...The story of a girl in London, England


Day 45: Coming Home.

We walked to the ATM, the five of us girls, at four in the morning. Surprisingly, it was light out. And the streets were quietly beginning to come alive.

Walking down High Street Kensington on the morning of our departure was like gaining closure at the end of a short, but happy relationship- one that wasn't meant to last, one that would nevertheless leave an impression on my heart. I had left Jill sleeping on the couch, turned in my keys, drug my luggage down the stairs, and thrown out the garbage. Going to the ATM was the last thing on my list of things to do before flying home. I needed about twenty pounds to pay our cab driver and get a bite to eat. And then my English Pounds would be exhausted, and it would be time to handle dollars and cents once again.

We didn't have to wait long for a taxi to respond to our raised arms and mountainous luggage. Our cab driver was happy and helpful, and he somehow managed to get the five of us girls, along with all our backpacks and suitcases, into his relatively tiny taxi cab. We were excited, but tired. And as we drove the forty minutes to the Stansted Airport, I could feel my mind growing foggy with exhaustion, despite the adrenaline.

We made it into the airport and through security with relative ease. By now I was a pro. And as we sat waiting at our gate, I grew anxious. I was ready to get on a plane back to the good old US of A.

It was a long flight. I slept. I read a mystery I'd taken from the shelves of the flat- (a sort of communal library, where books were left and taken at will). I listened to music. I watched Avatar and When in Rome.

And then, after the strange exhilaration of hours above the ocean, New York City came into view.

As the wheels touched the ground, I could FEEL how close I was to home. There was a tractor at the side of the runway, and I realized that I hadn't seen one of those big, yellow pieces of machinery for six weeks. It was something absolutely, absurdly... American.

We stepped into the airport, and it felt like America. It smelled like America. It sounded like America.

If I tried to explain how America feels, or smells, or sounds... I couldn't do it. There is something... inexplicable. Something in the air. Something that makes you feel at home.

I was so excited I nearly kissed the ground. The security gaurds laughed at my jumping up and down, my grin from ear to ear, my raving about how much I loved America.But during that short transfer from one plane to the next, I had gulped down American air, and it was intoxicating.

The flight from NY to SLC seemed longer still... infuriatingly so. I couldn't wait. I couldn't sit still. (Which is difficult when the red light in the shape of a seat belt above your head continually reminds you to stay where you are).

But finally, thankfully, our wheels touched the ground. I looked through the thick little window to my left, and gave a great sigh of relief.

I was home.

As I walked, exhausted, woozy, from the terminal, I saw familiar faces a few yards away: Mom and Dexter and Zander looking past my new hairdo for a girl they hadn't seen for six longs weeks. They didn't recognize the girl walking toward them with the shortened fringe, black leather jacket, and red, baggy eyes.

I was nearly on top of them, when my mother exclaimed, "You got bangs!"... it was a well kept secret, and well worth the look on her face.

I was enveloped in arms, attacked by little brother's hugs and kisses, "hello's", and "welcome home's"...

I was changed, somehow. But I was still me. And though I felt a little funny away from my eccentric, European existence, it felt good to know that I belonged.

We pulled my suitcase off the belt at the baggage claim, and lugged everything out to the car. After almost 24 hours of travel and time change, I needed a break, and some sustenance. So we stopped to get a couple burgers along the way.

I spent the whole time telling stories, and reeling at the things that had become so foreign in such a short amount of time: french fries instead of chips, a bathroom instead of the toilet, and free refills!...

As we piled back into the car for the last part of the journey home, I stared at the sky as it started to rain. London had followed me home, it seemed. I was incredulous, and exhausted... appreciative and altogether too emotional when I looked at the spot where the sun had disappeared a few moments before...

There, so familiar, so lovely, so kind, was the hint of a Lavender Sky.


Day 44: A Serendipidous Day in London Towne

Today was my last day in London.

I woke up early and finished packing. I have too many things to take home, but I don't really care.

I tidied up the room, the kitchen, the bathroom, and rolled my sheets into the pillowcase and placed them outside the door.

I opened up all the cupboards and drawers, once, twice, three times... checking and rechecking, hoping I hadn't forgot to remember anything important.

I sat with Jill as she straightened her hair and asked her what she'd like to do for her birthday, and her last day in good old London Towne.

And she said she wanted to walk...

So, walk we did.


We walked through the Keynance Mews... something that had been on my list of things to do for the last six weeks. The little houses were painted blue, and yellow, and white... and dark greeen ivy hung down around the windowsills. The bricks were that familiar green and red and purple mottled hue, and the potted plants and bicycles leaned against the walls. And then, of course, to complete the picture, we passed more than one typical English gentlemen walking his dog... all different kinds, but always horribly proper, and horribly English.

Today I passed a million people, and they all seemed to wink or nod or smile. It was as though London was saying goodbye... a million times goodbye. And I appreciated it, because London isn't always so friendly. But today, it was.

We walked past a pack of military men all dressed in uniform, and a hundred men in suits, hurrying to some appointment or other. We passed women laden with shopping bags, and teenagers with cigarettes. We passed old, wrinkly couples walking slowly, arm in arm, and little kids on plastic scooters or bicycles or trikes.

We walked through St. Jame's park and watched as people hurried past us, cell phones pressed against their ears. And we watched school groups, children looking expectantly at their teachers as they walked along the green.

We walked across a bridge, and watched the antics of a swan as he chased geese and patrolled the water's edge... and then we realized his little chicks were bobbing along on the other side of the bridge, awkwardly paddling around their mother's sides.

We walked to Buckingham palace, and appreciated the relatively small number of tourists wandering the streets and snapping pictures of the golden gates, the cold, stone walls, the tall marble fountain.

We walked across the pavement, and sat at the fountains edge... pulled out the extra one pence pieces from our coin bags, and tossed them, one by one, into the greenish water- enjoying the sounds as they plunked and rippled. Our only companions: the gargoyles who spoke in the soft sounds of water trickling from the mouth. And I wished again and again that this would not be the last time I walked the streets of London Town
We walked to the Borough Market, and enjoyed the smells that bombarded our noses, one after the other: fish, chocolate, fruit, curry, grease, vegge-burgers, vinegar, cheese.

I bought tortolini filled with butter nut squash and sage, and ate as we made our way back to the tube.

As the train rumbled along, we dozed off, heads huddled together and bouncing, but comfortable. We groggily opened our eyes, and saw the words "Oxford Street" printed in large, black letters on the wall outside the train... with the sudden realization that this was our stop, we jumped to our feet in a hurry, and hopped off the train. The doors closed behind us as we stepped onto the platform, just in time.

There was a quick stop at Primark... (afterall, my Keds were wearing out fast, what with all the walking, and I needed a pair to bring home). And Jill needed another piece of luggage to put things in. I watched as people stood in lines, endless lines, and wondered how any employee handled the mayhem. Or how many things were shoplifted on any given day.

We made an accidental stop at Cranberry... (which sounds suspicious, I admit), but we ran into one at a tube stop with which we were unfamiliar. I stocked up on chocolate covered, cinnamon dusted hazelnuts, Yovita raspberries, and dried, sugared slices of mango.

We took the bus home, and settled into our favorite spot: the two seats on the top level, right in the front. You could put your feet up on the bar and look out at the people walking by through the huge window at the front of the bus. It was almost like a ride in Disneyland, only it was real life, and the people weren't made of plastic.

We arrived home and walked up the four flights of stairs to our fifth floor flat at 37 Hyde Park Gate... It was quiet. Many of the girls were already flying over the Atlantic, or sleeping in airports.

I settled into a nook on the counter, in the corner of the kitchen where boxes and boxes of cereal had been only the day before. Jill was busy boiling water for her ham and cheese tortolini, and I stared out the window, looking at the ivy covered buildings I'd grown so used to seeing...

There was the patio a couple floors down where I'd observed a young couple re-tiling, cleaning, and placing potted plants over the last month and a half. It was nearly finished, despite the interference of their small grey dog.

As the light faded from blue to grey, I saw the big screen TV crackle to life in the window across from ours. The man who lived there must have been lonely, because the television was constantly buzzing... you could see the lights flickering late into the night.

There were the houses farther down that a dozen famous people had lived in at one point or another... but now I couldn't recall who, or when.

Jill finished her cooking and we sat on her bed and talked. We talked about the day. And the long hours of travel that tomorrow held. We talked about what we could do in our last night in London, and we talked about the first things we'd do when we got home. We talked about what we'd miss, and what we wouldn't.

And then we decided to go to Mamma Mia with Rachel, Elise, and Cali for our last hurrah.

It felt like we ran the whole way there, barely making it in time to buy student tickets twenty minutes before the show. Our seats were 27 pounds each, but they were smack in the middle of the front row of the balcony... we were twenty feet from the stage, and we could see everything.

The set was clever. It was based on a couple of slanted, cylindrical, rotating pieces that created a variety of different shapes and settings. And with a little help from some absolutely gorgeous lighting, a great musical score (thanks to ABBA), and excellent actors, the whole show was a complete success. I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed each number individually... I was constantly surprised, and absolutely mesmerized by the qwerky, crazy, cliche, and out-there. I laughed till my stomach hurt, I cried till my heart ached, and I got up and danced like there was no tomorrow at the end.

I was happy that this was my last night in London, that it had been perfect, and that this is how I spent it: rocking out in the balcony of a West End Theatre, as people around us laughed, and people on the stage romped around in shiny, stretch pant material.

We made a late night stop at the Tesco Express across from Gloucester. The eyes of the woman at the cash register grew large in unbelief as she watched me pile six packages of digestive biscuits onto the counter, (and one pack of gum). I explained (as she laughed) that I was going home in the morning, and that I had to bring some of these 30 pence packages of goodness along. She just shook her head with a knowing smile, and took my five pound note.

I walked up the stairs for what would probably be the last time. I let my hand drag along the white banister, and took the steps one at a time, instead of two.

After all these weeks, I was coming home. And in my stomach I could feel the butterflies of excitement and anticipation start to flutter.

Jill and I were already packed. There was nothing left to do. And so, we had a dance party... just the two of us. We danced and danced until our feet were sore, and our bodies exhausted.

And then we settled into the couches in the commons for one last sleepover in London Towne, listening to taxi cabs and double decker buses as they passed below the window of our flat at 37 Hyde Park Gate, District of Kensington, London, England.

Day 43: Doors and Boxes

Cleopatra. That was the first thought for most people when they saw my new haircut. For a few, Thoroughly Modern Millie came to mind. But the best character look alike came from Jill... when I put my glasses on, I look like Edna Mode! (You know, the short, spunky lady from the Incredibles). And that nickname seems to have stuck. I've been Edna all day.

Lance's final was not exactly what you'd call a piece of cake. It was more like a piece of frozen, uncooked cherry pie. But that was over soon enough...

And when we were finished, me and the girls headed to the Orangerie for a celebratory afternoon tea. I got my favorite: fresh mint leaf tea, and a small lunch consisting of hickory smoked salmon and caper-berries with stone baked raisin bread.I couldn't help feeling fancy as we sat there chatting away over our china plates and posh, pricey food.

As we left the Orangerie I enjoyed a little people watching...

There was an old man sitting on a bench with tattered leather gloves, and a bag of crumbs in his lap. Much like the bird lady in Mary Poppins, this old man was feeding the squirrels. And it looked as though he'd been doing it for years... a seasoned, unofficial squirrel keeper in the park...

There was a young woman whose cut off jean shorts were SO short that her rear hung out the end, and I wondered how she managed to cut them off so short without destroying them completely...

There was a man sitting far off in a stretch of grass, his own personal picnic laid out on a log: complete with red and white checked cloth and woven basket on the side...

And as the day continued, I people watched... catching little snatches of London in the people I observed.

As I stepped onto the tube and heard the doors begin to close behind me, I realized that a man in a hurry had got his briefcase quite jammed in the door! And he stood there struggling, foot against the wall, pulling and tugging and panting up a storm... until the doors reopened and he retrieved what was almost a very smashed bit of leather with a handle on top.

We walked to the Tate Britain, brother to the Tate Modern, and perused its many walls. The Lady of Shallot was there, and we admired her for history's sake. But I was drawn to the boats, as always... The water scenes, the storms, the clouds, and the rain. These fascinated me, everywhere we went... I wondered at the artist's ability to use a bit of paint to make a rainstorm, a turbulent sea, or a fast fading sunset.

One exhibit was a maze of rooms and doors... each one looking very lived in, very common, timeless, and REAL. There were living rooms with old dusty red couches, and work rooms with faded magazines and paperwork, game rooms with old style pin ball machines, storage rooms that smelled of must, and rooms without a point. Miriam and I became quite lost as we opened doors, and walked through hallways. They had the details down to the old style outlets on the walls and the smell of old carpet in the air. The plaque at the entrance stated that the artist intended to make the patrons feel lost in the every day, middle class,"civilized" world. And we thoroughly enjoyed it... especially when we came back a second time and a black security guard got suspicious and started following us through the exhibit.

On another floor of the museum we found a pile of flattened cardboard boxes in a corner. Curious, we discovered a plaque on the right which read... "Patrons are invited to use the boxes within the space".

Well, we weren't about to pass up that invitation! We began setting up boxes this way and that, stacking them on top of one another (which was precarious indeed), and having an all around good time. At first it was a fort, which then turned into a castle. And of course, we couldn't have a castle without a nice tall tower, and a moat, and a drawbridge. And we even used Miriam's green scarf to represent "water". When we were finished, we stood back to admire our work... and just then, a couple of serious looking art enthusiasts walked up to the castle and tilted their heads to the side. They commented on the originality of the piece, and the cleverness of the medium. And after a moments admiration, they continued on to another room...

We burst into laughter as they turned the corner, because, you see, they hadn't seen the plaque.

But I guess it just goes to show that anything can be art for somebody in the world. Even if it's just a bunch of cardboard boxes.

After a few hours at the museum, it was time for dinner and a show. We grabbed a couple bagels and a bag of crisps in Southwark Station, chewing as we walked.

There was a cookie place along the way called Millie's, and I couldn't resist getting a picture with me and my new haircut in front of the sign. But just as I was smiling for the camera, the man next to me walked up and put his arm around my shoulder, posing for the picture too! I laughed, and he blushed, getting embarrassed after his rather rash decision... he quickly apologized and walked away. But as Miriam showed me the picture, I laughed even harder... The camera had clicked before he'd reached me, so instead of a cute couple's shot, he looked like big foot caught in the act of sneaking towards me.

The show we were seeing, "Joe Turner's Come and Gone", was at the Old Vic Theatre- a relatively experimental venue, set up in the round. The floor was covered in soft, red dirt--much like the stuff we used to play in at Grandma and Grandpa's house, jumping and tumbling in dirt and sage.

The play was... excellent. The acting, phenomenal. The blocking, costuming, lighting... brilliant. But I had absolutely no idea what was going on... And apparently, neither did anybody else. The intermission was spent wondering aloud whether there was something cultural we had missed, or if we were just looking for a plot that wasn't there. But, at any rate, we had a good time. And if the meaning wasn't entirely clear, the emotion was heartbreaking.

After the play was over, our large group stood in the lobby, giving hugs and saying goodbyes. It was the last time we'd be together as a group. And suddenly that started sinking in.

Several of us went to visit Big Ben and take pictures along the Thames and in front of parliament. For many, including Robyn, this was the last night in London. And an evening on Westminster Bridge, looking out over the river and watching the lights dance on its surface was the perfect way to spend it.

On the tube ride home, there was more than one drunken individual. There was a couple in the corner who were clearly unaware of the rest of the people sitting on the train. And there was a man (wacky as a fruit loop) who announced that ours was the "Salsa Carriage". He stated that if there was anyone who did not sign up for the "Salsa Carriage", they had better shove off. And then he began to do his own version of the Salsa (which was really quite good for a drunken man on a train), and we all sort of smiled at his antics, though we tried not to laugh. Eventually he said "Somebody, stop me!... No, don't stop me, I'm harmless. And I do like to Salsa...," and I'm sure he continued dancing as we hopped off the train.

And as we reached the flats, and I gave Robyn a hug goodbye, and walked up the stairs, and looked at my suitcase... I realized for the first time, that I was really leaving London.

The Thames in the moonlight... the sky all black and starless... the streets so familiar and the buildings so tall... the taxi cabs and the double decker buses... the cobble stone streets... the people... the rain... and the view from the fifth floor of 37 Hyde Park Gate as I stare out into the London air.


Day 42: Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

Naturally, in honor of Roger's final, we decided to have a Crazy European Purchase Dress Up Day. I showed up to class in my hideous floral tights and black leather jacket, Jill wore her blue floral tourist shorts, and Christian sported his kilt. (I admit, Christian looked the most ... ridiculous. But perhaps the most attractive). And we laughed to oursleves as we sat silently at our computers, thinking about what we had learned and how we had changed...


"As I count down the days till I go home, my heart beats faster and faster. I can hardly contain my excitement, and my longing for the familiar faces, and streets, and structure of life. But the week before I came to London, I wrote an entry in my journal. One that I rediscovered a few days ago… one I did not remember writing. And I was truly surprised by what I read. 'I am suffocating. I can’t think anymore, and I am suffocating. I have got to get out and clear my head. I’ve got to get away from this—the day in and day out. I can’t stand it'.

Somehow, being away from home these last few weeks has made me realize how much I love my life—so much so that I’ve forgotten how stifled I felt when I left it. When I came here, I thought I was getting out for a brief time, and that, when I returned, I would be miserable and suffocated once again. But now, learning what I have learned about myself, growing in so many ways, and recognizing the love I have for home, I cannot imagine ever feeling that way again.

You see, I have learned that there is adventure in everything. There is beauty in walking home every day at five, in buying groceries, in scooping pistachio ice cream from the carton, or playing catch on a sunny day. I have learned that the beautiful things are the everyday things, and I learned it by being taken away.

This experience is one that I will remember with fondness. But the buzz and whir of London are nothing compared to the quiet simplicity of home. The memories I’ll cherish most are not the tours or museums, paintings or sculptures, all day sight-seeing, or hours of shopping. The best times were the slow times. Where I sat with friends and talked, and laughed, and breathed the same air, and heard the same birds, and felt the same wind. Those are the times I loved most, and those are the times I’ll remember. And maybe it’s because those were the times that I felt most at home.

I have learned that I love old things. Be they buildings, trinkets, books, or people.

I have learned that I shouldn’t be afraid of airports, buses, or atm’s.

I have learned that everything always works out, no matter how black and sticky the situation.

I have learned that London nights have lavender skies, and the Thames in the moonlight is a prettier picture than you could ever paint.

And most of all, I have learned that people are the most important thing. No matter where you are, or who you’re with.

People are what make this life worth living. They are the drop of sunshine on a cloudy day, and the milk in your cereal. And when you forget that, you are unhappy. Because the clouds just won’t let up, and your cereal is dry.

When I came here, I felt like I needed to get away. Now I realize I needed to get closer. Closer to the people that make me feel at home."


One by one, we finished our essays, packed up our things, and headed home. I met the girls on the second floor, and discussed the final, the weather, and our plans for the last few days. I needed 3 stamps to send the last few post cards, and as luck would have it, Cali had just 3 too many.

Robyn and I ran in front of the on coming taxi cabs to reach the red cylindrical post box on the other side. I let the post cards slip from my fingers, sliding into the blackness, knowing that The Queens Royal Air Mail would get them to their destination, relatively unscathed.

We continued onto the Gloucester tube station, slapped our Oyster cards onto the scanner, and walked through the mechanical gates as they swung open. We descended the familiar tiled stairs, sat down on a familiar metal bench, and watched the familiar stretch of tracks as we waited for the train to come.

There is a tell tale gush of wind, and then sound, just before a train arrives; a split second of anticipation, and then the lights appear at the bend in the tunnel. Everyone inches their way closer to the yellow line... and the air rushes past you, whipping the hair around your face, and nearly knocking you over as the train barrels its way to a stop. As the doors open, you can feel the tension as the feet surrounding you wait impatiently for their turn to board. Your eyes have to be quick, if you want a seat... and if it's a peak travel time, you have to claim the space around you or you're sure to suffocate.

And then the doors close... and open again...meaning someone has been trapped between them in an attempt to leap inside as the doors were closing. After a couple jerking movements, the doors shut, and the train starts to beat its way forward. The general synchrony of movement within the carriage is like an unpracticed dance team- up, down, up, down, slide to the left, jerk to the right... up, down, up, down, slide to the left, jerk to the right.

Everyone's eyes are averted, unless they have a travel companion.

Everyone's voices are hushed, unless they're American... or drunk.

You listen to the familiar, shrill sound as the doors open and close, open and close. And you hear the man saying, over and over again, "Please, mind the gap".

The destinations are recited over the intercom, barely audible above the rumble of the train:

"This is the District Line, to Tower Hill. Next stop, Sloane Square." ...
"This is the District Line, to Tower Hill. Next stop, Victoria. Alight here for Victoria and Circle lines"...
"This is the District Line, to Tower Hill. Next stop, St. James's Park."

Eventually, your stop arrives, and you alight with the mass of people, up the stairs and out the gates, back into the city, back into the sunshine.


Robyn and I were at Camden Market, once again. We ambled along, in and out of shops, talking and enjoying our last visit. We bought a little bucket of raspberries for 90p from a produce vendor, and snacked on them as we walked. By now we knew the streets, the in's and out's... and we knew how to work the system. I wanted to buy one of those lace scarves all the little Chinese women sold... You could find them in the boutiques too, but they were a lot cheaper on the street. And so, we wove through the little stands until we found the booth I had in mind, picked out a scarf, and haggled her down five pounds from her original price. By now we had a system... we worked as a team. And we could always bring the price down.

As we stood poking around in a bin of leather bracelets, a tall black girl, (probably in her twenties), interrupted our conversation. "Hey! I work at a salon called Hobb, just around the corner there, on the river, and we've got some Italian hairstylists here that need models. So if you'd like a free haircut, come on over around 2:00, yeah?"....

We looked at each other, and shrugged our shoulders as if to say... "Well, why not?"

I'd been dying to get my hair cut in London for a couple weeks now. And the word "free" can be rather irresistible. So after a few minutes, we walked along the river road till we found the salon.

I'm not sure what I was expecting... probably some sketchy, hole in the wall, get ready to get mugged sort of situation, I suppose. But what we found was a large, high class, well polished establishment, with huge windows and shining metal fixtures. The girl who had invited us earlier, ushered us in. We were led to a back room, seated, and offered water, tea, coffee, or juice. As we sipped our beverages, other women started trickling in, until there were ten of us, each sitting in our own salon style chair... a little unsure, a little giddy.

Finally two men walked into the room. They talked at a hundred miles per hour in a language we didn't understand, wore fashionable, yet casual clothes, and had just a hint of dark black scruff around the jaw. Mm... Italian.

One of the men clapped to get our attention, (as if he didn't have it already), and began to speak English in a thick Italian accent...

"Ladies! The first thing I would like to tell you is that we are excited to have you here. But if you are here for 'just a trim', you are in the wrong place. You need to be open minded... prepared to leave this place with a new look, a new hairstyle. It is alright with us if you do not want to stay. But IF you stay, you must allow us to broaden your horizons...."

(UH OH!... Robyn stared at me, wide eyed, fingering her long dark locks. I just nodded reassuringly and whispered "Don't worry, don't worry! It'll be great!"... but she just gulped.)

"Now, we will begin by having a consultation with each of you. We will ask what you like, or dislike about your current hairstyle, and then we will tell you what we'd like to do. We want you to be happy with the results, but we want you to be a little daring."

(And with that, they each went to opposite sides of the room, and began going down the rows of chairs, one by one. I watched as the man on my side got closer and closer, a welling sense of uncertainty in the pit of my stomach. He began drawing pictures on the mirrors, and as I listened to him talk, I heard "short" "buzzed" and "chopped"... I looked nervously at Robyn... and then nervously in my own mirror. And then, he reached my chair...)

"Hello Madame. May I feel your hair?"

"Umm... yeah? Sure."

(He began fingering my hair, testing its thickness and weight and whatever else a fancy hairstylist might test... and I sat paralyzed).

"Your hairstyle now... it is childish. Too young. You need something dramatic, attractive, chic."

"Umm... yeah, that sounds pretty good I guess."

"Good. It will be short. Very short."

(And with this, he began moving his hands around my head, showing me what it would look like. Or at least, that's what he thought he was doing. Unfortunately I was too nervous to really pay attention. So I just nodded my agreement and hoped it would turn out alright... afterall, the picture that he drew on the mirror looked good enough. If, cartoonistic.)

Finally, after each of the women had received their brief consultation, a sea of Italians entered the room. The student assigned to me was named Joey, and he didn't speak a darn lick of English. But he was nice enough, and we managed to say hello and nice to meet you in our own way.

We sat waiting, awkwardly, for the man in charge to explain to Joey what he was supposed to do to my hair. He finally reached my mirror, and spoke rapidly in Italian. The only words I caught were... "Molto Old School... Molto Class... Molto Chic"....

And then, we were off!

Boy, Joey worked slowly. But I sort of appreciated it... because A) it gave me time to part with my hair, and B) at least that meant he wasn't doing it wrong. (Except for my bangs of course. There was some confusion there. But after a relatively humorous exchange, in which the student stared at the master with a very quizzical look on his face for nearly five minutes as the master tried to explain... the bangs were a success.)

And Robyn kept her long luscious locks. Very much to her relief. And satisfaction.

I thanked Joey for his fabulous haircut, we took pictures together, and he gave me a great big hug, which made me rather glad. (I'm sure he was gay, but he was still attractive. Just like that Italian waiter in Little Italy last summer... Sheesh. I'm a sucker for Italians).

After our haircuts were finished, it was nearly five o'clock. We hopped on the tube and actually missed the Embankment tube station because we were talking. THAT had never happened before. But I guess we'd just become so comfortable with our surroundings that we stopped paying attention like we should. We looped back at the next station, so that we could make one last trip to Cranberry. (I needed my weekly mango and yovita raspberry fix, one last time). We flirted with the guy working there, as usual, and then skipped away with our devilishly delicious treats.

We alighted at the High Street Kensington tube station and grabbed a Cornish Pasty on the way out. We walked quickly, enjoying the familiarity of our surroundings...and then it was up the stairs and in the commons to study for our last final.

I had horrible writers block, and my last paper just wouldn't come. So Jill and I finally gave up and walked to Tesco around ten thirty. I wanted some Ribena Blackcurrent juice, and a break from our computers sounded like a great idea.

But, of course, when we got home, we ran into Richie... Well, we wanted him to show us the dungeon (the boy's basement flat) because we'd never seen it... and of course Jason showed up and he wanted to talk about Hair, and then Allen wanted to talk about MY hair, and then Christian just wanted to talk. So, needless to say, we ended up pretending to study downstairs with the boys, and really just hanging out.

It was a good way to spend the night before a final.

And I don't say that with any kind of sarcasm. ... There is a time to prepare, and it was long past. It was better to just enjoy the night, and cross our fingers. Because who's going to remember what they got on a final years from now? Not me. I'd much rather remember a night in the dungeon, laughing and joking and living in London... being close to the people that make me feel at home. Because after all... they are the milk in my cereal. They are the drop of sunshine on a cloudy day...


Day 41:Kaleidoscope Eyes...

Not many women these days can say that a man has ever retrieved their handkerchief once it's been dropped... However, I had the unique opportunity of experiencing this chivalrous act, first hand.

This morning as I was (quite literally) running to class, I heard someone whistle behind me. I ignored it, and kept running- I was already late, and who could be whistling for me anyhow? I heard it a second, and a third time... and finally I turned around to see who it was and what they wanted. A tall gentleman, wearing a fancy black suit, (his dark hair slicked back and his shoes shined till they looked like wet plastic), stood at the top of the street. As I turned, he mimed "scarf". I looked at my bag, where my red scarf had been, and realized that it must have fallen off in the tumultuousness of my footfalls. I hurried back the way I had come, and as I did so, he bent down to pick it up. I thanked him breathlessly, and then in a grand, sweeping bow, he extended his hand toward me, silk red scarf dangling from his palm... He said "Madame", and I laughed, curtsied, and retrieved my scarf gracefully... and as I hurried away, he winked, and waved.


Our last day of class was very similar to every other. We met on the second floor of the church building in Kensington... the one just down the street from the V&A and across from one of the entrances to the South Kensington Tube stop- (though it was a deceptive entrance, because you walked several blocks underground before you reached the place where the trains actually stopped).

I sat on the edge, near the windows, as usual. I always get a window seat, if I can help it... in the car, on the bus, in the train, in the commons, and especially in class. There is something about a window that makes life more livable, more connected. Sitting there, listening to Lance talk about Shakespeare, I could also hear the ice cream truck outside, the trotting sound of mounted policemen, cars, and conversations. London was out there. And I loved to listen to it.

I'll admit I was distracted. I didn't realize how many people had noticed... but I suppose when someone slumps into their chair and keeps a kaleidoscope glued to their eye during Shakespeare, it's hard not to notice. But I love the colors... and today they were more interesting than anything Antony and Cleopatra had to offer.

I would roll my head around... looking at the ceiling, and then the floor. Red, blue, green, purple, orange, brown, gold... weaving in and out like something under water. There is a world in a Kaleidoscope altogether more interesting and beautiful than our own... though it is made up only of pieces from the outside. The mirrors could make even the most uninteresting of objects into art... a shoe, a lightbulb, a backpack, a stack of books. Somehow, looking at all these ordinary things through this little tube made them dance... made them come alive.

It occurred to me that perhaps this is what The Beatles meant, when they said that Lucy had "Kaleidoscope Eyes"... I think every artist has got them. They are the ability to look at something ordinary, and see it differently than anybody else. They are the ability to look at something ordinary, to interpret it, and to make it more beautiful than it was before.

During the break, we were privileged with a break-dancing performance from the one and only Hugh Cha. It was certainly entertaining, if slightly awkward... you see the music program was having class in the room adjacent to the cultural hall, so there was no clapping, cheering, laughing, or screaming allowed. (Which obviously makes for an interesting dilemma... have you ever heard of a silent break dancing circle?) But we made do- smiled a lot, laughed silently, and did our best jazz hands, hoping it would help.

Our performance for Roger's class went off without a hitch. I didn't realize it until the class responded to our project in discussion... but we had managed to incorporate themes, elements, and imagery from almost every memorable play we'd seen in the past six weeks. And as Jason said, it was the perfect way to end the term... it wrapped everything up- revisited, reminded, tied together, and let go.

After class we met at the flats for a group lunch... a last hurrah. The table was covered in boxes of absolutely delicious gourmet pizza, and we were each allotted three giant slices each... (certainly more than enough for most of us girls). I had, of course, the tomato, basil, and mozzarella variety, and a tall glass of orange juice. We sat on couches, on the floor, on the chairs, and on the tables... laughing, and talking to one another. I shared my Kaleidoscope with anyone and everyone who asked to see it... and by the end of the day, all but one or two had taken in the excitement and beauty of that little gold trinket around my neck.

We had inside jokes... camaraderie... shared experiences, both good and bad...

We were friends. All of us.

And I wished for a moment that we would never have to leave. That we could stay there, indefinitely. Going to Tesco twice a week, learning about the theatre, walking to the tube station, visiting museums, parks, plays, restaurants, and markets... laughing... learning... always together.

But, I knew that couldn't happen. And even as I held onto that perfect moment, eating pizza on a couch in London, talking and laughing... I could feel the ambitions, life goals, and changes slowly pulling us in our separate ways.

Suddenly I knew that my days in London were numbered, and I began to understand what that meant.


We finally discovered that the number 10 bus would take us to Oxford Street... the only trick was getting off at the right stop. Some new BYU study abroad students that had just arrived at the flats hopped on the same bus, and we rolled our eyes as they began talking... Americans. Without a doubt. Obnoxious. Loud. And totally unaware. But I looked at Robyn and shrugged my shoulders, as if to say, "Don't worry, they'll learn...".

The lines at Primark were heinous, as usual. But we'd discovered a way to work the system. One of us would stand in line, while the other shopped. And then, after about ten or fifteen minutes, we switched places. After forty five minutes of standing and shopping, standing and shopping, we had what we wanted, and we were at the front of the line.

It began to drizzle as we walked toward the bus stop, so we walked a little faster, laughing that we had both forgot our umbrellas. But that is how London works. If everyone remembered their umbrellas every day, it would never rain.

As was tradition on Monday nights, we made one last trip to My Old Dutch for an early dinner. By now the staff recognized us, and knew that we'd come every Monday, ready for our 5 Pound Pancakes. And I wondered if they'd miss us next week, when we didn't show up.

They didn't roll their eyes when we asked for tap water. By now they were used to us and our strange drinking habits. But just to give them a little satisfaction, I ordered a lemonade. What I received was a sweetened sparkling water... with a lemon. It WAS delicious, I'll give them that. But I still can't figure out what it is with them and sparkling water. That's all they know how to drink.

I ordered the berry compote which had, among other things, these little red berries that were so tart, but so delicious. And we all had a taste of each other's. There were bananas and Nutella, peaches and cream, apples and bacon, and a couple dinner pancakes too.

After dinner the group split- some headed to plays, others to pack or study for finals. But I decided to take a walk in the park, despite the rain. Or maybe because of it.

I've found that London rain makes green things greener. When the sun is out, and the air is warm, the leaves are bright and clear, like early spring. But when the air is foggy, drizzly, they turn a dark, rich green, like water that's very deep and still... It is not light, and young... but somehow elegant, regal, mysterious, and wise.

I walked past the palace, which sits on the far corner, all the while staying beneath the trees. I walked slowly, breathed deeply, thought about everything and nothing all at once.

I knew where I was going, and found the Elfin Oak without a problem. Months ago I had given a report on this area of London- Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park- and had enthused many of my classmates with stories about this old oak stump. And yet, I'd never seen it.

Hundreds of years ago, the hollow oak log had many little figures carved into its surface... elves, fairies, animals, maidens in distress. Later the little creatures had been painted. And now it stands right next to Diana's Memorial Playground, in Hyde Park.

It was fascinating, certainly. But the little boy peering through the gate, yelling "Papa! Papa! I found a frog!" was perhaps the most intruiging part of the exhibit. He was absolutely mesmerized, nose pressed against the metal bars protecting the tree, and staring, wide eyed at the scenes before him. His father was less interested, but happy that his son was so distracted, so he could sit and rest for a moment on the bench.

I wonder why we get so bored, as we get older? As I watched this tiny little boy, fascinated as he was, and his father, tired as he was... I hoped that I would never become too tired to be fascinated. I hoped I'd always be excited about the little things... the frogs, and the fairies.

I continued walking, past the round pond, past the familiar bronze horse, and along an unfamiliar road. I walked quietly, letting the rain do most of the talking, and I looked around the park, through my kaleidoscope.

I stopped when I saw a giant old tree, standing alone, off the path. It looked dry under there, and it had a pleasing asymmetry about it. The way it bowed to the right, and stretched its long arms farther out on one side, made it look like a cave rather than a tree. It was inviting... but I stood there, debating, (much like Poccahontis I suppose), whether to stay on the path, or to diverge.

Of course, knowing me, you know where I ended up. I was right, it WAS dry under there. I stretched out on the grass, and stared up at the tangled branches above me. And I listened to the rain.

And then, after about half an hour, I got up again. Brushed off. And headed home.

Of course, on the way, I had the burning desire to start tap dancing in the rain, Gene Kelly style, umbrella in hand. I looked to the right, and then to the left, and seeing I was alone, I started dancing. Tap dancing in the rain is perhaps one of the best activities in the world- the wet splashes are the perfect addition to the gravelly taps... and an umbrella is perfect for adding that little bit of interest in the arms. It wasn't until I started doing barrel rolls that I realized I was being watched. I hadn't seen the group, but I took a bow as they applauded, and then I skipped away to the sound of their laughter

It was another beautiful day in London Town.


Day 40: Lean On Me

You know, there are slow-paced hymns... and then there are funeral-derge-paced hymns. I never thought I'd sing Scatter Sunshine at funeral derge speed. But today, I definitely did.

Miriam and I were LITERALLY dying of laugher. I think if the song had been longer than three verses we might have actually keeled over and died. Really. I'm not kidding.

Michael and Esther kept looking at me from across the aisle like I was crazy. And I suspect I probably DID look sort of nuts, because my body was shaking up and down like I was sitting in the tube. But I was trying my hardest not to ACTUALLY laugh! Miriam and I really tried to keep ourselves together. But as soon as we regained some kind of composure, we'd start singing "scaaaaaaattttteeeeeeerrrrrr suuuuuuunnnnnshhhhhiiiinnnnnneeee", look at each other, and completely lose it all over again!

Sweet Sister Ruth... she told me she loved my singing... that she loved to sit next to me and hear my beautiful voice. But I can't imagine how she could have enjoyed that particular hymn, seeing as how I laughed during the whole thing for no apparent reason.

An unmistakable Utah Mormon Family walked into the chapel during the opening hymn. They looked so out of place-the girls with their brightly colored dresses and gigantic flowers in their hair- and the boys in their white shirts and ties. I guess I had got used to being in the minority, being surrounded by different colors and accents, and seeing jeans, t-shirts, and hats as commonplace church attire. We couldn't believe how OBVIOUSLY Utah they were... so we decided to ask after the meeting. Sure enough, they were from Sandy. Go figure.

The rest of the meeting was lovely, (and a little more reverent), but extraordinarily HOT. All the ladies had their fans waving slowing back and forth as they nodded, and Miriam and I found some old coloring projects from primary to convert into our own fanning instruments.

During the meeting Adam ran up to Miriam, threw a drawing on her lap, and ran back to his seat. Sophie came and teased us, never getting quite close enough to grab, but close enough to be a distraction. And Michael made eyes at me the whole time, but as soon as I'd look over at him, he'd turn his head real fast like he had been paying attention the whole time. Oh... ten year old boys.

In primary Esther wouldn't speak to me. When I finally asked her what was wrong, she turned a very sad lower lip on me, arms folded, and said "I don't want you to LEAVE"... Oh, Esther... I don't want to leave either. But please don't be angry with me!

During sharing time I had Sean on my lap, Adam on my right with his hand on my arm, Jaime and Jemma on my left leaning against my shoulder. All the sudden I'd become a superstar, and everybody wanted to sit on top of me. But I can't say that I minded... it felt good to finally be friends with those little primary kids. Of course it had to be on my last day...

Brother Ojo came into the Primary room, looking for me. He apologized for interrupting, and whispered "Please give me your contact information before you leave today!"... I promised that I would, and he hurried out of the room again. I smiled at his concern... I would never have left without a way to talk to him. Oh, Brother Ojo.

I was put in charge of the 8-11 year old Sunday School class... again. But this time I was all alone. Tiko was so naughty I just wanted to cry. And Michael wasn't helping either. They just screamed at each other, and I finally just gave up because they weren't listening to anything I said. I sat there and colored with Jemma, lettting the boys yell at each other for almost ten minutes, until they started pushing, and then I intervened. (I didn't really want to stop a fist fight). I glared at them for a few seconds, asked if they were finished, and told them I'd miss them, even though they were horribly misbehaved sometimes.

All of the classes met back in the primary room for the last ten minutes. We took pictures, and said our goodbyes, snacking on some homemade cake and biscuits. I got about three hugs from each of the kids... Esther was the last, and she just wouldn't let go, so I sat there and hugged her. My heart ached, and I felt like some kind of traitor as she looked up at me with her big dark eyes.

I hugged the Primary presidency, and thanked them for everything. I hugged the kids one last time- Holly, John, Adam, Michael, Nathan, Tiko, Sean, Jemma, Jaime.... I found Brother Ojo, handed him a piece of paper, told him not to lose it, and hugged him too.

As we walked out of the building, we saw the choir ladies practicing through the window. They waved us back frantically, (distressed because they had not said their goodbyes)... and we gave them each a kiss on the cheek and a thank you. Grandma Emma was there in the chapel, and when I told her it was our last week, she got teary eyed and wailed, "but I never got to feed you!!"... She gave me her telephone number and told me to call her up to chat, and said if I ever came back, and she wasn't in Ghana, that she would feed me.

Miriam practically had to drag me from the church... I just didn't want to leave. I didn't realize how much I loved that ward until I had to leave it...

The tube was absolutely packed. We stood there, huddled together, jammed into the heat along with everyone else. And as the train jerked, Arielle slipped and grabbed my arm... She apologized, and I told her, "Arielle, you can lean on me any time..." (in a very cheesy voice). But I meant it. And Miriam and I started singing, very quietly, "Lean on me, when you're not strong... I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on!"....

The ward members sent us home with bags full of food. We decided that a picnic in the park after the hour long ride home was a good idea, and stopped quickly at the flats to grab some cups and forks. We SHOULD have got plates. And napkins! But, we managed to eat the mountains of fried chicken, green salad, spicy rice, and marbled cake (despite the mess).

Miriam poured us each a glass of juice. Debbie downed hers within seconds, but the rest of us had a little difficulty swallowing. As we inspected the label, we discovered that what we had poured so liberally was actually SYRUP. And it was mean to be mixed with four parts water to every one part flavoring. Oops.

We laughed a lot. Our fingers got sticky. We tried to pour the remains of water bottles into the syrup filled glasses. We enjoyed the sunshine beaming down on Hyde Park, basked in the company of friends, and soaked in the absolute perfection of the moment. I don't think that I could ever imagine a better day... a better meal... better company... or a better place to eat on a Sunday afternoon.

We returned to the flats just in time for our last fireside. Of course, following standard Mormon tradition, it was a testimony meeting. And as I sat there listening to the the thoughts, discoveries, and memories, I realized that over the last few weeks, I had made a room full of friends. When I first walked into that prep class six months ago, I was a total stranger. And now, as I looked at each of these people, I saw a friend. Someone I had talked with, grown with, laughed with. And it was sort of bitter sweet, Because I knew the likelihood that we'd all be together again was slim.

After the fireside I got together with my presentation group for Roger's class. We were supposed to do an adaptation of All My Sons. The night before we had talked about exploring the relationship between Annie and Mark through their letters... but we hadn't got any farther than that. But I woke abruptly this morning after a very vivid dream....

We were about to present, and I turned to Cali, frantic. I didn't know what we were doing with the letters! She just shook her head and shrugged her shoulders, like she couldn't speak. And so I dragged her outside, ready to beat it out of her, if necessary. She just handed me a piece of paper, and there, I saw the diagram for exactly how we'd do the performance....

The girls laughed at me when I told them I'd had a dream about our presentation.... But, what I'd seen on the paper in my dream really WAS a good idea. So we used it.

That night I talked to mom, and it made me homesick.

And then, it was time to sleep.

Another day gone.


Day 39: Free, Free, Palestine

... When we first arrived in London, there was one lone tent and a sign that said "Free Palestine", (in carefully handwritten block letters),set up in the grassy area between Parliament and the Abbey. Now the grass is covered in tents, and posters, and flags, and signs... and today these same protestors create a continuous stream of sound on High Street Kensington, shouts and chants drifting through my window as they march outside my door.

"Free Free Palestine! We will never let you die!"... The crackling sound of a blow horn, again, and again.


Today was a Portobello day. (That sounds like an actual saying... maybe I'll start using it. hmm... Because a Portobello day is always a good day).

It's been hot. Really hot. All the windows are open, and my room is still an oven. So, I decided to be clever and wear a skirt. But I wasn't the only one with this brilliant idea... we all showed up at our meeting place on the second floor in skirts or dresses. And we laughed at our single-mindedness, but mostly at Rachel, who didn't get the memo and showed up in dark blue jeans.

We've grown a little wiser, it seems. We have a meeting place wherever we go, no matter what we're doing. I guess we got tired of becoming lost or separated... But even if it is wiser, it can still be ridiculous at times, and just as time consuming as getting lost. We'll stand around trying to agree on a meeting spot for ten minutes, and then decide we need to go farther up the road, and debate again. But, in the end, we always find something. This time it was the corner at the upper end of Portobello, where the man with his stand up base always played- The sounds of his old instrument and scratchy voice very familiar by now.

We split up and I walked briskly-with a purpose. I was searching for the Kaleidoscope man. I knew he'd be somewhere on the left side of the road, but he could be anywhere along the length of the road... and it's perty lengthy.

My pace slowed as I reached the hairpins. I loved this booth, and I always stopped to look at all the little rods splayed out like rainbows, according to color and size. The lady who sold them would painstakingly arrange them every Saturday morning, fingering the little ivory and colored glass beads with care. Her red, frizzy hair nearly tamed with a headband, (but not quite), and her thick rimmed glasses falling down her nose.

I stopped this time, and peered at the sparkling little ornaments, my hands clasped behind my back. (Most vendors got nervous if you started touching things, so it was best to keep your hands out of sight... they were nicer if you did). This was, after all, my last time at Portobello road, and I wanted to admire her handiwork a little closer.

As I stood there, she began to tell me about her merchandise, (as most effective salesmen do). How they were made, how each old victorian bead was found and handled with care. But the conversation quickly turned to other things: why I was in London, what I wanted to do with my life, how I'd enjoyed the theatre, and the atmostphere, and the food so far... We talked for nearly 20 minutes. And by the end, we were the best of friends. As I left, hairpin in hand, she wished me the best with the rest of my trip. We gave each other a quick hug, and a kiss on the cheek, (as is expected of friends in Europe), and waved to one another until I was swallowed in the mass of people walking Portobello Road.

I found the Kaleidoscope man a few minutes later. I spotted him between a couple of clock vendors, and I pushed through the crowd to reach his little table. It was only about one foot by two feet wide, and it was filled with kaleidoscopes. Big ones on stands, little ones on keychains, and there on the wall, the kind I was searching for, kaleidoscopes hanging on pieces of leather string. I carefully pulled one from its hook, looked through the eye piece, examined the antique golden barrel, fingered the leather, and handed the man 13 pounds. He asked if I needed a bag, but I just shook my head, and put it carefully around my neck. I grinned from ear to ear, and skipped farther down Portobello Road. I had been looking forward to that Kaleidoscope for two weeks. And now it thumped against me as I walked like a familiar friend.

I was unsurprised to find the rest of the girls clustered around the scarves farther down the road. There were hundreds... hanging on the side of the building in different categories, solids, patterns, wools, and silks. There were probably THOUSANDS more inside the shop, but we never bothered to even venture in there. The stacks of scarves piled higher than we were tall were entirely too overwhelming- it was hard enough to make a decision with the scarves hanging outside!

Robyn and I moved farther down the road, toward the clothing booths that stretched down the side streets. She was still searching for something for her mom, and I had promised Melissa I would buy a few silk scarves for her, since she was in Scotland, and couldn't buy them herself. I fell in love with a dress there, but luckily I didn't have the funds to buy it. (I think if I had actually HAD the 50 pounds in my pocket, I might have given in and bought it). My heart ached for as I walked away... but, I sighed, and continued onward.

We stopped at one of the booths with every color, style, pattern, and variety of tights you've ever seen. I was determined to buy a pair of absolutely heinous, floral, footless tights- because it was something that nobody would believe unless I brought them home with me. And I succeeded. I can't tell you how stylish they are here. (We'll see if I get up enough courage to wear them in the states).

We discovered a tall Jamaican man with his dreads tied up on top of his head, cutting up coconuts with a machete. They were only a couple pounds, and a fresh coconut sounded AMAZING. So we gave him our handful of heavy change, and he sliced the tops off of two bright green coconuts. He popped a straw in each, and told us to come back when we were ready to eat the insides. We wandered around for a bit, window shopping, and drank the thick, sweet liquid that filled the hollow shell nearly to the brim. The stuff was absolutely DELICIOUS.

We headed back after a few minutes, and he chopped the coconuts into thirds, made spoons out of the husks, and showed us how to scoop the meat out of the shell. And after this quick tutorial, we went happily away with our treat. We found a small park in the middle of the mayhem, and sat on a bench to eat. The meat of a fresh coconut is not what you expect it to be. It isn't like that dry, hard stuff you buy in the store. It is soft, and slimy, and sort of melts in your mouth. And my GOSH, it is good.

Robyn and I sat sat and ate quite contendedly. Annie and Jill joined us, showing off their new skirts. I showed off my heinous floral tights... put them on behind a rubbish bin, along with my Union Jack T-Shirt, which was possibly the worst (or best) combination possible, (depending on your point of view). And we all laughed at our antics.

Suddenly Jill let out a gasp or horror, and said in disbelief, "This is not a skirt!... These are shorts!" And she held up what we had THOUGHT was a blue and white floral print skirt, which, sure enough, turned out to be absolutely hideous blue and white floral baggy shorts. Annie held hers up, and discovered she had the bought the same thing. And we laughed even harder.

We took turns looking through my Kaleidoscope- pointing at each others faces, hands, hideous tights, horrid skirts, and empty coconuts. Eventually we had to start walking back up Portobello Road... for the last time.

I tried as hard as I could to burn the many images passing before me into my memory... customers: individual, interesting, walking in and out of booths and antique shops... vendors: bored, passionate, unique, selling their goods and relaxing in the sunshine... merchandise: breads, cheeses, candies, clothes, old guitars, jewelry, scarves...

And I knew I would forget.

But I hoped... I hoped I would remember some part, some piece... I wished that SOMEthing would stay clear and fogless in my silly, mortal memory- a moment in time, recalled as beautiful and serendipidous as when I really walked the street.

And then I waved goodbye, one last time, and descended into the underground, catching my last glimpse of Portobello Road for what will probably be a very long time.


We stepped into the British Museum completely exhausted. It was in a part of town we'd never trapsed, so it took a while to locate the building after the rather disorienting step off the tube, and our legs felt like we'd been walking all day. (And now that I think about it, we had been!). The building itself was impressive, to be sure. We stared up at the high, vaulted, dome shaped ceilings, supported by triangular metal bars. And as we stood, perusing our maps, trying to decide how to conquer the museum, we seemed to grow more and more weary.

We went in and out of several rooms, briefly viewing the many statues and pieces of old architecture, and then we found our way to the Rosetta Stone. I admired the tangability of this rock I'd seen so many times in textbooks. It was bigger than I'd imagined. And it was mind boggling to look at those figures etched into the surface, and imagine the people who must have spent years decoding the lost language it contained.

And then, for Jill, we located the Easter Island Head at the rear of the museum.

And after that task was completed, about half an hour after we'd arrived, we wilted completely... collapsing on the front steps of the gigantic building. We were just so very tired.

We sat there on the steps for several minutes, looking up at the high, thick collumns. Talking and laughing at our tired legs. And then, we headed home.

Jill and I sat in the commons, pretending to study for finals, or do homework, as we really blogged or looked at pictures on facebook. We sat together, fighting to stay awake, until we finally gave up the guise and curled up in the crevice of the cushions. I think we both needed that nap in the commons. For some reason, it had been a very long day...


I woke with a start, absolutely positive I had slept past the time appointed to meet Jana for the show at the National. But as I looked at my watch, I breathed a sigh of relief. It had only been half an hour. I was right on time.

We walked to the tube, hopped on a train, bumped and bounced with the rest of the passengers, and alighted at Embankment... (being sure to mind the gap as we lept off the train).

I stopped in Cranberry's to grab some yovita raspberries and dried mango, (a little treat for the show). And then we walked across the the westminster bridge, high above the Thames: sparkling and beautiful beneath us.


Women Beware Women was... Intense. But it was beautifully done. The set, the costuming, the acting, the music... it was all brilliant. And at the end, as the music rumbled beneath you, and screached above you, the deaths loomed before you, becoming all the more ominous as the vollume increased.

When we arrived home, I was sure I was minutes from passing out. I talked with Ashley, brushed my teeth, and fell into bed.

Another day gone.


Day 38: Bring a Map.

Today was a designated shopping day. Jill, Annie, Elise, Robyn, Rachel, Mandy and I headed to the tube station, Camden Bound. My mission? Find a hardcore, black leather jacket. Yes... I already had a brown one. But I had decided a week ago that I wanted a black one. And it was going to be my birthday present to me! Hooray!

So, we all split up, ready to divide and conquer. Jill and I headed to the mass of clothing vendors under the green banner that said "Camden Market" in tacky white lettering, steeling ourselves for the usual onslaught of pushy salesmen, saying "You like it? Try it on! Special deal for you!" ...

We found the perfect jacket within about ten minutes... I had him down to 10 pounds below his starting price, but then he figured out that he didn't actually have a black one in the small size. So he tried to sell me the dark brown. Uhg. We scuttled away and I shrugged my shoulders. We perused the racks for a skirt for Jill, and kept our eyes open for a similar style jacket for me.

The trick about shopping for dresses or skirts anywhere in London is that they only believe in two lengths: super short and super long. So, when we discovered a cute, normal length dress, we were pleasantly surprised. When the salesman saw us looking at it, he swooped down and asked how much we wanted it for... I knew most the dresses were 20 plus, so I said 15. He got this look of absolute disgust on his face, and took the dress out of my hands. Holding it up, he said "This is not a T-Shirt! This is not a Jumper! T-shirts are 15 pounds. This is a DRESS! I give it to you for 25," his voice just seeping with disdain. We said thanks but no thanks and high tailed it out of there.

We got dragged into another set of racks when I was caught eyeing an adorable creamy lace number, and boy howdy, was THIS guy an adventure. He kept calling me his pet, and my dear, (which is relatively normal for what I've seen of Europe), but then he started saying I was the prettiest girl, and that I was "his model". And once he started leaning in close to my ear and whispering "I'll give you a special deal, just for you, my pretty model"... Jill rescued me and we made a mad dash around the clothes, yelling "thank you! we're not interested!" as we ran.

As we were about to leave, I spotted the same black leather jacket we'd looked at before. I asked the man if he had it in a small, and after a quick phone call, he announced that he did. When I asked him the price, he gave me the same amount the previous vendor quoted, and I said "Hey, a guy over there was going to give me the same jacket for 10 pounds less"... we bickered over it for a minute, and then he finally gave in. It felt good to finally have a backbone when it came to haggling.

And I walked out of there, jacket in hand. :) Or rather, on body.

Anyway, after that we started heading back towards our meeting place... grabbed some fresh squeezed orange juice from the lady on the corner, stopped once or twice to look at woven bracelets, and ended up in front of the big sign that said DRUMS, in bright red letters. (We weren't sure what the giant poster was advertising, but it was easy to spot, so we thought it was as good a place as any).

Our next stop of the day was Abbey Road. We knew which tube stop we wanted, but other than that, we had no idea where we were going. I suppose we thought the famous crosswalk we were searching for would be right outside the tube station, or at very least, just around the block. But, as we began walking in one direction, and then another, we quickly realized it was going to be a longer adventure than originally planned. We asked for directions... once, twice, three times. They all pointed us a different way, and we walked up and down until our legs hurt and our necks burned from the heat.

At least it was a pleasant part of town. And it wasn't raining.

We finally found the road we were searching for, but much to our dismay, there were no signs pointing us in the correct direction. No "Beatles pilgrims this way" or "THE crosswalk is that way". And unfortunately, Abbey Road is sort of a lengthy stretch of asphalt. And we had no idea which way to go.

We ended up walking for nearly an hour, and we'd finally resigned ourselves to simply finding a crosswalk on Abbey Road, taking the pictures, saying it was the right one, and keeping the secret till our dying day. We got so far as standing like John, Paul, George, and Ringo in the middle of the road, when a motorcyclist drove by, honked his horn, shook his head, pointed up the road, (and probably laughed a great deal at our expense). I mean, let's face it. We had to look like total idiots, standing there, posed like The Beatles at the WRONG crosswalk.

So, we walked in the direction that the laughing motorcyclist had indicated... And what do you know? Only two blocks along the road, there was a crosswalk. And at least fifty people standing at either end, waiting for traffic to ease up, so they could get their turn at imitating the Fab Four, hoping to immortalize the moment forever in a tacky tourist's photo album.

We hung around, and tried 2 or 3 times to get the perfect picture. Which, of course, is pretty much impossible when you're trying to walk in synchronization and keep from becoming road kill all at the same time.

The Abbey Road studio, still in working order, was there too: the white washed wall in front of it covered in signatures and confessions of love, all in honor of those four, shaggy haired boys.

Well, my life couldn't have been more complete. And I silently gave a sigh of relief. After being literally yards away from THE Abbey Road Crosswalk, I'd almost walked away without ever seeing it!(And with fake pictures to boot!) I don't know if I could have lived with myself. (Good thing we don't have to find out).

We headed in what we thought was the general direction of the tube station. We were steeling ourselves for another long walk... and then, two blocks into it, what do you think we run into? That's right. The tube station. HA!

That darn crosswalk WAS only a couple blocks away. We just got directed in every direction EXCEPT the right one.

Which teaches us a VERY important lesson kids. Don't underestimate the power of Google. Or bring a map.

Well after that we were all practically starved. So, we hopped on the tube, and headed to Covent Gardens.

This market is smaller than many of the others-(Camden, Borough, and Portobello). But much of it is indoors or canopied, so on a hot day, it's a good place to shop. I bought a baguette from one of the vendors and sat on a step with Jill while we ate. Below us a street performing string quartet began to play, and we enjoyed their lively entertainment as we chewed.

We finished our food and found a rubbish bin, (which is harder than you might think, by the way, because they've all but gotten rid of them in London, for fear of bombs in their rubbish-it's really rather aggravating when you've got a fist full of orange peel and no place to put it, believe me), and then we meandered in and out of all the little shops. Jill was looking for something for her mom, so I helped, and kept my eyes open for a child size T-Shirt.

And then, at the appointed time, we meandered back to the center (where the quartet had been) to a place called Yuphoria. We met Robyn and Cali, and went inside. We'd been told that this place was a MUST--frozen yogurt, fruit, and hot waffles. MM...

The special for the day was Passionfruit flavored yogurt, so I ordered that with raspberries and a waffle, and I was NOT disappointed. Whoever thought of putting frozen yogurt with waffles was my hero. (And just typing this is making me seriously hungry... uhhg).

After that delicious treat, it was off to Harrods.

Some of you may know about this crazy famous department store already... (I didn't). And for those of you who DON'T, let me give you a little sum up...

...This place is 7 stories high, and covers an entire block, all on it's own.
...There is a Tiffany's inside. And in the jewelry section there is a large, golden sphinx.
...There is a section devoted completely to just about every designer brand you've ever heard of; Dolce & Gabanna, Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Armani... you name it.
...The Sales-reps dress to the nines, and there is, in fact, a doorman.
...Like any department store, there is a kids section... with life size stuffed animals and go-carts. And they were even giving glittery butterfly tattoos for free!
...In the pet section they sell only the best, pure bred dogs, complete with 3 generation pedigree. Oh, and if you want to buy your brand new dog designer clothes, you can do that too.
...There is a hattery. Inside.
...On the first floor you'll find food galore, and one shop devoted entirely to macaroons.
...I was there for more than an hour, and I probably saw about an eighth of the store.

We began playing an excellent game, where you located the ugliest possible thing you could find, guessed the price, and then looked at the tag.

Someone discovered this heinous purple fuzzy fur number, that we BELIEVE was meant to be a vest. We made guesses ranging from 100 to 1,000 pounds. When we flipped the tag over, we nearly fell over.

3,000 pounds! That's $4,500.

But, I suppose with a name like Louis Vuitton you can sell a heinous purple fuzzy fur vest for 3,000 pounds... and get away with it.

We went home, and I wrote a paper. Sometimes I forget that I'm actually in school.

And then we went out to Wagamama's on High Street Kensington for dinner. There was a very animated Asian guy across from us who was alarmingly similar to Daxflame in his mannerisms. And Jill and I laughed and laughed, until he caught us looking at him, and then we tried to contain ourselves.

Boy howdy, what a day. :)