Monday, June 25, 2012

One month

Funny that my very first post in this blog was titled "Just one more month..." and now it is already the one month anniversary of my return home. So I've been debating about what to do with this blog since it was obviously meant to just be for my year abroad. Of course I'm going to try to print it out for a keepsake/journal kind of thing, but it feels strange to stop writing in it. We had to blog as a requirement of UMD's Honor Program, but that's not the main reason I wrote so regularly. I'm so glad that I have something to look back on (besides my millions of photos, of course). I can't say for certain because I might throw in a few additional posts here and there, but I think this will be my last  one. Might as well stop at an even 70.  ;) Thank you to everyone who has kept up with this blog for motivating me to keep taking photos and writing about my experiences.

It's been pretty weird but, at the same time, completely normal being home. It's hard to wrap my mind around the past 10 months to really miss the experience as a whole, which is actually nice, but it's the little memory triggers that really get me. I can't tell you how much I miss my flat family, their extended families, my friends in my art classes, the wonderful group of Americans I traveled with, and the UMD faculty we spent so many hours with on a weekly basis.

I had a list of English words and phrases left over from a post I made a while back, so I'll finish that off now. Here is some terminology I miss hearing every day:

you alright?
nick (as in steal/borrow)
half-inch (pinch!)
shopping trolley
the que
cling film
pissed (as in drunk)
fag (as in cigarette)
to get on
carry on
give it a go
you lot
loo roll
fairy liquid (dishsoap)
washing up
the lift
daddy longleg (what the call mayflies)
Mario (pronounced like "air")
touch wood
will do

and my very favourite... instead of "ding dong ditch" they say "knock door run"! Creative, huh?
(Thanks for that one, Gabes).

I still say things "wrong" now and then, but I can tell my speech is already becoming Americanized again. Some phrases have stuck for good, though, I'm sure.

SO! What have I been up to this past month? I think it will be easier to explain with photos (but I'll be sure to caption them). Here we go:

First off, my little brother, Jackson, graduated high school about a week after I returned. He'll be joining me at UMD in the fall!

Here he is following in his big sister's footsteps and making his valedictorian speech. So proud. =)

It was nice to see some old friends at the ceremony.
Missed these ladies so much! I've never been able to decide if they are more like my teachers, second mothers, sisters, role models, or best for now I'll have to say a wonderful mix of everything.
Friends and neighbors eying me up like I was a martian or something...
Some MORE confusing relationships! We may not be related by blood, but the Erdahl's are family. Plus it's almost like we planned our outfits. I mean seriously...
Cousin bonding in the hammock.
The grandkids with Grandma and Grandpa. I was so touched that my Grandma read my blog in such detail that she gave me a kettle as a "welcome home" present! She's the best. =)
Another family friend even gave me a teapot to match my teacup I brought back from England (thanks again Connie)!
Enough from the grad party, my goodness... Time for my new house! This is the lovely 3-level beauty I will be living in with five other girls this semester. I have only just met three of them, but they all seem incredibly nice.
And rear-view.
My moving men, Jackson and Michael...eating pizza on the job, tsk tsk.
My tiny room prior to painting and furnishing (bear in mind that the green walls look much less horrifying in this photo than they did in person).

And after! I only got some basic pieces in the room (and shush, the cat vase IS basic), but it's a start.
Here's a Sims 3 mockup that I've been building off of. I know I'm a nerd.
So speaking of the Sims...I might have recreated my flat and roommates and taken a bunch of screenshots of them interacting with one another. Don't judge me. I also gave them fair warning that I was going to do this, hehehe...
Good one of Michael with Gabriel talking about him to Laura in the background.
Gabriel scaring Laura. I won't include the photo of them kissing five seconds later. He was all over Roisin, too! We also have Roisin in the background examining the microwave (probably saying how it's "positively mingin!")
Eating with Gabriel...everyone seems to be in their jammies.
Roisin watching Gabriel sleep on the floor (he just fell over all of the sudden)!
Thought this was a good one to show off the kitchen and my girlies!
And finally the bromance. Some things never change. ;)
Next came my cousin Kali's graduation party. It was nice to be all together again!
My mason jar candles! I've been doing a lot of crafting..
Tea and kittens with my neighbors, Kayla and Ava! (see the following photos for the "kittens" part)

So that's it for photos, but hopefully that's given you a taste of my life for the past month. I have also been working a bit, helping out with the community musical, visiting friends, packing up stuff for Duluth (not to mention finding out that the entire town flooded), having a garage sale, and spending a lot of time with my family. I'm hoping to move up to Duluth by August (that is, if I get the job in the international education office for which I applied)! I couldn't think of a better way to transition back to school in America and keep my experiences alive than to encourage others to study abroad.

Keep in touch. I'm always going to treasure the memories I have made this past year, but I suppose this is farewell to the "oversees" chapter of my life...for now. ;) I don't have to hope that I will return to England someday because I already know I will.

So now I'll be cheesy and leave you with this quote because... "this is my life. It is my one time to be me. I want to experience every good thing."


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Home pt. 2

So Thursday we had the honour of having the Olympic torch come through our city and stay overnight at the cricket club. Gabriel, Michael, Laura, Phil, and I went out to eat at Nando's then just stepped outside to watch the torch go by. Of course it was a bit anti-climactic because it happened so quickly and it felt like we waited forever, but how cool is it that A) I got to see the torch, and B) the torch was on the very streets on which have walked dozens of times. Also, British people are not usually overly patriotic, but there were union jacks as far as the eye could see!

Also special about Thursday was that it was the last time I took a shower until I made it back to Minnesota. Also Wednesday night was the last night I slept! We all stayed up the entire night on Thursday packing, talking, laughing, crying, alternating between drinking alcohol and coffee, cleaning, shooting rocket balloons out of Michael's window on the top floor, watching the sun rise, saying goodbye, and finally boarding the coach. It was so hard to say goodbye to Roisin and Gabriel because we've become a family over the past 9 months. I will always remember our Flat 1 family--I love you guys.

Just because I don't feel like re-writing our nightmare of a journey home, I'm posting my email to Judith (our programme director) below because I summed it up for her a little bit ago:

We landed in Newark and all rushed to our terminal in order to catch our flight. Since our flight was slightly late, we were afraid we wouldn't make it. Luckily once we arrived out of breath at our gate, the sign said that our flight was delayed anyway. We all got drinks and sat down to relax for what we THOUGHT would be a mere half hour. I went to the bathroom and when I returned, I was told by about six people that our flight had been cancelled and all passengers were to get in line at the service desk. Thankfully I got in line fairly quickly because we found out that we all were going to have to split up onto different flights. After about 20 minutes at the desk, Cody, Michael, and I were SO lucky to get tickets for the 8:42pm direct flight to Minneapolis.

Others were not so lucky, as they hadn't gotten in line right away. A few students managed to get stand-by tickets for other Friday flights, but most had to accept tickets for a 12:00 (noon) flight the next day. As you probably have already heard, some took flights to Des Moines instead and got picked up there. I personally got a very helpful customer service person, but the other students had to deal with an incredibly rude man. The original flight was apparently delayed and cancelled because of weather; so according to their policies, if a flight is cancelled due to weather they are not obligated to pay for your hotel. I think all (or at least most) of the students just stayed overnight at the airport.

After waiting the entire afternoon and evening, I was absolutely devastated when our 8:42pm flight was delayed until 11:00pm. Michael went to the desk to find out the reason, but he was given two entirely different answers (they obviously did not know or were lying). Our flight was then moved to a different gate (with no message or warning) and delayed until 12:30am. We eventually found out that they knew this all along but didn't want the passengers to freak out, so they gave us the decoy delay time of 11:00pm. Finally we were allowed to board the plane, and about 5 of the stand-by students were told they could take the flight with us. They were so excited and then (I can't even tell you how heartbreaking this was), a few were denied access at the gate because the original passengers arrived. Laura was one of those who was denied, but I do believe she got an earlier flight the next day (Saturday). Michael, Rachel, Phil, Cody, Maggie, Jessica, and I all arrived in Minneapolis around 1:30am. At least all of our luggage made it safely!

So Newark airport...I declare a vendetta against you. They didn't warn us about you in our "Reverse Culture Shock" meeting. ;P



That is the only word I can come up with to describe the past 4 days of my life. I'm not entirely sure where to start! I will try to work forward from the obvious...

I arrived safely home around 3am Friday morning.

I am severely and hopelessly jet lagged, and I woke up well before the sun rose this morning. It has been very nice but also very strange spending time with my parents, brother, and three kitties (they all remembered me, by the way).

My bedroom and living room look like England and an airport procreated, then their spawn vomited clothes, suitcases, and art supplies onto every inch of open carpet space. (Translation if that made absolutely no sense: it's a mess).

I could not remember how to make $3.20 change at the airport because we don't have 20p coins, so I panicked and threw a $5 bill at the cashier.

As we were leaving the airport parking garage, I could barely keep it together when the booth cashier man began speaking in the most stereotypical Minnesotan accent I have ever heard in my life. Everyone sounds funny here.

We don't have a kettle in the house and that makes me sad.

I couldn't remember the location of my underwear drawer, my pants (trousers), or power outlets in my bedroom. This frustrated me.

Want to hear about the nightmare that was my journey home? Well here's a run-down of my last days in England, farewells, and the flight back to America... Wow I guess I haven't even mentioned our farewell party so I will being with that. On Tuesday we had our farewell dinner/awards ceremony aboard a riverboat on the Severn. Whoever came up with that idea was a genius because it was so much fun! We dressed to the nines and boarded the boat around 6pm, took a ton of photos, reminisced, drank a little (some people drank a lot), pulled a few "Jack and Rose" poses and ate some pretty good food. I am proud to say that I received one of Paul Cannon's recognitions for my hard work in Advanced Writing fall semester, in addition to one of the two $500 scholarships. My lack of a social life and traveling paid off! The awards ceremony really wasn't about money, though, because we were so far past the point of just being able to recognize academic achievement. The professors were our travel companions and friends, so they all gave out their own custom awards that--even though they weren't accompanied by money--were incredibly special. One of my favorite recognitions was when we gave Mark the Coach Driver a standing ovation simply for being awesome. We've really all become one big family over the year.

Makes me miss my dear little Worcester just looking at these photos again... Click here to see the rest of the photos from the cruise.

The next day we went to the horse races, which was a super cool experience (especially when I won ten pounds)! I just knew Spock would win. ;) I couldn't believe that Gabriel, Roisin, nor Lindsey had ever been to the races before! It was stupidly hot out, but we all had a good time.

I'm going to post this just because it's long enough already, so this will be split into two. The second half will start with Thursday, May 24th. =)