Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Day in London

On London mornings, the sun looks as if it is still tired and the clouds are covering most of the sky. You step out of your building and you smile a big smile. The greatest city in the world and it is all yours. It is 8:30am as little kids on scooters fly past their parents to head towards school. Morning deliveries are being dropped off at each of the hotels and slowly the city comes to life. You wonder, how can this many people be in such a small space? Sped-walking and Boris-biking commuters continuously make you feel like you need to be going somewhere more important and successful. You like being surrounded by success and achievement, even if you aren't necessarily a part of it. The puddles on the ground are frosted over and there is a strong wind that is making your eyes water. You smile at the cabbie who lets you cross the street in a no-cross zone - look at that, a random act of kindness in a big city! London mornings are always crisp, clean and fresh.. giving you hope for the day.

London afternoons bring rain or even colder winds. Unlike the South, London is cold in the mornings and only continues to get colder throughout the afternoon into the night. The pubs start to liven with post work drinkers (and mid-work drinkers) and you walk past the hustling mothers with empty scooters on the way to pick up the kids from school. You realize it is only 4pm and the sky is dark as midnight. Where has the day gone? You feel like it should be time to crawl into bed, but you haven't even had dinner yet. The trees look barren and the sidewalk crunches with frosted leaves. In the sky, an airplane passes over heading to Hearthrow and, as you pull your trench coat tighter, you wish you too could travel fast. Even if it is just back to the flat, this fifteen minute walk seems to get longer and longer as the days get shorter and colder. London afternoons remind you what you're missing: a wood fire, a blanket, and someone to cuddle up with.

London at night is a perpetually rumbling beast. It is difficult not to answer its call and join in the fun. You find yourself in the huddled masses of the Tube surrounded by young, old, rich, poor, natives and tourists. Everyone with somewhere exciting to go. The nights in London make you thankful for coat checks and warm alcoholic drinks as your fingers are numb from the walk to the bar. You smile at the men in tight suits and the women with puffy hair and bright red lips. Why did all these people choose this place and what are they all searching for? You smile at the bartender for another pint and long for the days when beers cost less than your chicken and mushroom pie. Music plays and some dance, others head outside for the usual smoke and chat. You're surprise at how much people smoke here. You meet a few locals and a few tourists and try to communicate in multiple languages: American, English, French, Spanish.. take your pick. Finally, the most fun happens as the night wavers on and everyone heads home. If you're lucky, you catch the last Tube home at midnight and get to be a part of the mess that is "last call" Tube rides. Yet, a cab always seems so much more appealing as it is direct and fast, and in this cold, you can't risk the walk. Cabbie laughs at the American accent and, even after five months here, you stumble over which is the 5p and which is the 10p as you pay. The flat is suddenly the only place in the world you'd like to be and you kick off your heels as you fall into bed while the clock ticks to 3:48am.

Its 5:04am and you wake up to a text message from a friend (thanks, time difference). You roll over to go back to sleep and you're surprised to hear the sound of birds outside your window...Well, birds and the sound of the casual car driving past but hey, you're used to the cars. It is 5 in the morning and it's the only time these birds have peace and quiet. The streets will start to liven around 6am and by 7am... and then, it is all you can do to not hear every bus, truck, commuter or kid in the city. At 5am, you love hearing the birds and the cars together.. and as the sun starts to rise, you thank God that you get to experience another London day all over again.

Cheers y'all, Lisa

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Two Weeks!

In two weeks, I'll be waking up in my own big, comfy bed!

What else am I soooo excited to have back in Winston? I like to call them the 3 F's...

Well... FOOD.
La Caretta, 6th & Vine, Twin City Diner, Little Richards, Finnegan's, Chick-fil-a, Bojangles, Zaxby's and of course Momma's chili and everything else she makes!

Not to mention.... FRIENDSSS.
Hugging Del Fuer and his awesome owner, grand ole parties at Grand Court, and Red Hot reunions with all those ladies who are just a little farther away!

Oh and we can't forget..... FAMILY TIMEEEEE.
At the GrisWaugh's: movie nights, Green Egg nights, watching football aka napping, and walks with sweet Lilly.
At the Wilder's: PJ's at 7pm, attempting to help Grandma cook, watching 'Christmas Vacation', stuffing my face full of mashed potatoes, bonding time with the cousins, and hilarious jokes.
At the Acreage: catching up with my awesome Nannie and her cool friends, delivering Christmas gifts, and soaking in her ever-present advice and wisdom.

Obviously a few things have not made this short list that I'm still looking forward to:
Blue Gatorade, a shower that isn't 2ft by 2ft, paying less than 15 British pounds (aka $25ish) for a yummy meal and less than $6 for a beer, and drumroll please....DRIVING.

All this being said, I know there will be a lot I will miss about London while I'm gone and I'm sure I'll be ready to come back to my second home come mid-January!
Two weeks. One paper. Two concerts. One birthday celebration. Two days of packing and cleaning. One eight hour flight.....Home.
So much to do, so little time! Cheers y'all, Lisa

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ice Skating (read: Watching) at the Natural History Museum

Last night our small group from church went to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington for ice skating! It was finally a cold enough night to wear a hat and gloves and I was soaking it up. I love the cold weather and it really hasn't gotten below 45 degrees here yet. I'm hoping that is going to change because I really love the feeling of frozen hands, wind-blown cheeks, and numb toes. Okay, so not ALL the time..but hey, can't a girl get a least two weeks of freezing-ness? It is London after all, c'mon Mother Nature.
So the ice skating was fun to watch and no one took any big spills (although not for lack of trying). The lights were beautiful and it was a perfect way to end the day. I'm so glad we've met such great people at church and that we're finally having a bit of real winter weather!

We turn in our second of three papers in our last class tomorrow and I'm going to be so very happy to be done with class. Only 17 days 'til home and I've got so much to do before then! Christmas shopping, more sightseeing, final paper writing, etc.. I wish I had a little elf to help me do it all!
(Ahem, Carly? Kate?? Anyone??)

Cheers y'all, Lisa

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanks Given

So it was not my typical Thanksgiving this year, but it sure was a good one. As I mentioned before, the work has been piled on these past couple weeks and this coming week is our last week of class. Yahoo! Then I'll have two weeks for my final paper, two unreal concerts, and just celebrating London in December!

I spent Thanksgiving in class, at a guest lecture and then in the library. The girls and I then decided that a night on the town was needed and suddenly, a spur of the moment decision turned into an awesome night. For the first time a while, we were able to relax and go out with our friends. This wasn't just about being with friends or being able to dance to some great American music. It was about the fact that we hadn't been experiencing London lately. It has been class, library, home, repeat for a while now and I was really taking the city for granted. When things get busy, we tend to hone in on the tasks at hand and do not let ourselves see the periphery of our lives. There are so many wonderful and beautiful things about London and my life here but due to the stress, I realized I have only been focusing on getting home...getting back to my family, friends and Winston.

Thinking about going home has been an awesome 'light at the end of the tunnel' and inspiration for me while I'm powering through these essays but I have got to keep things in perspective! I'm only going to be in London for a short amount of time (in the grand scheme of things) and if I'm always looking forward to the next thing, I'm not going to see what is right in front of my face... all the amazing things that I love to much about this city.

So to help remind me, I thought I'd write what I'm thankful for about my life in London. London has been so great for me in learning more about myself and what I want in life and I feel like I've got so much more to experience and learn here. Good thing I've got nine months left!

So cheers to..
- Friends! The wonderful friends I've made here who have laughed and cried with me the whole way through
- Public transportation! Sounds a bit ridiculous but the Tube is one of the best parts about the city and without it I'd be lost (it is going to be hard to have to drive everywhere over Christmas..)
- Academics and amazing professors! Everything I've learned in class has challenged me and pushed my own thoughts about art, education and the way the world works.. plus, my professors are so encouraging and knowledgeable
- Church! HTB has been one of the biggest blessings here. I've grown with God, learned to appreciate the little things He does for me and I've got a community of people who have supported me throughout
- Food, Music, and Fun! London's showed me how great being in a large city can be.. so many options for food, unbelievable concerts, and the night life is not lacking either!
- Me, or at least future me! Okay, so not really that conceited but I have learned so much about who I am and who I want to be that I'm in an amazing place. Post graduate life is so full of challenges and new experiences and I'm not saying it hasn't been hard but I will say I'm grateful for each challenge, obstacle, and hard day because I've grown into my own person. I'm standing on my own two feet for the first time in my life and it has given me a (semi) clear vision of what I want for the future. I say this now.. but hey, a year from now I'll be out of school and searching for a job.. let's hope I'm still as steady as I am now!

So I've got three weeks left until my winter break at home and I plan on soaking every day and night in. I hope everyone had great time with family and friends this past week. I miss mine greatly but I know it will be Christmas before I know it. But until then, watch out London.. here I come!!

Cheers y'all, Lis

Saturday, November 17, 2012

End of the Semester Fun!

Two weeks left of class!
Four weeks until I'm back in the Dash!
But until then....

I will be crushed underneath these presentations and papers!

I've never killed so many trees with copies, scans, and print outs...

And I've never been more frustrated with a paper in my life... Art Theory is just as exciting as it sounds!

I know you are so curious about what I'm working on.. so here is the breakdown in three pictures:

First, write a literary review on three methodologies in analyzing John Everett Millais and his paintings of women!

Second, compare and contrast of the US indirect and UK direct funding systems of the arts!

Lastly, how do we portray non-western cultures to children? Sacrifice, slavery, colonialism, war, and all the other heavy stuff that comes along with Western world perceptions of the Non-Western world..
Can a 7 year old really handle this stuff?

Three presentations and 9,000 words later.. I will be the smartest I've ever been in my life. (I hope?)
Learning is fun! But researching theories, museum practices, funding methods, and writing papers??
Not so much.
Sooooo instead of doing my work, reading my books, and writing my abstracts.. I've been writing this blog post and looking for funny pictures online. Procrastination at its finest, ladies and gentlemen.

Cheers y'all, Lisa

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's Been a While

Well hey there! It's been a while since my last post about Fall and pretty leaves but really not a lot has happened..

We took a class trip to Liverpool last weekend. It was a quick one night trip but it was pretty cool to see a city that I otherwise probably would not have visited. We were up early with a two hour train ride (naptime!) and once we got to Liverpool I was so surprised! Liverpool is a bigger city than I expected and had an awesome city center that was full of shopping, bars, restaurants, etc. It is also a massive shipping/port city so being next to the water was nice. The Titanic left from Liverpool!

The massive Art Biennial (a giant art fair) was in Liverpool so that was our main reason for heading there. We spent the day Tate Liverpool and a few other places with Biennial exhibitions. It was a lot of modern art but I really liked seeing the big "up and coming" artists.

That night, the girls (our class is all girls, 14 of us!) and our awesome professor headed to the pub that The Beatle's used to play before they got famous. The Cavern is an underground pub that had live music and an incredibly rowdy Stag Party (aka a Bachelor Party). We had a drink then headed to a delicious dinner at the Pump House on the water. Our professor headed back to the hostel then we hit the town. Dancing, singing and making friends.. I'd say this was the most fun class field trip I've ever had! A late night ended with this epic picture...

I know it is upside down.. I'm not sure how to flip it, not to mention maybe the up-side-down-ness shows the night for what it really was! Hilarious and weird.

The next day was quite an early morning and we saw a few more galleries. My favorite was the Walker Museum because of the juxtaposition between contemporary and Old Masters paintings. It was also exciting because I got to see my main main, Henry VIII... 

These were a few of my favorite pieces from the weekend!

The week has been busy, busy! We've got presentations, interviews, and papers due over the next few weeks so it will be the library non-stop for me. I head home a month from today so that is very much the light at the end of the tunnel! As well, I've got two unbelievable concerts to go to before I head home so I've got a LOT to look forward to...after all this research is done, of course!

Cheers y'all, Lis

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Finally Fall, Y'all

It is Fall in London! The leaves have turned beautiful colors, Hyde Park has a sharp wind running through it, I'm drinking mulled cider at the markets, and cuddling up in blankets is a must. Life is good. Hope your transition into Autumn has been just as lovely! Cheers y'all, Lisa

Friday, November 2, 2012

Spice Ghouls


Halloween is one of the best holidays (behind my birthday and Thanksgiving, of course)! I've always loved dressing up and being a weirdo for a night. Some of my favorite costumes have been a cowgirl, Sandy from Grease, Miss Piggy,
and a princess...though I didn't really
need to dress up for that one.

How can you not love Halloween? Candy, costumes, parties, and dancing to MJ's 'Thriller' on repeat.. Sounds like a perfect night to me.

Unlike in America, where 'sexy cheerleader', 'foxy nurse', and 'hot Harry Potter' (is that even possible?) are the typical Halloween attire... London does Halloween like real Halloween. Halloween costumes are terrifying. Makeup is necessary - and the goal is not to look good but to be able to scare the pants off a little kid. Going out on Halloween night as a zombie was an awesome experience and I don't think I'll ever be able to go back to "sexy Halloween". Scary is sooo much better! 

Unfortunately, Sporty Spice got food poisoning..
so we are four, not five!
The girls and I began our costumes as the Spice Girls (cliche, I know) and then as the night progressed we transformed into the Spice Girls: Resurrected. It was a great game-time decision because we would have been the only people without a scary mask or scary makeup on at the bar! Carly (la artiste) was able to make us look as if we had been beaten up, killed and come back to life. Amazing talent she's got there!
So as a final mental image, I'll leave you with the thought of the four of us Zombies getting on the Tube fully decked out with scary, 'bleeding and bruised' faces while the rest of London made their daily commute home. To say we got a lot of weird looks (and a few compliments!) would be an understatement.

Scary Spice.. literally!
Moral of the story: You're never too old to dress up like a zombie. Maturity is overrated!

Cheers y'all, Lisa

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Trip for the Soul

My trip to Florence and Istanbul was absolutely a trip for the soul. I laughed more in one week than I have in a long, long time. I had wonderful conversations with not only LG and Kate but the many people of all backgrounds we met along the way. That being said, it was not a trip for the body. My soul may be refreshed but after hours of walking (uphill both ways), lots of pasta, a few bottles of wine, and not a lot of sleep.. its been an epic marathon! It was an unbelievable week but I'm so glad to be home in London.

First, I'll begin by sharing the motto of Istanbul because it pretty much sums up our entire trip.
"They call it chaos, we call it home."
Pitti Palace Gardens
Let me try to give a summary of our hectic and hilarious week.. Sunday morning I headed to the airport on the tube carrying a three packets of Kleenex and some heavy duty Mucinex. I woke up with a terrible cold so it was a loooong day of flying to Rome, meeting up with Kate, taking an hour bus, and then a two hour train ride into Florence. A total of 12 hours travelling and I was ready for bed! We met up with LG, Kate's brother and some Chi O girls (studying abroad in Florence) and headed for a delicious dinner and gelato, of course!

Monday was spent walking around and exploring. We wandered around to a few squares, got an awesome brunch (topped off with a spicy bloody mary!), and then explored the Palazzo Pitti gardens.

The view!
Tuesday we went to Santa Croce, via Mom's suggestion, and I saw Michelangelo's memorial! The church was so epic with its beautiful ceilings and gorgeous frescos by some of the great Renaissance masters. We also walked up to Palazzo Michelangelo to see the gorgeous view of the city. It was a hike but it was so worth it!

That night, we went to dinner with Kate's brother to a true Italian family restaurant. The tortellini was amazing!! After that we headed to the Lion's Fountain, a (semi) famous pub in Florence.. yes, we went to a British pub in Italy. The night then progressed into dancing to Wagon Wheel, which was played a couple times an hour, and meeting some more Americans who were living in Florence. We loved hanging with the Americans and dancing to some music that made us feel a bit like we were back at home.. or at least in college!

Our late night with friends (and my ongoing sickness - at this point I have no voice!) made for a pretty rough travel day on Wednesday. We spent the train ride back to Rome sleeping.. except for when a man tried to steal Laura Grace's bag and an Italian woman stood up for us and verbally attacked him. At one point, I may have cried as I chatted with a family of four sitting near us..."I miss my family!!" I said to the teenage boy and he responded with, "Well, you can have mine." ....Typical.

After the train ride which was pretty terrible, we then had an even worse bus experience. I'll spare the details but let's just say it wasn't pretty. LG and I saw our breakfasts again thanks to a smelly, crowded, hot, bumpy, curvy, evil bus ride. I rarely get car sick but this just pushed me over the limit, not to mention my runny nose, hacking cough, and pounding headache. After making it through what seemed like the bus ride from hell, we ended up in the airport security lines only to realize that we are going to be late for our flight. We pushed through the lines and jump in front of a group of about 30 Asian tourists, by just smiling and saying "sorry."

Finally, I look ahead and Kate has broken out into a full on sprint to our gate. LG and I, having just lost much of our energy due to the bus sickness, attempt to follow along in hot pursuit.. key word: attempt. Kate sprints ahead to hold the gate and after a five minute all out run, we get to the gate to see no one waiting in line or surrounding the gate. It is fifteen minutes before our flight supposedly leaves and the gate attendants told us we still had to wait for the bus to take us to the plane. (Thank goodness because it took me about 5 minutes to catch my breath from all the running and the laughing at how absurd the day had been.) Italians do not wear watches nor do they care about the concept of time. We wait for a bus, then wait on the bus for a driver, then ride the bus to the plane. Ten minutes after our plane is supposed to be in the air, we casually walk onto the plane and take a seat..... We later land in Istanbul and all give a huge sigh of relief! The day of travelling was torture but I wouldn't have survived without LG and Kate there to laugh with me.
In front of the Hagia Sofia
Thursday we were fortunate enough to take a tour with a hilarious tour guide, Aiden.. a forty something year old jokester who is super knowledgeable of Turkish history and monuments. We went to the Hagia Sofia and a few other mosques which was incredibly eye opening for me! Most of these mosques were originally churches but were transformed into mosques as Islamic people took over the area thousands of years ago. We went into the mosque where the first dome ever was built. Imagine that! The first dome in the whole world was built in this tiny church/mosque in Istanbul.. so cool. We also explored Topkapi, which was the palace of the sultan. Jewels, clothing, art, weapons and amazing views all were a part of this massive complex. Not to mention, the world's 4th largest diamond!

LG and Aiden, our fearless leader!
Aiden helped us experience the food on Istanbul as well... LG got a face full of pistachio Baklava even though she resisted due to her hatred of nuts and I ate a plateful of mashed potatoes. Chewy ice cream (aka dondurma) was also quite an experience. We all laughed the whole day and I felt like Aiden and I really enjoyed each others company due to our equally sarcastic humor. Let's just say, we bonded.

Aiden finished our day by suggesting we go to the Turkish baths. Back in the day, the baths were used for the sultan's many wives before they were going to see their man. Nowadays its more like a spa.. spa being a very light term. Here's my play by play: Go in, strip down and lay on a hot stone with about thirty other women. Pores are opening up. Large half naked woman comes to scrub you down, dirt comes off of your skin. Gross. Get freezing water and then hot water on you and get a five minute "massage". Stand up go to "hot tub", sit. Get out, go to "shower". Rinse off and feel "refreshed". You have now been treated like a princess and, by the way, you loved it. What an experience! It was hilarious and funny and I'm so glad we went. It was absolutely a new adventure for us....

Dinner afterwards was delicious and there we said goodbye to Aiden as he had to get home to his 7 month old twins! We finished up dinner and then headed to a hookah bar to get the true Turkish lifestyle! As we sat on the elaborate couches and watched the locals and tourists, it was truly an experience I will never forget. One conversation we had consisted of me speaking in Spanish, Kate speaking in Turkish, and our new friend speaking in English to all make sure we understood what was being said. It was funny and a bit awkward, as it was my first tri-lingual conversation, but I realized how cool it was to be in a place that was so welcoming and open to new people.

Like our new friend, everyone in Turkey welcomed us with open arms. Literally. The culture in Turkey is very different from back home but in this regard, I found so many similarities. We were frequently asked to come to people's stores, homes, or restaurants and every Turk we met was begging to teach us Turkish in exchange for an English lesson.  Everyone was kind and so curious about how and why we are in Istanbul. If I was confused or just looked plain scared (which I frequently was/did), they just smiled and tried their best to help me out. Not to mention the compliments the three of us received on a daily (if not hourly) basis. Good thing Kate speaks a bit of Turkish because it was quite the confidence booster. All in all, I liked Istanbul but I loved the Turks!

The Dead Sea
Friday we spent on a boat tour of the Bosporus. We docked in a small place two hours down the water and hiked to the top of a hill to look out over the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea! How sweet is that. Lunch was a full fish (head and tail and all!) that was delicious but a serious pain to eat. After a short nap on the boat ride home, we got another quick tour from Aiden's friend (again, Turkish hospitality!) and then went to dinner off the main street in Istanbul. After dinner, we met up with LG's friend and began celebrating Kate's 23rd birthday at midnight! A few hours later, we are leaving somewhere after dancing and celebrating and we run into a friend's older brother who is working in Istanbul. There are over 13 million people in the city and we end up talking to him! Such a small world. Anyways, this leads us to another place to chat and continue Kate's birthday celebration. It was an awesome night that, again, ended in dancing to Wagon Wheel a few times. What is it with that song?!

Friday night dinner
Saturday was a relaxing day, we moved into a 'fancy' hotel for Kate's birthday and it was so nice to sleep in a giant soft and good smelling bed! Sunday, I shopped a little around for Christmas presents and then heading to the airport around lunchtime. Had a long wait there and then a long flight home but was so happy when I finally got off the tube at Earl's Court and it was about 40 degrees and raining! That's my weather and I looooove it. Home sweet home.

So, if you've actually stuck with me this far.. well done and I'm surprise you don't have anything better to do. This may be the longest post I ever write but I just wanted to properly chronicle the week. I've skipped the cats, the insults, the mustaches, the dirty jokes, the "Turkish Jesus", and the Asia conversation so I'll actually have something to talk about when I get home. I hope y'all've got a better idea of my wild and wacky week in Italy and Turkey! I went into this trip by saying that it was my "try new things adventure" and it certainly lived up to that description. Thanks to LG and Kate who helped open my eyes and my mind (and sometimes held my hand) through all these new and exciting adventures, I wouldn't have traded this trip for anything.

Now, back in Londontown searching for internships and thesis topics, I have the wonderful and comical memories of my last week with dear friends to get my through the challenging weeks (work-wise) ahead! I've got 7 weeks in London until I head back to the South, my friends, and my family and I'm not going to waste a minute of it! So many adventures to come, I can't wait.

Cheers y'all, Lis

Monday, October 22, 2012

Florence: Best City in the World

(Minus London and W-S, of course...)

I'm going to try to post pictures throughout my week long trip in Italy and Turkey, so keep checking back for more updates!! Here are a few from today.. Kate and Laura Grace are with me and I don't think we've stopped talking since we got off the plane!

Day one in Florence has been amazing! We went to Palazzo Pitti and it's beautiful gardens this afternoon and then passed by the Duomo tonight. Hoping to climb the giant dome tomorrow.. Unbelievable pasta and delicious (and cheap) red wine have been the highlights so far though.

Some of these are already on Facebook (yay technology!) so they might be repeats but for those of you not on Facebook, hope you enjoy!

Cheers y'all, Lis xx

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

You are my Sunshine

In the sunny South, we take for granted the beautiful days without a cloud in the sky. We expect the warm sunshine on our face as we leave the house. We know that, on most days, we will see the sun at some point. I miss this assumption... Here in London, the sun is a novelty item, a cause for celebration, an unexpected treat to make your day exponentially better.

When I wake up with the sun shining through the blinds, I know it is going to be a good day. No bulky umbrella, no heavy rain boots and most of all, no sopping wet rain coat that soaks your flat's recently mopped floors. The sun is a reminder that it is all going to be okay. That sometimes our days are filled with a dark and dreary rain, but at the end of week, when you least expect it, the sun will come out and bring a smile to your face. When something is scarce, we love and appreciate it more. The sun has become a joy every time I see it peeking through the clouds. Wow, my hippie side is really be coming through here.

And then... just as you're walking home from class and thinking of how to write a very insightful post on the beauty of the sun... the clouds move in, within five minutes you're soaking wet and still 7 blocks from home. Oh well, we all know that a terrible rain storm can always be cured with a cup of hot tea. That is what the Brits do really well. But weather? Not so much.

Cheers y'all, Lisa

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


A huge part of being away from home, family and friends is learning to build a new home, new family, and new friends. Don't worry Winston, you're not being replaced but for the next year I'm loving London as my home, my flatmates as best friends, and family..? Well I've found a church family so that will have to do for now. Carly and I have been going to afternoon services at HTB Queen's Gate, just 15 minutes away from our flat. It has been quite an experience. The 4:30 service is, in a word, different. There is prayer but it is accompanied by music, there is passing of the peace but it is accompanied by hugs and personal prayer time, and there is no dress code. Not quite the church that I grew up in, however I love it. I know that I'm meeting some great Christians and I'm growing with God during the service.. so what else could ya ask for? Oh yeah, a gorgeous setting in an old church.. that'd be nice too!
Queen's Gate at night
HTB is a massive community with 10 services across three churches every Sunday. There are over 60 pastorates (what we would call bible studies or small groups, but each of the groups has about 30-40 people!) The original church, HTB Brompton Road, has been 'picking up' smaller churches who are at risk of closing their doors. The HTB support helps the church stay alive as well as bring even more people into church on Sundays. They run all kinds of programs for kids, youth, and adults as well as service work with the elderly, homeless, and imprisoned. I love this church because I feel like they have grown massively over the years, yet they have not lost their vision of what Christ wants them to do.

Carly and I went to our first pastorate last night and it was great. A bit of worship, a bit of prayer, and a bit of community.. exactly what ya need when you're 3,900 miles from home!

Cheers y'all, Lisa

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Star Stuck & Day Trippin'

The past week has been great! Not too much work, as our papers are all due next week so it was a bit of a slow week work-wise, yahoo. Class on Tuesday was held in the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is one of the best in the city! A museum dedicated to art and design, it's collections range from ballgowns to staircases to sculpture to stained glass windows. It would take at least a week to see everything in the museum but it is a great place to be inspired and be in awe at the vast collection.

Thursday was a day like any other.. until...after class, Carly, Kate and I decided to head to the Tate Modern on the Southbank.Usually, this museum is not my choice to go to. It is a modern art museum and while my modern art tastes have surely grown since I've first started studying art history, this place still weirds me out sometimes. There is no doubt in my mind that the pieces are worth seeing and will live in infamy forever.. however, it is not the most accessible museum to wrap your head around. That being said, I could not be more happy to have gone. I have Carly to thank because she spotted John Krasinski and chased him down for a picture! He was so nice and so, so very nice to look at!
Hi there, John! Ditch Emily Blount and come hang out with us?
After getting over the shock of seeing this famous person (which took about 45 minutes), we strolled around the Tate Modern and the girls helped explain some of the art to me. Another great part about the museum was the exhibition in the Turbine Hall. Tino Sehgal created a piece using 50 people and their stories. Literally, 50 people run around the hall telling visitors stories about anything! We heard a man talk about banana fritters and a girl talk about the time her purse was stolen. The visitors become part of the experience as Sehgal's people run around the groups of people. Every now and then, the 50 people will stop and sing a song unknown to us. Or they will line up and just start skipping. Or they all stop and lay down on the ground. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the exhibition except for celebrating human interaction and the concept of "the stranger". Some people feel this is a really weird piece but I loved it! The idea that 50 people can flow and speak and work with the unfamiliar audience is fascinating. There is no script, there is no set acting/dancing/singing that is supposed to happen. It is all free will and the 50 people simply reacting to the audience at hand. What an interesting and powerful experience! If anyone's in London, I absolutely suggest they go and 'feel' this awesome exhibit.

We went on a day trip Friday with two of our professors and 13 of us Art History and Visual Culture students...

Secret Garden, anyone??

Modern sculptures in a rural space

It was so nice to be surrounded by nature for the day!
(You won't here me say that often...)

After an hour tube ride, a two hour bus ride and a small walk in the woods, we arrived at Roche Court Sculpture Park. What an amazing piece of land. With over 600 acres, there were cows, chickens, a gorgeous country home, and... sculptures! The private home also exists as a working sculpture gallery and an arts education trust. We spent the morning walking around the grounds and enjoying not only the massive art pieces but also being outside in the fresh, country air. We all talked about home and how much we missed being around trees, our animals, and clean air! It was a nice break from the city.. but once I got back into the hustle and bustle of central London, I felt home again!

Standing in front of The Vyne, a home built in 1520 for a courtier of Henry VIII and Anne.. yes, I was in heaven!

The front of The Vyne

There is a chapel inside the house!

We had a bit of rain throughout the day but nothing that would hold us back. As we drove another couple hours to The Vyne, we all took a good (much needed) nap. The Vyne is so impressive as it was another beautiful outdoor space with lakes, ducks, cows, and weeping willows. The house was built when Henry VIII was on the throne so I loved soaking in the Tudor architecture as well as the updates from the 18th century add-ons. Carly and I pretended we were being presented to the court as we slowly walked down the double staircase into the foyer. You're never too old to use your imagination?!?

We got home in time for a late dinner and a fun night out at my fave, Notting Hill Arts Club. Great day overall, now back to writing papers and researching!

Cheers y'all, Lis

Monday, October 1, 2012

Good Things

First, the best way for me to start is by giving you the blog of the dear friend who went to Oktoberfest with me... Laura Grace is a much better writer and document-er than myself so please visit: "Oktoberfest festivities" to see great pictures and a play by play of my weekend in Munich! That is suuuchhh a cop-out, I know. I just see Jessie shaking her head as I write this!
Round Two!
So instead of Oktoberfest happenings, I can share a bit about other things going on here in Londontown. The past week was by far my most busy/stressful/weird/hectic/insert negative word here. However, it had one big highlight. I was able to get away from the library and my laptop to have a drink with some close friends from my time here two years ago. It was so wonderful to see them and I really felt like no time had passed! As we sat in a dungeon-like bar with some over zealous live music playing in the background, I had so many flashbacks of my time in London two years ago. As I write this, it seems like such a trivial thing.. drinks and catch up time with friends but in fact it was just a further confirmation of my being in London again and the person I have come to be today. In two years, I feel as though I've grown more than I have in my whole life! Seeing these friends allowed me to see myself, who I was two years ago in my "Old London" and see myself now as I am more confident and self-assured in my "New London". Lucky me, now I've got old friends in new London!
Cheers to Oktoberfest!

So... back to Oktoberfest.
So... back to Munich.
So... back into Wake World.
It was a weekend to remember, that's for sure. No horses were involved and much more pretzels were eaten this time around. LG and I had an amazing dinner the first night as well as great catch-up time. Saturday was an early morning and a lot of beer, pretzels, and screaming and clapping but I'd say the highlight of the weekend was just being around friends again. I didn't realize how much I miss my friends from college and this weekend just made me that much more excited for New Year's with them! 

I've got another busy week ahead but I am so glad to be back in London. Stepping off the plane was accompanied with a big sigh of relief, such a sense of coming home. No more confusing German, no more pretzels, and no more beer. For now, at least!

Cheers y'all, Lis

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A picture is worth 1000 words.. right?

Or 1000 pages.... This is this week's reading, not including the online sources.
Killing trees??
Took a break this weekend to go to J.W.M. Turner's Villa in Richmond, what a gorgeous place!

Jessica and me on a lovely little bridge
I'll leave you with a little insight into our daily lives here as grad students (at least during the week)! Below is a picture drawn in class of Carly, Kate, and myself with my head on the desk.
"Class at a MA level" by Carly
Okay, so it isn't all boring but classes are long and super intense and on a rare sunny London day, it is just not quite what we want to be doing.

Cheers to learning, y'all!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Selfish Shellfish

I’ve been struggling with something lately and maybe if I write about it on my modern day manifesto, it will be resolved. Maybe? Well, if not at least Mom will call and make me feel better about it…

So, the issue is selfishness. Sometimes I feel selfish for being here and away from everyone and everything I love. My time in London is fully validated with the classic excuses of the many benefits of higher education: “I need a MA to work in a good museum”, “higher pay once I’m working”, “it’s what I love”, “it looks good on a resume”, “enlightening my brain and expanding my mind” (okay, I just threw that last one in there…), etc, etc. However, these quick responses to inquiries about my grad school choice are just not cutting it for me.

It has been almost a full month and I have started to realize this is not a vacation; this is a life that I’m building here for myself. I’m not studying abroad and just living it up as much as I can; this is real world stuff going on. As these realizations settle in and I slowly come to grips with them, I find myself questioning the motives of my London adventure. Many times, when thoughts of friends and family come into my mind, I wonder if I’ve made the right decision in being so far away. Is this really how it is supposed to be? A scratchy phone call with Momma every few days if I’m lucky…A blurry Skype video call once a week just to remind you what I look like…Picture messages to see how quickly my baby cousin is growing up… These things are real blessings (God bless technology!) but it is still an inner struggle of whether or not all the distance is worth it.  Is my move to London truly worth the sacrifice of being around the people I love? Is this selfish choice to go so far away worth all the loss or pain it may cause? My family needs me! My friends need me! Lilly the dog needs me! How ever will Winston survive without me???? Oh wait, the world goes on with or without me? Wow. What a shocking realization.

Welp, I’ll quickly shut my conscience up and remind myself that sometimes selfishness is a necessary evil. When we are selfish, we benefit ourselves and when we benefit ourselves we will benefit the people we love now and in the future. London, right at this moment, is a chance for me to be me and live and thrive and grow into exactly who I want to be for the rest of my life. I’ve got this time for myself and I rarely will get a similar opportunity. Living this London adventure is not just for future Lisa but for my future job, my future hubby (my partner-in-crime), my future family, my future friends, and my future life. My whole life will be benefitted from this selfish act of moving thousands of miles away from everything I know and love deeply.  My time in London will forever leave a lasting impact on not only me but also my life as I progress throughout it. So cheers to the unbelievable city that is London and this selfish adventure that is slowly sinking in as reality..

Cheers y’all, Lis

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Work and Play

The past week has been non-stop. I'm going and going and going all the time. It is a wonderful thing because idle hands make crazy minds.. or something like that, right? I'm going on Week 3 of classes and things are really picking up. Readings, presentations, papers, gallery openings, lecture series, etc.. so much on my plate but just remembering I'm in London keeps me going. I'm powering through each day but not forgetting to take a look around and enjoy the big city! The past week has consisted of a trip a lot of things but I'll highlight my favorites...

We traveled to Oxford and seen the Pitt Rivers Museum which is basically a mess of thousands of artifacts from all over the world. It aims to show the progression of tools and trade over time but it is just cabinet after cabinet full of 'old shit' (as I heard one of the kids on a field trip call it). Oxford was interesting, not quite the quaint town that I expected but it is home to a wonderful Modern Art Museum that was hosting the first public showing of Jenny Saville! An artist I was unfamiliar with, she really struck me with not only the size of the pieces but the expression and manipulation of the paint she uses. Amazing stuff if you're into that sorta thing...

The girls don't quite share my love of train rides

The best part of my Oxford experience? Riding the train to and from. It is really the simple things in life, y'all. Seeing the countryside and the gorgeous blue sky (yup, that's right.. it hasn't rained once since I've been here) while writing letters to all the people I love really inspired me. Good music, pen and paper, and a train ride and I am one happy girl.

Moving onto later in the week, after hours of class and reading.. it was time for a break. On a last minute whim, we went to a dubstep concert in the London Bridge area. It was an awesome night although we might have lost our hearing for the next few days. I love concerts but this one was just a whole new ballgame. Can't wait til my next dub experience..

In other news, for all you Southerners out there who understand the crazy world of Debutante-ing... my friends here said that when I listen to dubstep it is actually called Debstep. See? I'm carrying out the ways of the South even without knowing it. So let's debstep it out ladies.

The next few days were spent reading and preparing for a presentation (which I presented today and it is finally over, yahoo!) and cleaning up the flat. It is a tiny space but damn if it doesn't get super messy in like .3 seconds. I broke out of cleaning for a bit to go to an exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery, The Queen: Art and Image. I wish everyone could see this exhibit! I loved it and it was such an insight (for those of us non-Brits) into the role of the Queen and her many 'faces' that have been portrayed since the 1950's. Each room was a different decade and her portrayal over the years is so dynamic and fluid that it is like a well-oiled machine. It is a great insight into her representation not only as a monarch but as a person, mother, scholar, leader, and wife.

Saturday night was another great night out with a college friend and my favorite place to go out in all of London, the Notting Hill Arts Club! A place where I spent many a night two years ago, I was thrilled to go back. The whole night was topped off when the bartender remembered me from two years ago.. this is where Dad would say 'Wow, Lisa.. Of all the people in South Ken to remember you (not the Starbucks girl or the grocery store clerk) it is the bartender!" Well, let's just chalk it up to the fact that Eliz and I went there a couple of times a week?? Either way, it was great to see him again and be back in Notting Hill.

Sunday was spent mostly relaxing and catching up on TV. (So very excited that Parenthood is back!) Luckily Monday was spent at my actual favorite place in London, The National Gallery! Class was in the Sainsbury wing for the morning and then after a yummy lunch at the only Chipotle in the city, I returned to see 'my peeps' as I weirdly call them. My Holbien's, Hogarth's, Turner's, and Van Gogh's that I missed so much were all right where I left them (of course) and it was so wonderful to get to see them again. Walking around aimlessly with no time restraints, no tour guides, or required assignments is such a pure way to view the pieces. It was a great confirmation of me in London and even more, me studying Art History in London. The more I learn in class and out of class, I learn more about myself and the role that I want to play in the Art/Art History world. Just what is that role? Yeah, haven't nailed it down just yet but I know that there is a spot for me out there somewhere. I'm finally feeling like I will find a place where I can thrive and enjoy what I'm doing.. Just not sure where or when that place will come into view. Let's hope soon!
Cheers to being studious!
(Note the backpack and caffeine)
I've got loads of readings and an exhibit review to write so this weekend will be a bit more tame than last weekend but it is also London's Open House so I hope to get into some interesting places over Saturday and Sunday!

Cheers y'all, Lis