Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Certainly London fascinates.  One visualizes it as a tract of quivering gray; intelligent without purpose, and excitable without love; as a spirit that has altered before it can be chronicled; as a heart that certainly beats, but with no pulsation of humanity.  It lies beyond everything: Nature, with all her cruelty, comes nearer to us than do these crowds of men.  A friend explains himself, the earth is explicable--from her we came, and we must return to her.  But who can explain Westminster Bridge Road or Liverpool Street in the morning--the city inhaling--or the same thoroughfares in the evening--the city exhaling her exhausted air?"

-E.M. Forster, Howard's End

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011


World Travellers: the 1930s and Beyond

Shakespeare: the Play and the Book
Gender, Race, and Empire in Women's Writing 1780-1900

Modernism and Democracy

Level 5 modules (taken in the second year of university) usually consist of a one-hour lecture, followed by a one-hour seminar.  Level 6 modules (taken in the third and final year) consist of 2-hour seminars.  All my modules are level 6 except for World Travellers, so I'm spending most of my class time with students who are writing dissertations and preparing for graduation!  That'll be me, next year in SLC...hopefully!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Touring the Colusseum, surrounded by ancient ruins, hearing stories of the gladiators.  

Hearing a car honk angrily at an intersection, then, hilariously, realizing the driver is a nun.  

Emerging from a subway station in Milan, confronted by the intricate arches and cold statues of the Duomo.   

Watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia with strangers-now-friends in the hostel. 

Making a hurried journey to the Eiffel tower at night.  

A string ensemble playing music in the busy metro station. 

Regarding Michangelo's David in all its marbled glory.   

Chuckling as you address a postcard to friends at home: the picture is a closeup of David's rock-hard backside. 

Touring the fairytale-esque castles of a long-dead king.   

Sitting next to an older woman on the train, both of you in silence, not speaking the other's language, then exchanging smiles full of well-wishes as you get up to leave. 

Walking through the fashion district: Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabana.   

Observing a tiny child with a sassy attitude cross her arms in sulky defiance of her parents.

Standing on tiptoe to glimpse the Mona Lisa.

An unexpected connection with a club-promoter: "Utah Jazz!  Malone!"

 Craning your neck to survey the vast ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Precariously concocting a stack of tuna sandwiches in a miniscule washroom on the train.

Art.  Beauty.  Life. 



Friday, January 21, 2011

billy elliot

I saw this musical tonight--AMAZING.  It contains powerful messages (concerning politics, childhood, individuality, gender, family, the arts...) on so many levels.  Plus, it was just fun to watch.  I want more musicals in my life...


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

though it's everything that i imagined it would be

i had no idea that it would feel

so empty.

where are you


-Brandon Heath, London

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"In destitution, even of feeling or purpose, a human being is more hauntingly human and vulnerable to kindnesses because there is the sense that things should be otherwise, and then the thought of what is wanting and what alleviation would be, and how the soul could be put at ease, restored.  At home.  But the soul finds its own home if it ever has a home at all."

-Marilynne Robinson, Home

Saturday, January 15, 2011

 December 31, 2010

Once we got to Milan, we found our hostel--we had to take the metro, which was very similar to London's only not as convenient, since there weren't as many stations.  We got off at the Gambara stop, and then had some trouble finding the right street, but it didn't take terribly long.

Our hostel was called Hostel Emmy.  We climbed up what seemed like a million steps that had one of those old-fashioned elevators in the middle, the kind you can see inside.  Eventually we made it to a door with a sign saying "Hostel Emmy."  It was locked, so we buzzed the buzzer.  An old man answered the door.  He didn't speak a whole lot of English, so it took us all a while to realize that Jason and I hadn't even booked the hostel for that night!  Our initial plan had been to stay at Cooper's that night, but somewhere along the line we'd just forgotten about that.  However, once we realized why we were all so confused, we laughed about it and the man just moved us up a night.

I loved that hostel.  It was so real and full of personality.  It wasn't a commercialized chain, like Jaeger's.  Cooper, Jason and I had a room to ourselves.  It felt like we were staying in a flat, not a hostel.  The bathroom had blue walls, a dripping sink, and flowered bath mats.  In the morning, the old man's wife brought breakfast to our room: chocolate-filled pastries, peach juice, coffee.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Our trip ran into some bumps yesterday, starting with the discovery of no seats left on the night train we'd been planning on taking to Paris tonight.  Then when we found the location of our hostel in Rome, no one answered the buzzer.  A man who'd been watching us trying to get in came up and told us that the hostel was no longer there!  Needless to say, this was stressful news.  We couldn't get the man to explain, because he didn't speak English--or maybe I should say: we don't speak Italian.  Luckily, the hostel had left a phone number next to the buzzer, so we found a payphone.  The woman who answered gave us directions to another hostel about a 15-minute walk away.  This hostel was called Ivanhoe.  It was colorful and loud--you walk into one long room with several rooms and two bathrooms right off of it and computers along one wall.  We dropped our stuff off and went out to look around the city.

First we went back to the station to see what could be done about getting to Paris: since we'd bought non-refundable tickets to get from Paris back to London, we needed to get to France somehow.  Luckily, there were seats left for the night of the third.  This means 2 less days in Paris for us, but at least we can still get there using our Eurorail passes--we thought we might have to buy plane tickets for a while there.  Live and learn: now we know better than to assume we can simply rerserve seats on the spur of the moment.

That's the thing about traveling, though.  You'd think planning ahead would be key, but then you get thrown curveballs like disappearing hostels.

Anyway, after we got our tickets figured out, we walked around Rome--saw the Colusseum.  I wasn't aware it's surrounded by a bunch of other random ruins, but there's several of them all around.  We weren't able to inside, since it closes at 3:30, so we'll probably try again tomorrow.

The hostel had a New Year's Eve deal of a spaghetti dinner with drinks all for 10 euro.  We reserved spots for the three of us and were back for the dinner by 9:00.  The two hostel front desk guys are quite the characters.  One is older, and was really hyper.  He claimed not to speak English and would go off in Italian at me and laugh!  The younger one has a crazy unidentifiable accent that Jason thinks is fake, and is from North London.  

 The room was full and it was a fun atmosphere.  We met people from the Netherlands, France, Japan, etc, plus other Americans.  Eventually everyone found themselves on the street leading up to the Colusseum.  The streets were packed with people.  Everyone was drinking and shouting and hugging and kissing and taking pictures and being carried along by the crowd.  

This morning was horrible.  Aside from being hungover, my hair was matted with champagne--and the worst thing was that I had no idea where anything was.  I mean, I looked over and my bag was lying gaping wide open on the floor, I couldn't recall what I'd done with my coat when I came in last night, and I was sure our passports and train passes had been in my bag!  This hostel had zero security--no locks on the doors, and the padlock they gave us to use for one of the lockers was too thick to even fit, so none of our stuff was locked up.  I searched my bag multiple times, then decided to give up and take a shower.  Turns out we'd put everything in Jason's bag and I'd just forgotten.  Oops..but big relief.

Anyway, once everyone had dragged themselves out of bed and popped a couple aspirin, we made our way to the Pantheon, then to the Vatican.  Honestly, even though we saw all those masterpieces, the highlights of my day were:

1.  The dried kiwi and apricots we bought from a vendor.
2.  Watching the fake designer purse sellers scurry back and forth along the street behind the vendor tents to avoid the police.
3.  The little girl with THE FUNNIEST fixed (and I mean fixed) expression on her face, looking at Cooper from over her dad's shoulder.  

Cooper booked the hotel across the street from the hostel (incidentally, the hotel is called Hotel Ivanhoe) since it's cheaper to split a hotel room between the three of us.

So we're all smooshed into this teeny room right now after getting delicious Chinese food for dinner (a welcome break from Italian).  I am writing, Jason is showering, and Cooper is snoring.

Now that I've sort of caught up to the present moment, I need to backtrack to Milan.  

Wednesday morning we sought out da Vinci's The Last Supper.  I was surprised it's not kept in a museum, but is actually in a church called la Basilica di Santa Maria, located in a very upscale Milanese neighborhood.  I love how these Italian neighborhoods are full of little courtyards, and each one is like a little secret glimpse into lives behind the walls.  Looking into each one as you walk past, you might see a yellow vespa, an oddly-gnarled tree, a pot of pink flowers.  Glimpse, glimpse, glimpse.

Anyway, we got to the church and found that the only way to see the painting is to make a phone reservation.  The girl explaining this to us was condescending and rude, actually.  I mean, I know we should have looked this up and I know she must have to deal with the same scenario a billion times a day, but c'mon lady, you are a representative of a painting of Jesus, and what would he do?

I was disappointed: I'd been so stoked to see this was at the top of my list for Milan.  We hung around for a while and milled around in the gift shop, surrounded by copies of painting on postcards, coffee mugs, mousepads.  They all seemed to be mocking me: "you're so close to the original, and the best you can do is look at the made-in-China, keychain version??"

Eventually we found ourselves standing in front of a large copy of the Last Supper with audioguides pressed to our ears.  Every once in a while, groups of people would come through automatic sliding doors from an adjoining room.  When the doors opened, Coper went through the crowd and peeked in.  He motioned us over: it's in here!  I hurried over, stuck my head in the room, and saw it.  It was HUGE!  I am so happy I laid eyes on it, even for just a couple seconds...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January 5, 2011: The Louvre

"It's a wholly unsatisfactory encounter with an object."  -My art histories seminar leader, on viewing the Mona Lisa

Winged Victory

Statuesque Beauty  ;)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jason, Cooper and I are on a train through the Swiss Alps!  These mountains are breathtaking, staggeringly huge, craggy with snow covered trees, details brought into sharp white outline, tiny towns placed in valleys, houses nestled in bunches like a handful of colorful marbles in your pocket.

Most people on the train sleep, headphones in ears, sweatshirts making pillows behind heads.  I munch on trail mix purchased from a train station store with our remaining franks--the store was bright and hot and people were in a hurry, so I grabbed buttery cookies, a tube of chips, sugar-dusted candy, a bunch of bananas.  

Yesterday we took advantage of the free washers and dryers at Cooper's place, a huge industrial-style building, concrete ceilings and floors, a place which might have seemed cold and aloof were it not for the warmth and generosity of its inhabitants, a handful of students waiting out the break, studying, cooking, visiting friends and hosting them.  A Taiwanese guy studying bio-medical engineering whose real passion, it becomes evident, is food: a roast duck dinner cooked for his friends, a cinnamon-tinged pudding slipping sweetly down your throat ("Finish it up, finish it up!"), chocolates from Geneva placed on the table for us to sample.  I basked in the warmth of this place after a day spent traipsing through frozen Zurich, toes going numb despite my triple-layered feet, lips almost too cold to smile.  Led by a multi-lingual Moldovan and her brother--friends of Cooper--we'd hopped aboard a train bound for the Rheinfall, crunched and slid our way down frozen snow-covered paths to survey vast water in turmoil from the fall ("It's the BIGGEST WATERFALL IN EUROPE!  ....It's not that big").

Back in Zurich, visited the city's "old town," saw Cooper's school, an ancient-looking building with automatic doors, climbed to the Lindhof Platz, which overlooks the city, snapped pictures, shivered, hurried back.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard
(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

back from my european adventure

Back from backpacking through Europe! 

From 20 December to 6 January, I traveled from London to Munich to Zurich to Milan to Florence to Rome to Paris, with daytrips to Garmisch (Germany) and Salzburg and Pisa.  Now I'm back at school in London, and it's time to hit the ground running.

Here's an entry from the journal I kept on the trip:

Wed. Dec. 22, 2010

We finally made it to the Munich train station--Hauptbahnhof-- and it was huge!  It had Christmas lights everywhere and was really busy even though it was pretty late.  We'd been given very specific directions to our hostel, beginning with "take the exit underneath the big Coca-Cola sign," and sure enough, there was a giant Coke sign over one of the exits.  Our hostel, Jaeger's is really nice.  It looks very modern.  When Jason was paying the girl at the front desk, she gave him back 50 euros and we were both a little confused but figured she knew what she was doing.  Turns out she made a mistake--the manager came up to our room and asked us about it--he was really apologetic.  We gave her the 50 euros and she was so grateful.  I guess they'd have taken it out of her salary if we had refused to pay it.

On Tuesday we went downstairs for the hostel's breakfast: delicious!  For 4.80 each we get a buffet of scrambled eggs, rolls, bread, meat and cheese, fruit, yogurt, muesli, orange juice and coffee.  Definitely my favorite aspect of this hostel.

After breakfast, we went to the station and got train tickets to Dachau.  We were standing there trying to figure out which train to take, and this guy came up and asked us, in a heavy German accent, if we needed any help.  He told us which train to get on and told us about the area of Dachau--he'd applied for a job there before.  I thought it was so nice of him to go out of his way to help two confused tourists.  That is something you would rarely ever see happening in, say, Paddington station.  It gave me a good impression of Germans in general--and it is true that people here tend to be friendly and patient.

Once in Dachau, we got off the train and briefly latched on to a tour group.  We got a little bit of background information about the concentration camp.  It was the first camp in Germany, and set the standard for other camps.  It was also a training facility for guards who were then sent to other camps.

The camp felt cold and vast and bleak.  It didn't help that I felt sick that day.  There were various memorials--a Catholic church with a road in back leading to a convent, modern sculptures.  The most powerful one was the Jewish memorial: you step down into a dark, dungeon-like space and look up up up to a bright hole with a menorah-like symbol on the top.  We were able to go inside the sleeping barracks and see the stacked wooden cots you see in history books filled with skeletal bodies.  There was a museum as well, but we didn't look around it much because I still wasn't feeling well.  On the way to the camp, the path was lined with big white houses where the SS officers lived with their families.  It reminded me of the movie The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. 

We took the bus back to the train station, got back to our hostel and asked the girl at the front desk where the best Christmas markets were.  She recommended one in a park called Thereseinweise, so that's where we headed.  It was huge!  There was an outdoor and an indoor section.  Jason got wurst and chips and then we went to the indoor bazaar.  I could have wandered around there forever.  There was so much to see and it was colorful and warm inside.  I bought this notebook, and Jason got a music box, the kind where you turn a handle to make it play.


Another comparison of Munich to London: everyone talks when they're riding mass transportation--people are actually happy!

Today was our tour to the royal castles of Neuschwanstein!  We went to meet our bus outside the department/grocery store at 8:30.  Our tour guide knew at least five languages.  The first castle was fairly small but amazingly ornate inside.  In the restroom I met a girl who's from Virginia and knew about Randolph College.  She knew about SLC also, since her freshman roomate went to Juan Diego!

The second castle looked straight out of a fairy tale.  The surrounding landscape was amazing as well, with the snowy Alps as a backdrop.  We had time for lunch before our tour, and our guide steered everyone toward a reserved hotel restaurant.  We checked out the menu posted outside, and it was pretty expensive so we wandered around looking at everyone else's menus til we found a cheap one where I could order something other than wurst.  Then we made our way up the mountain to the castle!  I thought the outside of this castle was much more impressive than the inside.  King Ludwig was an interesting dude.  He was super shy and quite the recluse.  Jason said he reminded him of the beast from Beauty and the Beast, which I thought was a good comparison, except apparently Ludwig was very handsome when he was in his prime, not beastlike at all, except eventually he got really fat and had bad teeth.

We had a stressful grocery store experience once back in Munich.  I wanted healthy snacks but all we ended up with was bananas...the store was closing and a guy tried to tell us in German to leave out of a certain exit but we couldn't understand him...not knowing the language can be difficult, though it seems like most people here know at least a little English.  It makes me wish I'd majored in some combination of different languages, rather than--of all things--English.  

In Germany, tis the season for gluhwein, which is basically mulled wine.  I tried mulled wine at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland, and I'm not a big fan--it's just hot wine!

We wandered around and found ourselves in the Marienplatz.  I loved this area of Munich.  It is essentially an outdoor shopping center, but when we were there everything was closed.  There was a good and festive atmosphere.  Lots of people, musicians, and Christmas lights.  Also, a HUGE gothic cathedral overshadowing everything.  We stumbled upon another little outdoor festival that was packed with students.  Made me wish even more that I spoke the language...