End of London and beginning of Germany

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A lot has happened in the past few days, and I finally found a computer to update this blog so hopefully I can go into a little more detail.

Since the last update, we finished our shenanigans in London.  The city was spectacular and full of diversity.  It was a great transition city between Scotland and the continent, because everywhere around us there were different languages. Some things that we did on during the second half of London were a tour of the Globe Theatre, a Film Museum that displays vehicles from James Bond movies, a Boat Trip on the Thames River that took us to a little suburb Greenwich (pronounced Grenich), and the one thing I have been looking forward to months… Les Miserables!! Les Miserables was an incredible experience that will play over and over in my mind for a long time. It was incredible.  The stage the performed on was quite small and was meant for just plays. But using a revolving stage created smooth transitions. Each character was incredible, and the actor playing Javert completely redeemed the character. Epinone has always been one of my favorite characters in musicals and the actress killed it. I was also fortunate to see the musical, Once, due to class being canceled. It put a whole new perspective on musicals, because it is very different than, say, Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis, or Wicked.  It’s a more genuine story about musicians who fall in love and encourage each other in their careers. Unfortunately I ran out of time/money to experience Lion King which is fine because it gives me a completely legitiment reason to go back to New York and experience it there. 🙂

One last thing we did in London was go to the Imperial War museum, which had lots of information regarding wars that the UK had been involved in. These include WWI, WWII, the cold war, and even the War on Terrorism.  It also had an exhibit on the Holocaust. Each floor of the museum was powerful and informative, and left room for thought, especially the Holocaust area.

The last day of London was a learning day.  We had booked our flight to Cologne/Bonn a few days ahead, but did not realize how far the airport was from our hostel, leaving us in a financial dilemma. Lessons were learned this night, and not much sleep was gained. The next day, February 28th, we headed off to Bonn, Germany to visit a friend of mine!

My friend Roman, who I had worked with for two summers at Sugar Creek was gracious enough to let a friend and I visit and stay with him for three days.  It was a relaxing weekend, which has been needed this entire trip.  Pretty much every day we have been doing city tours, exploring, seeing shows, class, museums, etc. without the chance to just rest. So we drank coffee and watched 2 seasons of Sherlock, a show on the BBC, and now I am obsessed. Roman gave us some advice about Germany, including German police officers are the nicest and trustworthiest people he has met. The other one is if you don’t want to be talked to by sketchy Germans, just walk down the street and look like you’re angry. I can finally put my resting b*tch face to work!

Not gonna lie, it is a little challenging being a country now where people around you are speaking an unfamiliar language. But my great-great grandparents had to do that when they moved to Wisconsin and learn English. Usually I am asking people if they speak english before I interact with them. Most people reply with a little, but it is usually enough to get the job done. I feel a little bad because I have not been able to memorize manner words yet such as please, excuse me, sorry, etc. But I know thank you, and do you speak english. lol

I arrived in Berlin two days ago.  Yesterday we had a walking tour of Berlin, and our tour guide was from America. I liked him. Berlin is so full of history.  Between being bombed in WWII, being split between right wing and left wing politics post WWII, this city has come a long ways. There are memorials for the victims who died in the Holocaust, and each group of people (Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, etc.) has their own memorial.  We walked through the memorial of murdered Jews. The memorial is quite abstract and was designed by a Jewish American.  It consists of blocks of concrete spaced out on an entire street block. The number of blocks are insignificant, and the blocks are different heights.  The meaning behind the design is controversial, and the architect has not given an explanation.  The only thing he mentions is how one can come up with one interpretation for a memorial, when one cannot come up with an interpretation of a genocide so large. I think that is kind of interesting because it leaves room for personal interpretation. Some of the blocks are starting to crack because they are just concrete. My personal view on it is this: like each victim, each block represents different sizes therefore different stories. Germany has had to deal with this burden for over half a century and probably will for the next century to come.  A nationalistic or patriotic is really only seen during the World Cup for Germany, and even after that it quickly diminishes.  The blocks are starting to crack.  Perhaps this symbolizes a point in time when every block has cracked, it could be a closure time for the Germans and the burden their generations have had to deal with. (Because I feel that an architect would have had to known that cement cracks over time…)

Anyway, we saw one part of the Berlin wall that still exists, and noticed how architecture of buildings differentiate on the West and East sides of Berlin. The West side is more contemporary than the East. The west side belonged to the Democratic United States, and the East side belonged to the Communistic Soviet Union.  We saw Check Point Charlie, and a panoramic picture of the day were the Cold War almost physically started at CPC.

I also saw the Koncerthaus that the Berlin Philharmonic plays in and I just about suffocated. I hope to see a performance there. In addition there was a memorial for the book burning done by the Nazi’s. Underneath Bebelplatz, (a town square) there is a locked book room that has a window ceiling for people to look down into. The twist is that it is a white, empty room with book shelves.

We have lots to do still in Berlin, including more museums and another city tour. My next destination is a small town in which I’m not exactly sure where, but it will be OUT of the city and in the mountains with less people. I am very much looking forward to this. I miss nature, and getting slightly sick of concrete and sky scrapers.

until my next access to a computer

Guten Tag.

London

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So the end of Stratford was pretty chill. The royal Shakespeare company (RSC) is the theatre company in Stratford and we saw two shows there. The first one was Love’s Labour’s Lost (or Much Ado About Nothing) which is a Shakespeare show. However the RSC contemporizes many of his plays so this one was jazzed up to post WWI. The music that Shakespeare wrote for the play was also jazzed up . I enjoyed this one very much. The stage was in the form of a thrust stage, which means the stage is essentially pulled out with the audience on both sides of the stage.
The second show we saw that day was entitled Oppenheimer, a show about J. Robert Oppenheimer and his creation of the atomic bomb. Since the setting is at Berkley College we got to hear English actors use American accents so that was cool!

We also got to see the home of Shakespeare and his grave which was neat.

During my free travel I decided to go to London early with a few girls. We explored the city, and got a head start on getting comfortable with the tube (subway). The first hostel was a little ratchet. My room had a 3-level bunk system.

The next hostel I am currently staying at is another youth hostel, right outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s quite amazing to wake up to the bells every morning at 7! St. Paul’s looks exactly like the Capitol building, so it gives me a feeling of home a little. The church is a Church of England church, which is Protestant. However it has very similar views to Catholicism. I went to an evensong service with the choir. The choir used boys instead of women for their soprano and alto voices. The acoustics were breathtaking. The organ or the choir would cut off, and the sound would resonate throughout the sanctuary for at least 6 seconds. It made me miss playing in band orchestra and singing in choir. I also went to the Ash Wednesday service where the bishop gave the sermon! It was pretty awesome. They also give up meat and reducing their energy during the Lent season, but welcome all baptized Christians to take communion. I will say though I am really missing a good contemporary service!…And some kids running around a church crawling on my legs.

Last Thursday night Erin and I went to see Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. IT WAS SO GOOD. I enjoyed hearing a full pit orchestra, as when we saw Wicked in Minneapolis, there was unfortunately no full pit. So, ya know, seven strings and a bassoon playing the actual bassoon parts was a nice touch 🙂

London is pretty great. We have done a few tours and a few museums, done most of the touristy things, as can be seen in my Facebook album. It’s a struggle to want to do so much but your body won’t let you because it’s exhausted.
The exchange rate is currently eating me. If any of you come to the UK, be prepared. One dollar is equivalent to 1.66 pounds. So a meal may look like it costs £8 but it’s actually like $12. So I’m a little ready to go into euros now.
Everyone here is very fashion forward, especially now that it’s fashion week in London. Which can be cool! But ya know being a backpacker and one who won’t pay more than like $30 for a pair of jeans or more than $10 for a shirt, I don’t necessarily fit in. There is a store in Europe though called Primark which is like a Forever 21 except cheaper. Amazing right? It’s hard not to buy everything in the store because it wouldn’t fit into my backpack.

That’s really all I have for now. I’m doing a lot of city tours, history tours, tours, and more tours. But fear not, I still have class every once in a while.

Also I’m seeing Les Mis on Wednesday. 🙆

Bye👋

All the world’s A Stage

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The last day spent in Edinburgh was a class day, but that evening a bunch of us headed out for our first free travel adventure. I decided I wanted to go to Ireland, since I do have Irish in my blood. However it was only (as far as I know) my great-great grandma Marry O’Rourke who is Irish..

After taking four hours or so to get to the airport and checked in, we landed in Dublin where we would spend the next 3 days. The first day we took a guided tour of the city. One thing I learned quick was the frankness of the Irish. Our tour guide who was close to my age swore like a sailor and was very politically opinionated. One thing the Irish government didn’t do very well was preserving areas for historical land or architecture. There was a place in the middle of the city where geologists found the largest area of preserved Viking weapons and other things, but the government was stubborn to build on the land. They gave the geologists one week to find what they could before the building process started on this government building. However, they were kind enough to build a historical museum for the vikings down the block from the government building. (I probably have ancestors rolling in their graves)
My tour guide, Lawrence, also shared his two cents on American politics. This was brought out for many reasons:
1-there is a very prestigious college in Dublin called trinity college. At this school, and many/most European colleges, if you get good grades, you can go to school. They don’t charge 18 year olds thousands of dollars for higher education or put them in debt within their first year of adulthood.
2-in Ireland they put more money into education than their military. Instead of using their money for bombs, it goes towards text books.
3-he wasn’t very fond of how our middle class is slowly deteriorating.
#Lawrenceforpres2016

Soon after the tour we headed to the Guinness factory. I’m not a fan of dark beer but I thought it would be fun to explore the place, and there was a lounge on top of the place that had a sky view of the city. I was taught how to properly taste Guinness which is by breathing in through your nose, taking a sip, and then exhaling. I then was certified on pouring a proper glass of Guinness, so if you ever need assistance, call me.

Side note: Something that I kinda realized on this trip… They say Americans drink a lot, but it’s more because their liquor and beer are not as high in alcohol content or are full of more sugar. People here just drink it straight, therefore not needing to drink as much.

That night I experienced my first pub crawl but tapped out a little earlier than everyone since I was fighting a cold. But if anyone is thinking about going to Dublin, one must be fond of the pub and live music scene, since there isn’t really much to do in Dublin besides eat, chill in the park, and drink. This was a Sunday night but every pub still had live music, and most of it was acoustic which I adored. We stayed at this one place for a bit because the girl who was performing was phenom. Her alto range was raspy yet soothing. She played guitar but was accompanied buy another man playing guitar so there was a full sound and many guitar solos that displayed their talent. That was my favorite part of the trip. Oh and remember how I said Irish are frank? I had a bartender in his late 40’s tell me to “get a life”‘after ordering water. I was also told that I looked like Mila Kunis which is completely false lol. That came up after a guy asked us where we were from and I replied with Wisconsin, and he connected that with That’s 70’s Show. ☺️ #hellowisconsin

The next day we spent roaming around catching up on homework, and doing a little shopping. Though that’s a little hard to do since I only have about 96 liters to work with. This weekend taught me a lot about Hostel life, and i met some nice people from different countries including Latvia and Argentina. The girl from Latvia told us she didn’t think Americans were loud… Russians are loud. Haha

Tuesday was a day I was kinda dreading. I have traveled in groups before and I was already aware I’m not fond of traveling in groups, yet there I was doing just that. A little tip: it’s always good in life to try figuring things out yourself by using context clues or your resources… Not only does that make you a better problem solver, but it also makes people like me less annoyed when the same questions get asked over and over and over again. It’s appropriate to ask for help then if you can’t get the answer, but it’s also good to know who to ask. Don’t ask an American who has never been to England how to get to the bus stop because chances are they haven’t been there. After a 30 minute plane ride, three train connections and a little walk to the bus stop, I reached downtown Stratford Upon Avon, the home of Shakespeare! (Hence the title incase you caught that) Stratford got its name from a street called Strat which is in the city and ultimately leads to the river Avon which is in the middle of the city. Naturally they needed a way to cross the Avon river and Before they had bridges, there were shallow parts of the rivers which were called fords… This is the part where people would cross, hence StratFord Upon (on) Avon.

The city bus driver was not fond of 14+\- traveling Americans who did not have their heads on straight trying to get on his bus, but we waited for 45 minutes for this only bus that would take us to our hostel. Eventually we made it on time.

Today we had a city tour by an Englishman who seemed to have knowledge just pour out of his mouth about history and literature. Obviously we learned much about Shakespeare, his family, and his career but we also learned about a haunted tavern and saw a few beautiful cathedrals. On this trip there has been much talk about how the reformation impacted many countries, including Scotland and England…the Irish didn’t really budge on that one. (I also knew a lot about the reformation already thanks to a great music history teacher, Dr. Dickey 😊) It disappointed me, however, that many of the churches were forced to white wash the walls inside over many paintings because of the Protestant views on music and art, but hundreds of years later after the white paint deteriorated we were able to see many cool paintings that dated back to the 1500’s. Today we saw the church that Shakespeare was buried and baptized in, which was kind of amazing. Not to mention the architecture was pure genius. I could have spent hours in there just looking at everything inside.

Also fun fact that I somehow already knew but can’t remember why…: Shakespeare was one of the men who spent 46 years translating the Hebrew bible into English…as requested by King James (hence KJV). In the KJV, if you go to Psalm 46, you’ll notice how the 46th word is Shake, and the 46th word from the end of the Psalm is spear. Coincidence? Ehhhh….

This town obviously gets its money as a tourist town, but that doesn’t justify the adorableness of the town. There are many old shops and many buildings that are very old… Along with old people. Coffee and sweet shops are everywhere, including a tavern here and there. We only spend a few days here but it reminds me of home since it is a little smaller than the cities we have been in or will be in.

I’m usually not one to get homesick, but it has hit me a little harder than usual this week. I’m missing my parents and my siblings, along with my church family, and friends and professors in Platteville. I’ve sent a few post cards to some so maybe it will be your lucky day in a few weeks. If you want a post card send me your address and I’d love to write you. I would also enjoy a message every now and then as well 😉

Cheers y’all, and I appreciate you reading my babbling and stories!

Edinburgh, Dalkeith, and the Highlands (oh my)

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It’s been a week since we started our journey to Scotland. And already we have put so much time into touristy things and school work.  Jet lag hit HARD, as I didn’t get any sleep on the plane, and we arrived around 7 in the morning on Thursday. Thankfully, culture shock has not been a huge problem, as there are many similarities between culture and even geography (as in the grassy areas and pastures). The first few days we spent roaming around Dalkeith, the town we are staying in, and a small suburb to the city of Edinburgh. We are staying in a palace or just a large house that once belonged to the Duke of Wellington. The queen stayed here once (but not queen B though). In Edinburgh we took a 3 hour tour of the city and all its history that went along with it. It is amazing how their history traces back to the 12th Century (and further back) and we only have a few centuries under our belt, and we probably have more drama in our history than most. But in the city there were even some Harry Potter references, since Edinburgh is the city J.K. Rowling wrote the story of Harry Potter. I have been listening to the HP series on my phone so I am not completely out of the loop. We have a full Harry Potter tour on Friday.

In Scotland there are lots and lots of castles. Most of them have been ruined during battles and from wear and tear, but many still provide a nice scenery on top of cities, or along the shore lines. There are also lots and lots of sheep.

For three days we spent touring the Highlands of Scotland. It was probably the most gorgeous scenery I will ever experienced. The mountains aren’t as tall as the Rockies, but compared to bluffs, they are pretty big. Many Scots can climb them in a days time, but they save that recreation for more in the summer. On the trip I climbed rocks, went inside castle ruins, chased sheep, and tried local whiskeys and beer. There are brewery’s and whiskey (Scotch) distilleries practically in every city or town.

The people are extra friendly in Scotland. We have been practically prepped to assume that all Europeans will dislike us because we are American. In Scotland, that’s not the case. Our tour guide even mentioned how Americans are the most involved on the tour trips and the kindest. Scotland 2, America 1, the rest of the world, 0

There’s been a ton of things that changed my perspective such as how they are very chill. They take their time getting to places, aren’t on their phones, and provide great hospitality.  It makes me re-evaluate many life choices, and it was nice not to have wifi for a few days up in the highlands…it was like the equivalent of going “Up North” for us midwesterners.

We have a few more days in Scotland, before a few of us take a few days trip to Dublin, Ireland. After that we will be heading to Stratford Upon Avon to learn the crap out of everything there is to know about Shakespeare.

Run down, and Salt.

I should probably be doing homework right now

I figured it’d be appropriate to make my first blog post about what exactly I’m doing this semester and a few other side notes. So here it goes…

This semester I am doing an abroad program called International Traveling Classroom: Europe.  I will be with about 30-40 students mostly from UW-River Falls, with a few from some different UW schools (that includes me). I will only have two professors, one being my art teacher, and our lead professor who will teach my film, international studies, and theater class. I’m not taking any music classes this semester (gasp!) but you best believe I will be going to operas, musicals, and many orchestra concerts. My classes will be held in hostel conference rooms, libraries, and other places so I won’t be at a specific European university. But I will definitely be experiencing the city life more than I ever have in my life. Every week and a half or so, we travel to a new city to continue our classes. These cities include Edinburgh, Scotland, Stratford Upon Avon and London, England, Paris, France, Berlin and Munich, Germany, and Verona Italy. Between each city, we have a few days to get there so I will definitely be hitting up some additional cities like Dublin, Prague, Venice, and Vienna (at least those far). I won’t have data, but I’ll have a regular functioning smart phone (minus texts and calls) when I have WiFi. Many who have iPhones, however, will have the privilege of messaging me at their leisure comfort because Apple is the bomb dot com.

I’ve spent (most of) my January preparing for this trip, buying things I thought I’d use like clothes and boots but didn’t end up bringing, writing papers (ugh), getting asked a ton of questions like, “have you seen the movie Hostel or Taken” and “how are you paying for this,” and, of course spending time with my friends and family.

To answer those two questions: No I haven’t seen the movie but I’m fully armed with uncles with shotguns, and for the other question: well, I’m not really sure yet, but I’m doing it anyway because I want to. It’s kind of similar to my other two favorite questions…”why do you work at camp when you could be making more at Kwik Trip or waitressing” and “why do you want to be a (music) teacher when you know you’re not going to make a lot of money.” the answer: because I want to.  First off, I know all 3 of these are going to make me a better person, and I hopefully am making a difference by working at camp, traveling, and being a teacher. And Secondly, I’m a firm believer of the saying “if there’s a will, there’s a way.”   If you really want to do something like go abroad, or “have always wanted to work at a summer camp,” you’ll make it happen. So that’s exactly what I’m doing. Sure I have a low paying college-kid job who wants a low paying career who also likes to travel, but so what? I’m saying that I’m making it work, so I’m sure many others can too. So many people have told me they wish they could do something like this. Well like I said, you can.

So to get the point of the title. On Sunday at church the sermon was about the beatitudes and being the salt and light (Matthew 5:1-16). There are people around the world who are hungry for justice, who are mourning, and are poor in the spirit. I’ve been encouraged to be the light for those I am going to meet in Europe and those I’m going along with. There are also peacemakers, the merciful, and some who are pure at heart, and I hope that God puts those people in my life as well when I’m over there.

Peace.