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

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wonderful Wembley

Six rows back from the pitch (the field) at Wembley Stadium seeing the first home game for England's national soccer team.. what an epic night! Ukraine played well and it ended in a draw (1-1) but it was an amazing night spent with 68,102 screaming fans. 

Favorite phrases heard whilst watching the game:
"Hey you, you're shit!"
"Bloody rubbish"
"You f*ckin' actress!"
"Brilliant, quite brill"

One of my favorite players, Frank Lampard (go Chelsea!), scored the single goal to tie the game for England in this penalty kick

Being in a place that massive and hearing the roar of the crowd as the goal was scored is something I'll never forget.

Making friends with people who have more 'flare' than you do is always a key part of the experience!

Cheers to football!

Cheers y'all, Lis

Monday, September 10, 2012


My life for the next year..
I spent this past Friday with one of my awesome professors walking around London's East End. We went to 6 or 7 galleries filled with modern art exhibits that really opened my eyes to the vast amount of art out there! Apparently it isn't all about Da Vinci, Hoblein, and Picasso..
Friday night was spent at Ping, a great bar with ping pong tables and foosball.. beer pong anyone??

I promise I'm going to museums y'all..
This afternoon was spent at the British Museum.. so many unbelievable statues, sculptures, and artifacts from  all over the world.
Street art is everywhere.. Banksy, where are you??  
This is a young Queen Elizabeth II, holding a spray paint can adorned with a peace symbol.. above her is spray painted: "Life is Beautiful". The foursome below hidden in bandannas is the Beatles.
Cheers to working hard and playing harder!
Tomorrow morning I'm heading with my class out to the National Archives to check out what they've got to offer and then taking a walk around Kew Gardens. Tomorrow night I'll return to the massive Wembley Stadium for the first home game for England! Cheering them on to beat Ukraine in a World Cup '14 Qualifying Match!

Cheers y'all, Lis

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


"You're never foreign in London because everyone else is!"
Cheers to being foreign!
The head of our department gave us this advice during Orientation and I think it is the perfect way to think about London. There are people from all over the world, speaking different languages, wearing different clothes, and eating their own weird unique foods. My small, Southern town did not lend well to diversity and although I'm not sheltered by any means (thanks to all the amazing family trips across America, Europe, and Australia) it is always a culture shock when I come to a big city like London. I believe the difference between the multiple two week family vacations and living in a city is just that.. I'm actually living here.

This is home! Yahoo, I'm an ex-pat and I can call England home. I claim this place as my own and it claims me (on good days). When you are on vacation, it seems to be a bit like when you're at the zoo, an aquarium, or even a museum. You see the city/town/country as you are told to see it. Guides (read: curators for all my art history peeps) lead you around the best (or most quaint) restaurants, the most popular attractions, and through the seemingly 'perfect' streets. As you travel, spending just a few days (if that) in each city, you see just a speck of what a place is really like. The people, the energy, the community is somewhat lost whilst driving through in a tour bus full of other Americans. Travel just gives you a tiny slice of the culture that you have entered into..

Don't get me wrong, I love to travel and experience what cities have to offer. It is one of the most (if not the most) beneficial things that a person can do. Seeing cities in person and learning about cultures different than our own is vital to our global community's success... and it is possible to get a good sense of a city and its people if you visit even just for a few hours! However, I feel that living in another place than your hometown is what truly opens your eyes to the uniqueness and fabulousness (yeah, its not a word) of a city.

Walking every day down the same street, shopping at the local grocery store, and even just sitting at a Tube stop really influences how I see London. Each day I feel I have a greater understanding of what it is to be truly 'British' or at least truly a 'Londoner'. What I have found is that whoever you are, whatever you look like, however you act, and wherever you are from.. London will take you in, embrace you, and allow you to thrive. There is so much to be said for a city that is so inclusive of so many cultures, peoples, and lifestyles. Even if it isn't London, I can only hope to always live in a city that is so accepting and respectful towards all walks of life.

Cheers y'all, Lis

Monday, September 3, 2012

Now I can begin.

What is Art? Please tell me.
The 52lb box that I parted with 11 days ago has finally arrived. This means it is real, I'm staying and I'm now prepared. I've got the Barbour jacket and the Wellies, I'm ready to rock. Not to mention, I started class today. I had my first class of graduate school then I went out for a pint to celebrate I went to the library to read! I feel like I'm going to need glasses after this; so much reading with such small print cannot be great for the eyes. I have class Monday-Thursday with a three hour class a day. Trust me, it is more than it seems.. Readings for each class each week take a few hours, not to mention papers and presentations.. Plus, I need to start thinking of a Thesis Topic (what does that mean?) and figure out where I would like to intern this coming summer. All this being said, I'm so loving it. Yes some days will be hard and I will be so sick of work but I have a choice to either love it and give it my all or hate it and be miserable. I think I'll choose the former.

Let's back up... I haven't had internet for a few days so I'll update on the first week here in South Ken. I've got a great hall full of cool people, all from various backgrounds! A few girls who I've loved getting to know and a couple guys who don't mind me tagging along to watch football (both American and British). One of which has a great blog! Check it out here. He is in the International Relations program (and a guy, duh) so he will have a bit of a different perspective than mine! The other people I've met come from all over the world.. Egypt, Dominican Republic, Russia, France, Bulgaria! It is such a great program to be in with so many people from different backgrounds because we really benefit from the international perspectives we all hold.

First dinner I "made"
(God bless Microwaves)
The first few days I just worked on setting up my room, finding the main building for class, taking wonderful and much needed afternoon naps.. you know, the usual 'start of the semester' stuff. We had Orientation for the Master's students on Friday. There are two Master's programs here at Richmond University, International Relations and Art History. Both programs have about 12 people in them and it is nice to be in such a small class when studying something I don't have loads of experience in! After Orientation, we had a boat party. Funny thing was we assumed it was just Graduate students on a boat casually floating down the River Thames.. oh man, we could not have been more off. The boat was filled with undergraduates, some of who had just gotten to London to start their first year of college. Anyone remember their first few nights of college? Yeah, neither will these kiddos! What started out to be a calm boat ride looking at the sights of London turned into what seemed eerily similar to Prom as depicted by a John Hughes film, just add in 50 Cent and Ke$ha. After being on the boat from 7-11pm, I think everyone was a bit antsy and dancing ensued.. I'll leave you with that visual. Now, I'm not pleading innocence.. us Grad students had a grand ol' time too! It was a great night that ended at the "wrong O'Neills" (don't ask) but I'm so glad we had all had a great first night together. Saturday I went to the infamous American Sport Cafe to watch Notre Dame play Navy (go Irish!) and to have chicken fingers and curly fries. Yesterday consisted of an afternoon at the pub around the corner watching Liverpool vs Arsenal. Tough loss for Liverpool but just happy Chelsea is still on top! For now, at least.. 
Cheers to the Queen!
On a side note, anyone remember the post I did on Hebrews 12? How I have used it since the spring as a source of comfort and guidance? How it has shown up in random places for the past year?? Yeah, I didn't think so.. Well, here it is. Long story short, Carly and I were 30 minutes late for church on Sunday (I read the time wrong, I swear) so as we walked in the breathtaking cathedral we heard maybe the last five minutes of the sermon. What I did hear, however, was a British pastor preaching on "my" Hebrews 12 verse. He spoke of 'running the race' and trusting God. It was epic that this verse has quite literally followed me all the way to London. From Easter service at Centenary Methodist, to the banner at the Nashville half-marathon, to my first church service in London.. I'm a deep believer in fate and 'everything happens for a reason' and I can't express how crazy it was to hear this verse as the sermon topic at my new church in England. God is good, y'all.

Cheers y'all, Lis

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Welcome to South Kensington

It is the same dream I always have..day and night, this image pervades my subconscious..
My front door!

I'm sitting in a flat in South Kensington, listening to an amazing throwback playlist (imagine S Club 7, Ja Rule,  Avirl Lavigne and Madonna), drinking a cup of strong black tea with the sounds of the busy city and the heat of a crisp sunshine are coming through an open window... pinch me.

But no, today for the first time in two years.. this dream is real! I'm not trying to be cliche with a "my dream has come true" blah-blah speech but I'm not sure how else to express it. So now, I guess I'll carry on with the good stuff...

My awesome flat is at the end of a hall on the second floor of a gorgeous white building in Courtfield Gardens. South Kensington is an amazing place full of everything and everyone from French ex-pats with kids to Dustin Hoffman, to some of London's most elite, to three universities full of British and American students and professors. So to say the least, it's a lively place. It is a perfect place to be young and a student because there are so many of us in this area. Notting Hill is just a short bus ride away, Hyde Park and Kensington Palace are just a mile north, and the pubs and restaurants just outside my door are to die for. I love walking everywhere and how accessible everything is. That being said, I'm remembering how pretty much everything just takes longer here. Whether its just a five stop Tube ride or a walk to the store, it will always take longer than you think! People in the way, traffic backed up, or just getting lost... the big city is fast moving but not me! 

Cheers y'all, Lis


*We have not had internet in our flat since Wednesday! I started this Wednesday morning and was unable to post it until now! More coming soon.....