Cork to Dublin to spend the remainder of our weekend adventure celebrating my 21st birthday!!!  We arrived at our hostel that was literally in the heart of Dublin; Christ Church Cathedral was next to it, we could walk right onto Trinity College campus, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral was also a hop, skip, and a jump away from where we stayed.  We dropped off our bags and then met up with Mike’s friend Connor who is studying in Limerick , Ireland for my first experience going on a ‘pub crawl.’  That night we went to several different pubs around the city meeting interesting people from all over.  We met a group of German students in one of the pubs and they sang me ‘happy birthday!’  The best part of the whole night was when it started snowing at exactly midnight on my birthday 🙂  We ran outside of the pub to take pictures and had a big snow fight in the streets of Dublin.  According to weather reports: with extremely low temperatures, that particular night was recorded as the coldest night in Dublin!!!

|Dublin, Ireland| November 28th, 2010| --It started snowing at approx. midnight on my 21st birthday. With extremely low temperatures, this particular night has been recorded as the coldest night in Dublin!! But with some great friends by my side...I barely felt the cold or the snow. ♥

The rest my fabulous birthday weekend was spent touring the Jameson Distillery & Guinness Factory.  Sunday we went to the Jameson Distillery and had guided tour of the company where the magic of Irish Whiskey is made!  The company was established in 1780 when John Jameson established the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin.  With annual sales of over 31 million bottles, Jameson is by far the best selling Irish Whiskey in the world, as it has been internationally since the early 19th century when John Jameson along with his son (also named John) was producing more than a million gallons annually.

I was nominated for testing out whiskey shots from Scotland, America...& of course Ireland! my friends made me volunteer for the spirit of my 21st birthday!!!

my certificate/diploma for volunteering

At the Guinness Factory on Monday, we did a self-guided tour of the company which was amazingly cool.  It was a lot of fun to venture out on the tour ourselves because it is 5 floors of straight informational galleries and machinery.  Guinness, the dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness in Jame’s Gate, Dublin, is one of the most successful beer brands in the world.  A distinctive feature is the burnt flavour which is derived from the use of roasted unmalted barely.  We actually got to taste test the barely before it was brewed and also sampled a free pint of Guinness’s after our tour was over.  One interesting fact I learned about Guinness is that the reason there is a thick creamy surface at the top is because the beer is mixed with nitrogen when being poured.  It is popular with the Irish both in Ireland and abroad and it should come as no surprise that it is the best selling alcoholic drink in all of Ireland where the Guinness Company makes almost 2 billion annually!!!

Sarah & I before heading inside the factory

Sarah & Lex tasting that good ol' barley!

the view from the top of the factory in the Gravity Bar where we got our free pint of guinness!

Mike & Lex drinking their beers!

Sarah's beer-stache!

good ol' taste of that Guinness...

overlooking Dublin...

the crew in the Gravity Bar 🙂

What?

I feel more and more like I’ve been unintentionally mentally preparing myself to come back home. I’ve dealt with a lot of change in my life, especially moving, and maybe now that I’m older and self-aware enough to notice my actions, I’m starting to see how I’ve sort of created a defense mechanism to stop myself from getting fully attached to a place. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I guess maybe it’s both.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what classes I’m going to be taking in the spring and where I’m going to be living. Of course, these are necessary things to think about unless I want to be classless and homeless, but I think I’ve been getting myself more excited about them than I normally would. I need something major to look forward to to soften the blow of leaving a place I feel like I just got to, but have quickly come to feel at home in.

It’s also hard to think about coming home because I still have so much left to do here. It’s sort of like I don’t know what frame of mind to be in right now. Should I be thinking about leaving? I don’t really want to, but maybe I can stop myself from feeling completely shocked on the day I wake up in Huddersfield and go to sleep in Brooklyn.

Oh, Oxford!

Hello all!  Sorry its been awhile since I last posted; I have been busying myself for the last few weeks with some light traveling, schoolwork, going out with incredible new friends, and juggling staying in contact with friends and family!  It seems a whirlwind of how time has flown in the past few weeks.  It seems like just yesterday I landed in Heathrow airport and now it is November 2nd!!!  Nearly 2 months I’ve been abroad and I wish time would  S  L  O  W  down!

As I said before, I have been doing a little traveling around the lovely UK.  My most recent trip was with my British Life & Culture class and we went to the City of Oxford and visited the gorgeous university.  Oxford is most famously known for its prestigious medieval university, with a population of about 165,000.  Located in South East England, the astonishing architecture we got to see on our tour have been around since the Saxon period.  Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Getting to spend the day among students that travel from all over the country and the world to study at Oxford was tremendously exciting!  We actually got to witness many of the the academics and professors dressed up in their gowns for their degree ceremonies.  I must say that if I was a academic scholar at Oxford I might easily be agitated by the hundreds of tourists that pass through.  Oxford is one of the most visited cities in the UK, not only for the university, but also for its amazing shops, theatres, famous pubs, and many of the historical buildings make this location popular for film and television!  The filming of the Harry Potter installations have been shot on location in various parts of Oxford, especially in the Christ Church College.  We actually got to enter the dining hall in this college that has been replicated as the dining hall they use in the film…you know the one with the floating candles!?  It also inspired the presence of Alice in Wonderland making Christ Church College a major Oxford tourist attraction!!! Our tour was also able to see a bridge that was designed after a bridge in Venice, Italy…apparently scenes for the film Brideshead Revisited were shot in this area…it was extremely cool!

I think that out of all the traveling I have done thus far, Oxford has been one of my favorite cities that I have gotten to visit.  There is so much history in this city and you would never believe that the university is consisted of 38 different colleges.  In each of these colleges there are about 300-500 students that study within them.  Its also fascinating to know that some of the worlds most famous leaders attended Oxford, for example former Prime Minister Tony Blair and also current Prime Minister David Cameron.  All in all, in one day I got to be among some of the most promising scholars, walk through the dining hall of one of the most famous films, stand outside a pub that Elizabeth Taylor used to drink at, and went into one of the most famous pubs in all of the UK; ‘The Eagle & Child’ pub which was in association with the ‘Inkling’s’ writers group which included famous authors J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis!  Yeah…Oxford was pretty AWESOME =]

Stonehenge & Bath

On Saturday, October 9th, 2010, my British Life & Culture class went on a all day trip to Stonehenge & The City of Bath.  After waking up bright and early Saturday morning, we took an hour and a half bus ride to Wiltshire, England to the prehistoric monument Stonehenge.  One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones.  A piece of history I have only witnessed in textbooks, finally became a reality this past weekend as I got to stand before the iconic monument that is believed to have erected around 2500 BC.

Nothing but a brisk autumn day to make the whole experience worthwhile as classmates and friends took multiple snapshots of the incredible monument.  To stand before a piece of history dated back to the Stone Age was absolutely surreal.  Who would have thought a circle of stones would have such a significant meaning thousands of years later!?  I mean to think that this is an area that served as a burial ground from its earliest beginnings is astonishing.  It was honestly one of the coolest and most memorable experiences of my life!

After spending about and hour venturing around Stonehenge and exploring the huge wide-open land; home to numerous cows and sheep, we finally hopped back on the bus for about another hour ride to The City of Bath.  Bath is the great city located in the county of Somerset, in the south west of England.  It was granted official city status by Queen Elizabeth I in about 1590, and then in 1889, Bath was made a county borough.  Driving into the city of Bath was probably one of the most breathtakingly beautiful things to ever lay eyes on!!!  It as literally as if your in a dream as you come across these shockingly huge buildings and get to see some of the finest architecture and artwork in history.

Established as a spa resort by the Romans in about AD 43, The City of Bath was declared as one of the World’s Heritage Sites in 1987.  It was quite the treat to be able to have a tour of the city and have numerous theatres, museums, sporting venues, and other historical buildings pointed out to us!  Everything is so big and after seeing The Royal Crescent, which is now a hotel and museum and some of the houses are being converted into flats and offices…it was clear that we were witnessing firsthand one of Europe’s finest 18th century architectural masterpieces!

After walking around the city are final stop was in the Roman Baths.  This historical site was the Roman house for public bathing.  Within the Roman Baths there are four main features including: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House, and the museum of finds from Roman Bath.  The Baths generally attract more than one million visitors per a year…which its not hard to understand why!   Everything within the museum told a story and revealed a little bit of Roman history.  The best part was getting to drink the spa water from the hot springs in the Pump Room; the same water that the ancient Romans used to drink because it was believed to replenish them with all the minerals it contained.

After visiting the museum we headed back to Kingston…a long but eventful day it was!  Probably one of the most memorable experiences I have had thus far in my time here in England…I can honestly say that each moment of both those visits seemed out of a dream!  I have now seen firsthand two incredible “Wonders of the World!!!”

|THE EYE OF LONDON: city lights|

|THE EYE OF LONDON|

This past Saturday, the 25th of September was my dear friend Shari’s 20th Birthday!!!  As one of my closest friends, Shari & I decided we wanted to study abroad together back in our freshman year of college after she discovered that I always wanted to visit.  Ironically Shari and her family are from the UK and she still has many family & friends that live here, so it only made it that more ideal to venture out on this crazy adventure together!

Since being here, neither of us had actually taken a trip into Central London yet because we have been so busy getting to know our University and adjusting to everything.  So…finally yesterday Shari & I ventured into Central London taking the train in Kingston right after our classes.  We arrived at Waterloo Train Station at dusk & walked through this amazingly cool tunnel authorized for graffiti artists to display their work!   We then decided to eat at this delicious restaurant called The Slug & Lettuce as friends celebrating Shari’s birthday and our first trip into London.  The food was very yummy especially with our complimentary wine & beer!!!   We spent a couple hours just lounging in this superbly fantastic & chic restaurant eating, drinking, & laughing.

After our meal we literally walked a few steps down the street and walked straight up to the London Eye/Millennium Wheel.  It was one of the most captivating moments as I gazed at this giant ferris wheel lighting up the sky.  As Shari & I rounded the corner I was taken aback by the image of The House of Parliament & Big Ben standing tall.  It was one of those moments where tears literally came to my eyes because I have thought about this since I was a kid.  We walked closer to take some pictures along the Thames and Shari & I got to watch as the sun set behind Westminster Bridge, The House of Parliament & Big Ben.  It was one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen!  In that moment, as I watched the entire city light up, I thought to myself: “this is living the dream!”  Tears welting up in my eyes I felt the power of fulfilling my childhood dream!  It was as if my breath was taken away, & for as corny or cliche as that may sound, it is not at all an exaggeration, because I can still see the image in my head as if it just happened!!!

First Weekend in England

My first weekend in England has been one of the most memorable spent with my host family the Booth’s.  I literally have to remind myself to slow down because it seems strange to be having this much fun all at once.  But hey, I don’t mind it in the least!!!

FRIDAY SEPT. 17TH:

On Friday, I got to spend some remarkable quality time relaxing with my host family and friends of theirs the Chamberlin’s.  Nick and Amanda Booth, and their nine year old daughter Lucy are the amazingly sweet host family of which I’m so fortunate to stay with while I’m here in Kingston.  They are the most welcoming of people and have been so kind as to open their home to me.  They live literally across the street from part of the Kingston University campus on Penrhyn Road, ironically the bit of campus that I will attend all of my classes at.  I’m very excited that all I have to do is a hop, skip, & a jump across the street to get to my classes each day!

Anywho, on Friday afternoon after Lucy returned home from school, friends of their family, as I stated before the Chamberlin’s came over for a visit.  Mrs. Chamberlin (Samantha) brought her four children over to play and I was very happy I got to meet them.  The most adorable of kids I was introduced to nearly 11 yr. old Maya, 9 yr. old Ella (fellow classmate & BFF to Lucy), nearly 6 yr. old Noah, and 2 1/2 yr. old Ethan.  A beautiful family indeed, I got to spend the afternoon in the Booth’s garden playing football, rugby, basketball, and the game “hot potato” with the kids.  I had such an enjoyable time having them ask me questions about my country and my hometown; they were so curious to know every detail of my family and our American culture.  I had brought along a gift for the Booth’s when I arrived here in England, a picture book of New York State, so I sat down with the kids and showed them the pictures of the state of which I’m from and described some of the historical places and major cities.  Along with that, I brought my computer down and showed them pictures of my family, friends, and pets.  They absolutely loved seeing pictures of my dogs and cats!

After a tiring playtime with five energetic kids, Manda (Mrs. Booth), made us all pizza for dinner and I got to sit around the table enjoying the company of what felt like my family from back home.  It was nice to experience being at a large table with the chaos of multiple voices chattering all at once; it made me feel like I was right at home as the kids raved over my afro!  Once dessert was finished, the kids all ran upstairs into my room and were fascinated by my iPod, cellphone, and MacBook as  I showed them how to work all the electronics.

I had such an amazing time hanging with all the kids on Friday.  They pop over often at the Booth’s house so I hope to see much more of them because they truly are hysterical little ones!  I really enjoyed their company and learning about all the places they visited and their hobbies here in England.

SAT. SEPT. 18TH/SUN. SEPT. 19TH:

On Saturday I got invited to go to Brighton with the Booth’s.  I was obliged to be offered to come along for the ride because I have always wanted to see Brighton Pier and visit the sea  We stopped off and walked along the pier before driving over to visit a liter of Cockapoo puppies that Lucy has been eyeing at for weeks.  Lucy is very eager and excited about eventually getting a Cockapoo puppy, however, hasn’t yet found the perfect one yet.

Brighton Pier was absolutely gorgeous!!!  It was so lively in the area, I’m sure mostly in part to it attracting so many tourists…however, there was so much to experience.  When we first drove through the town of Brighton, there was a chili festival taking place and you could see all the students that attend University in the area walking about enjoying the beautiful day!  Once we reached the pier we walked along and there was different types of music playing and they have carnival like rides and games on the pier.  Looking out onto the beach you could see families walking along and tucked away there was a group of men fishing off the wall.  Nick and Manda showed me the old Brighton Pier off in the distance that burned down a few years ago and also pointed out the hotel along the coastline which had intentionally been set on fire years ago as an assassination attempt toward  Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher while she was staying there.

Although only there for a short time, it was quite nice to learn about a little bit of history while exploring the pier.  We then ventured off to go visit the puppies at this woman’s home not to far from Brighton.  Along the way we passed a very posh and well known all girls boarding school in Roedean.  The school itself is built on a hill overlooking the sea and is utterly amazing.

On Sunday,  after breakfast, the Booth’s and I walked down by the Thames River in Kingston and took a ferry down to the Hampton Court Palace.  They took me inside the Hampton Court grounds and we walked around and looked at some of the beautiful gardens and I got to see the palace from the outside.  It was astonishingly beautiful witnessing some of the old architecture and to see the historical value of the palace.  Although we did not go inside the palace, just witnessing some of the gardens and learning about how the royal family and Queen Elizabeth come and stay at this estate was enough to make the visit memorable.

Afterward, we walked along a trailway next to the river and past the outskirts of the Hampton Court.  Along the river I got to see the beautiful privately owned homes, watch as the ferries passed by, and even had a local fisherman tell me how much he liked my hair!  Upon returning into Kingston, the Booth’s took me to a pub and we sat outside on a picnic table and I got to experience sampling my very first half-pints of 3 different types of beer (my favorite was the cider, it was the sweetest!)  It may seem silly, but I was super excited to experience drinking a beer in a real pint glass in Europe…its way cooler than going to a bar in America!

All in all my weekend was splendid and I had such an amazing time with the Booth’s and having them show me around certain areas of England.  They may even put up with my overly tourist ways of taking pictures of everything I come across and take me into Central London one of these days!  However, until then “cheers!!!”