My Life and All That is Random

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hello United States...Goodbye Europe...

Hiya!! Well, I am currently back in the United States with one week of school and two intoxicated weekends under my belt...however I can't help but feel the longing to pack my suitcase again and hop on a plane to shoot me back into the life of adventure, culture and happiness....known to other people as Europe! My journey began in London as an adventure. I stepped fresh faced and naive onto the platform at Paddington Station on 19 May 2005. After a brief stint at a hostel on the north side of Hyde Park I moved into my new home; a quaint flat on the fourth floor. Being that the lift did not work, nor do I imagine it working 10-15 years prior to my visit, I lugged my two heavy suitcases up the four flights of worn blue carpeted stairs. Room G was to become my new private space, or in other words, a tiny room shared by three girls. Upon entering the room I saw them, two exhausted girls sprawled out on their beds, and with horror I realized that they had stolen any opportunity of my having the bottom bunk or single. Quite fatigued myself, I climbed up the metal ladder and plopped myself down on my top bunk and carried on my first conversation with Lee from Connecticut and Liz from New Mexico. Over the course of the next few hours, I met the other 10 people I would be living with in close quarters for the next two and a half months. We all ventured out together, tipsy and bewildered, to The Gloucester Arms. That was the first day, not more than 13 weeks ago, yet I feel it was another lifetime.
A two week class of field trips and lectures came and went, and upon its completion I began a frightening internship at University College London. With excitement and hope I started the job, but after one week the monotony and boredom became hopelessly apparent. While I was in London professionally to gain work experience and an addition to my bleak resume, my primary life goal was to learn and grow as much as possible from my personal experiences, and grow I did. While living at 37 Hyde Park Gate with 16 strangers, I learned so much about myself and my cultures. I learned even more about London and its culture. Stereotypes were thrashed to pieces as my naïve young mind slowly came to terms with the reality of my new life.
While I spent the most amount of my time in London, I readily took advantage of its proximity to other places. I traveled to Florence, Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam with my friends. Florence was a beautiful and independent experience that I will forever treasure as the single most peaceful moment in my life. Paris was full of artistic and cultural wonders. Barcelona was loud, crazy, fast, wonderful, though a little dirty. Amsterdam was an entirely different way of life; bicycles, marijuana, water and a form of art I had never studied. Once London became familiar, my weekend getaways became a new form of adventure.
While I was not dramatically affected by the bombings in London, I was present that morning and will briefly describe what I went through and perceived. For me, it was a normal morning, and I was running late. Speeding down Gloucester Road, I finally made my way through the abnormally busy Gloucester Road Station. Upon realizing my usual route to work, the Picadilly Line, had been closed I ventured to the Circle and District Lines. Both of these lines were allowing people on, but the doors remained open. I waited a brief while until an announcer relayed the message that there was an electrical shortage and the trains would not be departing for at least 15 minutes, if not indefinitely. Persons were strongly encouraged to leave the station and find alternative modes of transportation. There was no frenzy, but we squeezed the hundreds of us through the doors of the station to find buses and taxis to take us to work. I stood on a corner realizing that the bus stops by the station were clearly the most crowded and opened my map to find an alternative bus route to work. Somehow my friends found me bewildered on the corner and walked with me to the bus stop near our apartment, which was to our surprise, overcrowded with about 30-40 people. Buses were passing our stop at maximum capacity. Clearly we were not going to find a bus in the near future, so we decided to wait things out at our flat across the road. Curious as to why we were being held up, we turned on BCC only to discover the horror on television. There were bombs on the Tube. As we watched, riveted to the screen, more news was broadcasted of more bombs. We called our loved ones and contacted our friends who had been unfortunate enough to catch the Tube before the closure. Everyone was fine, though it took most people at least an hour to walk home, some it took four hours. Two bombs took place quite close to where I worked. The bus bomb was a minute’s walk from my office, and I could see the bus from my window when I made it back to work on Monday. Another bomb closed down Russell Square Station, the station I relied on daily for transportation. Going back to work on Monday was equivalent to walking through a ghost town. It was eerie and unsettling. Londoners proved to be resilient and incredible the next week. Slowly people began going back to work, taking the Tube and picking up their spirit. That was my experience with the bombings. To those who experienced loss from this catastrophe, my thoughts and sympathies are with you.
Though it seems a transition from that mood to one of more optimism seems difficult, I think I will make it rough and to the point! The rest of my time in London was marvelous, though different from before. We still managed to dance in clubs, drink ourselves stupid and laugh as much as before. Things were different, but they were still good. Saying goodbye to my 16 new found friends was beyond difficult. Some I know I will never see again, while some I will be sure to strengthen ties with. Some live far and some live near, but all will remain in my heart as people who I matured with in a country unlike our own.
July 31st finally arrived, and so did my family. While my friends had already left, my dad, mom, brother and sister all had come to join me in London to begin an entirely new adventure. Together we traveled from London to Paris, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Tuscany and Rome. My favorite places include those less populated. Venice was incredible, magical in presentation. Cinque Terre was beyond beautiful; a place hanging from cliffs along the sea. Lastly, and most favored, was Montepulciano. Montepulciano is a town in Tuscany that is most well known for it’s wine and honey. My family stayed at the most adorable Villa called Relais San Bruno, tucked into the hillside just far enough from town but with the most incredible view. The Villa consists of just seven rooms, and is run by a man named Alberto. This villa used to be a summer home of his family, but their dream finally became real when they were granted permission to expand it to a Villa. Alberto is 28 years old, single and has mannerisms the soothe and comfort your soul. Needless to say, I found one Italian man I would not mind running away with. Montepulciano will always be dear to my heart, and a way of life that will always be my belief of how humans ought to live. Our trip ended in Rome and after two brief days I flew back to the United States.
In Chicago, during my four hour lay over I wanted nothing more than to get back on the plane that had mercilessly dropped me back into the hustle and bustle of commercialism, capitalism, and obesity. Still, after one week, I want nothing more than to go back to Italy, live in London…be anywhere but here. Already I can feel the stress, the insanity, the ridiculous fights, and worse of all I can feel myself becoming less calm and rational. What is it about this place that drives me mad? But then there are the memories of all that I have done this summer, and that is enough to keep me content. Content…that was a word I learned to feel this summer. That and happiness.
With a smile on my face, a tear just in the corner of my eye, and a slow beating heart, I will always remember my beautiful summer in Europe. What a treasure this has all been. I wish everyone the same feelings and growth that I experienced in only three months time. Three months, and this entry does it no justice. Sweet dreams and soothing thoughts…My mind is drifting back to my Bella Italia and I am off to sleep. Thank you for reading. I hope this entry makes up slightly for my lack of dialogue the rest of the summer.

Monday, May 23, 2005

London Time

I'M IN LONDON!!!

I arrived on Thursday at 10:00am. Since then I have done and seen a great deal...hyde park, kensington palace, kensington gardons, moved into my apartment, met loads of people, went to the victoria and albert museum twice, looked around Harrods, been to 2 pubs and a bar, walked a ton, went to a play produced by homeless people as a charity event, walked around kensington high street, taken the tube, seen 2 friends from back home, and if I'm forgetting anything it is because I have barely slept! :-) well, i'm off on a new adventure!!

cheers, Tiff

Monday, May 16, 2005

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

Well, I have done a little house cleaning on my blog. Once I realized that you could google my name and find this very personal and finger pointing blog, I decided to delete all previous posts...which means that it will be void of all names and specifics...probably on the dull side, but oh well.

On another much more exciting note, I will be leaving for LONDON on WEDNESDAY!! In 36 hours!!! Which makes me so giddy I can hardly contain myself...which also means I am boxing and bagging my entire room up for the next day and a half. I am so thrilled to experience new and exciting adventures, places, people, food, atmosphere, language (well maybe more like slang in London...) I am going to learn history the way it should be learned; through your senses. I will stand in the Louvre gazing at paintings for hours thinking about what it reflects about society, the artist, etc etc. I will stand at the foot of extremely tall (or short) old buildings and think of the people who must have walked in and out for some reason or another. If I am so lucky as to see the insides of these buildings, I will imagine what the lives of those who visited these places over a century or more ago must have been like. I will visit the homes (now probably museums) of old poets, artists, and politicians and think about what it was like to wake up in the morning and walk to the kitchen in a robe clutching a cup of tea. To me, history is a living thing, always changing. It is a beating heart, or breaths of air...all you have to do is breathe at the same pace, your heart beating at the same time and feel those who came before you. Granted there is much more than feeling history such as hard facts, but to actually understand the events of the past, I personally need to experience them. Oh I am so excited I can hardly stand it!!! Did I mention that while history is brilliant and thrilling, the present is possibly my favorite time to be living in!! Which means that I will be participating in local entertainment...bars, pubs, clubs, cafes...I'm going to drink myself silly, caffeinate myself beyond reason, and dance the night away. Oh, and did I mention shopping? Because I plan on taking a loan out for the "Tiffanyshopsalot" fund!!! :-)

Alright, enough of my excitement and back to boring and frustrating packing...Currently, London is the light at the end of the tunnel; so close I can taste it!!!

Tiff