Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tranquil Restoration

You guys, I love it here in England.  A lot.  I have so many things I want to tell you about, but I have to narrow my focus so this blog post isn't miles and miles long.  Bummer.  So, I'm just going to tell you about what I did last week.

Last week we went as a group to....well, lots of places.  But my favorite place that we went was Tintern Abbey.

Tintern Abbey is, to gloss over lots of history, this gorgeous twelfth century abbey in Wales that used to be a big deal but then religious tension and political issues and other factors caused it to become abandoned.  So now, it's just this huge, beautiful ruin.  There's grass where there used to be stone floors.  There are flowers growing between cracks in the walls.  The juxtaposition is just awesome.  It looks like fairies live there or something.

This is the place that inspired William Wordsworth, the famous English Romantic poet, to write his poem "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour." That poem is what inspired me to be an English major.

Seriously, I love it.  In "Tintern Abbey", Wordsworth talks about how he visited the abbey when he was young.  And he loved it and thought he understood everything that was so great about Tintern Abbey.  He felt like he experienced the sublime.

A few years later, he went back to Tintern Abbey and realized that he had no idea what he was talking about the first time around.  His life experience had changed him so much that he had a totally different experience hiking at Tintern Abbey the second time.  I get the feeling that he lost his naivety.

Then, he's sitting at his desk writing about all of this and realizes how awesome that is.  How much he loves being able to reflect back on his experience at Tintern Abbey from his youth.  He decides that the change he experienced between his first and second visit to Tintern Abbey wasn't a bad thing.  He says,

Though absent long,

These forms of beauty have not been to me, 

As is a landscape to a blind man's eye: 

But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din 

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them, 

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, 

Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart, 

And passing even into my purer mind 

With tranquil restoration

Isn't that beautiful?  I guess what I'm trying to get at with all of this is that even though I'm growing up, and getting married, and doing lots of other new things, I'm still going to be the same person.  And I don't think it's sad when change happens and things become different, it's wonderful.

It's thoughts like that that have made adjusting to being here in London, alone and away from people I love, much easier.

It's thoughts like that that help me prepare to embrace the totally new lifestyle I'm going to be living in just two short months--new city, new school, new (and first) husband, new everything. 

It's going to be great.  And while I'm in that phase of my life, I can reflect back on the singular experience I had visiting Tintern Abbey, and feel restored.  And when Robby and I have kids and everything changes again, I can reflect back on my time as a newlywed, and feel restored again.  And when my children grow up, I can remember what it was like when they were all young, and feel restored again.  

It's a beautiful cycle, don't you think?  So, my take-away from Tintern Abbey is this....the best is yet to come.  It's going to be grand.  

(Sorry that this post ended up being a mile long anyway...oops.)   

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Being British Means Never Saying You're Sorry (Just Kidding)

So, I'm finishing up my third week in London and I haven't blogged so far.  I know, I'm sorry.  I think I haven't been blogging mostly because I don't know how I can even communicate what I'm experiencing.  My days are so full and I'm seeing so many amazing things I've almost hit maximum capacity.

But, I'm going to try better to keep everyone updated about what I'm doing.  Here are the highlights so far:

1.  I got really into the Royal Wedding.  How could you not?  I was up early to join the massive throng and it was a blast.  The day included lots of cheering, fish and chips, actual British tea parties in Hyde Park, and (on my part), a little bit of crying.  "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire?"  "Every wedding is royal?"  Too sweet.  It was a happy day.

I found this outside of a tube stop.  It rocked. 

That is Kate!  It really is!  We found a side street that she would be driving past on her way to Westminster Abbey and got to see her really close.  Surreal.

2.  One of my favorite things about London is the hilarious street signs.  People just talk differently here, and it is mostly manifested through the signs.  A few of my favorites...

Not "Electrical Hazard" like in the US.  This is way funnier. 

Always "Shut", never "Closed"

This means "For Sale" or "For Rent", but it's fancier.  Took me a while to realize this wasn't a bathroom sign.  (P.S. They call the bathroom the toilet here and not the loo.  Kind of disappointing.)

An Exit sign, but better. 

3.  I've learned that although British food stinks, 

(This is British Breakfast.  I am fed it all the time.  It's as gross as it looks.)

...British candy is THE BOMB.  Take a look. 

This is the European equivalent to a Twix Bar, except for it's waaaaaaay more delicious.  It's full of caramel and "biscuit" and covered in superior European chocolate. 

The Kit-Kats here are out of control.  Imagine what a Kit Kat would taste like if it was covered in high-quality chocolate.  Now imagine that there are nineteen more layers of crunchy wafer goodness.  Now die of joy.  That's a chunky Kit Kat. 

And the bon-bons.  Oh, the bon-bons.  They don't have anything like bon-bons in the United States.  Bon-bons are this perfect mixture between a marshmallow and a lemon drop and crack-cocaine.

Now that I've tried literally every type of candy here, I'm calling it quits.  No more candy after every meal for me.  It's a sad day, but I decided I will get just as much pleasure out of bringing all of this candy home for everyone else to try. 

Well, there's the update.  I promise to keep blogging more regularly.  I have lots to say!  Stay tuned for my experience at Tintern  Abbey (ahhh!) and at some of the museums here.  Cheers!