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!!!”

The UPS Man!

So it is  September 17th, 2010…a mellow Friday night here in Kingston and I apologize readers for not posting another blog sooner than now, but my life has been literally on full speed since I departed from the States on Tuesday the 14th.  Clearly, my wish came true & my passport was returned to me on time if I am here in Kingston currently sitting in my comfortable bedroom.  Let me fill you all in since my last post because it is a funny story at that!

So come early Monday morning (Sept. 13th ’10) I obsessively checked my email yet again to see if there was any progress in the issuing of my passport/visa.  To my amazement I was sent a confirmation email saying that my passport indeed has been issued and was going to be sent via mail for 24 hr. next day air.  Let me tell you, at that moment in time a feeling of relief definitely came over me.  However, after repeatedly checking my email every 30 mins. to see if the tracking of my package via UPS (United Postal Service) had been sent, to my dismay, the tracking never progressed throughout the greater part of the day.

Ok, so you can only imagine that by now that sigh of relief I experienced earlier for about 30 seconds now was turning into straight aggravation and nervousness.  All I kept thinking was that my passport would never be returned on time before I had to catch a flight the next day at approx. 2:23.

Well after dinner that night I got an email saying that my passport was FINALLY in the hands of UPS and was en route.  So after an extremely long long night of crossed fingers and harassing of the service agents that work at UPS, I was finally a bit hopeful that my passport may be returned to me before my flight the next day.  Skip to about 10:30 a.m the following morning…after sweating bullets for fear of never having my passport, the UPS man happily showed up at my doorstep bearing my packaged passport.  “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOUUUUU!!!” is all I managed to repeatedly say to the UPS man, I literally was about two steps away from hugging him because I was soooo happy and in such disbelief that this happened…besides he was a good-looking  fellow at that 😉

After this whole escapade, my mother & I rushed out of the house and drove to Hancock International Airport, in Syracuse, NY.  My head was rushing and my heart  was beating at a ridiculously high rate.  NERVES.  However, for as a nervous wreck as I was (& believe me, I had such butterflies in my stomach, that I truly thought I was going to get sick) I finally realized I was holding my passport with my stamped visa in my hand.  And it was in that exact moment of that it dawned on me that this dream I have been waiting for for the past few years was REALLY going to happen now!

Panic Attacks & Excitement Freak-Outs!!!

One week…one week…one more week!!!

The thought of only 7 short days is ALL that lingers on my brain.  I woke up this morning with nothing but shear panic thinking about all the things that I still have to get done.  “Go to the bank, finish packing up my clothes that just went through the wash, be sure to charge my iPod, CRAP…don’t forget to find those adapters!”  My life for the past two weeks has been nothing short of random spouts of anxiety followed by happy bursts of excitement (it’s better not to ask.)

As the thought of finally fulfilling my childhood dream of visiting London nears closer, I can’t help but wonder why my panic attacks are ultimately outweighing my excitement!?  Perhaps it has something to do with my passport scare?  Long story short, my parents and I thought that rather than just having misplaced my passport (it was lying underneath my father’s desk in his study) that it had actually been lost or stolen when sending it to the British Consulate in NYC.  Well, imagine our relief when we finally did find it; literally all I could do was laugh at the fact that it was safe in our house the entire time.

Problem Solved!?  I think not.

Due to this unfortunate incident, my Visa application was delayed by a few days now and we had to resend everything back to the British Consulate.  I am still waiting for my passport & Visa’s return and I must admit, I am extremely terrified that they won’t be returned to me on time :(.  All I can do is hope for the best and have been trying to think positively about the whole situation, but its still a huge distraction knowing that the key to my leaving the country is in someone else’s hands.  But…for now I’m just going to continue riding out those positivity vibes and pray for the best!  That’s all a girl can do before entering on one of the biggest adventures of her life; especially when its finally becoming a reality!

Back in the US

Well…it was an interesting journey.
I’m not sure if I got everything I wanted out of it.
But I met a lot of interesting people.

And now I have mastered using chopsticks. 😉

Peace,
Liam

Brand New Suit

I apologize in advance if I’m beating a dead horse here, but material things are the most exciting part of China. I mean everything is so damn cheap here. Don’t believe what my profile says, I am not a Chemistry Major. I am actually a business major, but a poor business major. I needed to get a suit, but I can’t afford nice ones back home. In China, however, a decent custom made suit will cost you about 700 kuai ($102 American). You best believe that in my last weeks here I got myself one. Forgive me for the flattery, but I feel I look quite classy. 🙂

Below are picks of me in my new attire:

ALIM0222

ALIM0214

ALIM0223

Time for a Head Check

As of now I have less than 3 weeks left in China. Quite honestly, there isn’t much going on lately, at least not in a “wow…China” sense. Most of me is biding my time until I can go home and just be thankful for what I have. However, all of this extra time has given me a chance to think and really see things from a different angle.

For those of you who don’t know me, I read books like an addict chases after a fix. At any given moment I am usually making my way through a few different books at a time, and researching the next stack to add onto the mile long list of books to come. In the name of this sacrifices need to be made, usually either my social life or my studies. I think I am finally learning that I can’t get all I want to know from a book. Instead, I have really been taking time and sitting down with my new friends while I still have the chance too. Normally I think of social situations in terms of gain, not in a literal material way, but as something that needs to be done efficiently, in a timely manner. Now, I am just happy to drift without expectations and my heart feels that much warmer for it. I’ve been in and out of a lot of social circles, especially over my college career, but I feel like for once in my life I am meeting genuine people that I know I will hold dear despite the distance we will face in the future.

As well as my social development, I am seeing my intellect grow in new ways. As something of a novice intellectual, most of my brain power goes into analysis and hoarding knowledge, never quite engaging with it. On top of learning language in China I have started taking up the Violin. Both of these pursuits take strong intentions of brain power in the same fashion as I am used to, but instead my mind is stretched towards more functional purposes; creating instead of analyzing.

This place, in this time, is one of a cheery limbo. I have time to breathe and think about my life. I am leaving this place of foreign adventure, but I’m not quite home yet, and as much as I miss it this is time to really look at things from afar and remember both sides before I go back.