Saturday, December 12, 2015

Meet My Friends

This picture was taken about 2 weeks into the new semester. These are a few of my good friends down here in College Station. Haley, the one in the blue dress, was the first girl in the ward to introduce herself to me. We talked for a bit, and then she invited me to have dinner at her apartment that night. I really didn't want to go, because I hated being outside of my comfort zone and going through that whole awkward getting-to-know-you small talk phase. But I am soooooo grateful I accepted the invitation. Later that night I met Christina (girl in the white blouse) and Marissa, who is now my roommate. These friends (and lots more were not in attendance at this photoshoot) are part of the reason I love being at this school!
I have found that it really only takes two or three times of getting out of your comfort zone and making an effort to meet new people before it becomes second nature. I suppose being a hairstylist has also helped. 12 hours a week spent getting to know new people at 15 minute intervals has certainly helped me improve my conversation skills.

Finals are upon me and I am looking forward to the Christmas break. This semester had me much more involved in school. My homework was project-heavy, a lot of my classes were discussion-based,  and I had to meet a lot of other students in my major, all of which I really enjoyed! I love my major more and more everyday.

I made a few more friends this semester and I got to know some of my other friends a little better, too. Marissa and I hosted a Pride & Prejudice party every week for about 5 weeks starting in October. I found it abominable that so many of my friends had watched the Kiera Knightly version of P&P and then had the nerve to judge Jane Austen based on that piece of garbage! So we watched the A&E version, which is not 100% accurate (ahem, weird pond scene) but IS 100% better than any other film version that exists. I am happy to report that my friends enjoyed the series very much, and we have hopes of watching more films just like it in the future :) Now if I could just get everyone to read the actual novel...

Monday, October 26, 2015

Happy Birthday, Peter!

Last weekend Caroline and the kiddos came down to Texas! I've been so lucky this year, I've seen Caroline and the kids like 3 times! 

We took the kids to the park and I jumped on the opportunity to experiment with taking some action shots.

Peter is the world's best baby model. I think this is a trend we may see among more kids of this generation. They recognize when they are being photographed and they automatically know what to do!

This picture right here has Caroline written all over it. Peter definitely got all his mom's genes.

We're so lucky we got to celebrate with Peter for his birthday! We had the entire May clan over for burgers, hotdogs, and birthday cake. It was a lot of people. 

Such pretty women who I admire very much. Nyssa used to be my dance teacher. She is one of the most patient women and I know, and I miss our lessons very much. I have known Chandler for years but I have always known her as "Chandler, Caroline's friend." This summer Chandler and I were in the same ward, and I felt like I got to know her just a little bit better. She always gave the BEST testimonies and made the most insightful comments during Sunday school. I definitely miss being in her ward!

Update on school:

It's going well. I'm taking 3 Parks and Rec classes, and 1 Kinesiology class (it's ultimate frisbee, so it doesn't even feel like school at all). I'm taking one Parks and Rec class in particular that I just LOVE. It's an international and cultural diversity class, and it is so fascinating. It's like the perfect mix between P&R and Anthropology (my minor), so it's right up my alley.

I got a job working at Great Clips, and it's also working out really well. I love being able to get to know some students outside of my department. I didn't realize just how big our engineering programs were until my third day of work and I had only cut engineer's hair.

Some weekends I am also working as a counselor at a scout ranch about 30 minutes south of College Station. It's a cub scout camp, so I'm getting a little more experience interacting with younger kids. So far I'm really enjoying it. I mostly work canoes, and we've gotten several packs for whom this is the first time they've gone canoeing. Being able to take them out on the water and witness the excitement that comes along with their first experiences with outdoor activities like this, it reminds me of the whole reason I am working so hard in school!

This is the first semester that I experienced feeling really sad and frightened at the idea of leaving school. I love school! I love THIS school! I love my friends, and I really enjoy being a student. Grad school sounds more and more tempting each passing week... but then again, so does money. It's a toss up.

Until next time, then :)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Oxford and Bath

Oxfordshire- quite possibly my favorite region of England that we visited. It was picturesque, and encapsulates all that I imagine when I read Jane Austen.

While driving to Oxford we ate lunch in Coventry, a rather dismal side of England that people don't often see. From what we could tell, there was very little historic significance left in Coventry. Much of the city was destroyed during the air raids of WWII. This cathedral that we visited, however, made the pit stop totally worth it.

It is unlike any of the other cathedrals that we visited. No ceiling, and only bits and pieces of stained glass were still attached. Everything was blackened and ugly. My favorite part was the alter with the words "Father Forgive". 

Oxford was old and beautiful like Cambridge, but it was much more spread out. There were more trees and gardens. We didn't go on any walking tours while we were in Oxford, instead we rented bicycles and rode around the city. It was Dad's idea and it was a marvelous one. We were able to see so much more of the city and a good portion of the river/canal. 

While both Cambridge and Oxford are incredibly prestigious, Oxford felt even more so. I can't quite describe it, that is just the vibe I got. Oxford is a few years older than Cambridge, I believe...

My parents and I recently began watching a new Masterpiece show called "Endeavor". It's a crime/mystery show that takes place in Oxford, and it is SO well done. We love it! It was so fun to bike around the city and be reminded of the TV show. 

The bike ride along the river was spectacular. The weather was perfect, all the boats were super neat, it was just an overall amazing bike ride.

After our adventures in Oxford we visited the Cotswolds. 

Oh.... my.... goodness... The sheep, the green rolling hills, the quaint stone cottages.... I LOVE ENGLAND. 

The pictures do NOT do it justice. I've never driven through scenery that is so delightful that I immediately wanted to give up everything I was currently doing and working towards and instead move to England and become a sheep farmer. It would be a great life. I'd go to the pub every night and eat bangers and mash, and sticky toffee pudding and live in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the entire world.

We visited a Roman bath which had an archaeological dig underway, so that was fascinating. It's amazing how much the Romans valued their baths. Here's a society that is brand new to England, you'd think their priority would be building homes and getting food, but what's one of the first things they do? Build a giant hot tub. But then again, England does get very cold. I enjoy a hot bath in the winter, as well.

For dinner we ate the Mill Inn, a little pub that Dad and members of his Air Force squadron ate at when they visited England. It was just lovely, of course. I think I had a pie that time around. And more sticky toffee, of course.

The next day, our last day, we went to Bath. Bath was very interesting. For some reason I was always under the impression that Bath was near the ocean. But it's not, it's definitely up in the hills. We went on a bus tour of Bath which took us throughout the city and into the surrounding hills. Bath is very beautiful and very uniform. Similar white stone and tall columns everywhere. Bath Abbey has the fan ceiling that I love so much, very similar to the ceiling at Kings College in Cambridge. The most beautiful feature of the abbey is all the natural lighting. Most of the cathedrals and large churches we visited were very dim inside, but Bath Abbey was bright and cheery.

I think my favorite part about visiting Bath was knowing that Jane Austen once lived there and walked those streets. I learned that she actually resented Bath and the pompous atmosphere. I wonder what she would think of it today?

I loved every bit of England. This was not my first visit to an old country, yet I felt more in awe at the depth of this country's history. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the people's conversations, and not just because they had a cool accent. I loved trying to get a grasp of their customs and culture. That is an aspect of my previous foreign travels that I do not remember very well. It is much harder to understand culture when you don't speak the language! One unexpected insight I gained from this trip was a new perspective on war and sacrifice. I have renewed admiration for the strength and courage exhibited by the people that endured all those air raids, and I consider myself very blessed to have never been in direct contact with war and fighting.

This trip gave me a travel bug and it's pretty severe. I spent 10 days traveling within a relatively small radius, yet I was exposed to so much new information that I left feeling like I barely scratched the surface. This world is absolutely swarming with people and places and cultures and ideas, AND I WANT TO SEE IT ALL. In fact, I recently brought home a few travel books from the library. When I am feeling stressed, it helps to spend a couple minutes looking through those travel books. Ideas of a graduation trip to Ireland, Scotland and Norway are beginning to form ;)

Well that took forever! But all my travel adventures are finally posted, and I can get back to documenting my boring college life!

Sunday, September 20, 2015


When we (and by we, I really mean Mom) first planned our trip, it never included visiting York. But I read this amazing book, The Traveller's History of England, and it talked about York so much that I really wanted to see it. We changed our entire itinerary so that we could drive to York. After the visit, I think everyone was glad we made the change.

These books are actually part of a large series, and I recommend them to anyone who is gearing up for a trip. It was concise, touched on all the major points of history, and was somewhat humorous.

According to the book, the monarchs either ruled from York, or London. It's not quite clear why they switched between the two, but both places were very important. When you look at a map of York today, it is quite small and reminds me of what the old London probably looked like. Once we visited there we learned that much of the existing architecture is actually a sham, meant to look medieval in order to attract tourists. The layout of the city is still medieval in design, I believe.

York was first established as a Roman settlement, called Eboracum, so it is quite old. Near the large York Minster was a Roman column, dating back to the early A.D's, and I took this picture of a woman just casually eating her sandwich at the base of the column. Is it just me, or does this not just blow your mind? Does she even realize she's sitting on a 2,000 year old piece of stone?!

Near York is a railway museum which Dad just could not resist, so while he was checking that out, Mom and I went on a walking tour. It was just us and our rather quirky tour guide. He has spent a large portion of his life in York, worked for the University for a time, and he was a librarian so he was really knows his stuff. He brought a large shoulder bag with him that was full of pictures, maps, coins and other random artifacts he has collected over the years that really made the tour interesting.

This ruined Abbey was the first site we visited. It has been used for many years as a stage for Passion Plays (they call them Mystery Plays). Judy Dench made her grande debut here!

Next he took us around the University, and through some buildings that used to be the home of Henry the VIII. This is Henry's toilet window:

The York Minster is huge and gothic and beautiful and, unfortunately, not at all as original as it looks. It caught fire a couple times, artwork was damaged over the years, the stained glass was removed and then put back in, etc... and every time it came time to restore it, historians and architects squabbled over how things should be put back (it seems pretty obvious to me. You put it back the way you found it, right?). Still, it is a beautiful building. Definitely one of my favorites.

He took us on a short tour through some of the "snickelways". They are itty-bitty alleyways connecting some of the larger streets.

I'm really not making the tour sound exciting, but truly it was one of my favorites. We didn't go to many sites, he mostly gave us a very thorough history of York. That's very difficult to convey in pictures. He ended the tour outside the Holy Trinity Church. The church has these very interesting boxes for pews, and the foundation was so uneven that the stone kind of rose and fell like waves.

We ate lunch in a little tea room/antique room. It was lovely, as always :) After lunch, we went on a quick boat tour of York. I think this may have been the highlight of the trip for Dad. The tour guide was hysterical. I really can't describe it, you just have to be there. I think it was the combination of the "Yahrk" accent with a very dry, sarcastic humor that made the whole thing hilarious. We have many memorable quotes from that tour guy.

Here's another castle in York that we visited. It's on the small side, and like 15 pounds to get in... but we enjoyed looking at the outside!

Then we visited The Shambles. York city center is really just a bunch of shops and snickelways, but the Shambles are different. They are especially small and curvy, and sometimes get so close together that people on the upper levels can reach out and touch the hands of the people on the opposite side. Also, this is probably my favorite picture of Mom and Dad from the whole trip.

Later we attended a lovely Evensong at the Minster. Honestly, I could have gone to an Evensong service every single day we were in England and never gotten tired of it. I. LOVE. EVENSONG.

For dinner we ate at Drakes, a popular pub that was recommended to us. Funny story: Dad asked the lady at the tea room earlier that day if she had any recommendations for a place to get good Fish & Chips, and she said, "You want to go to Drecks". Dad repeats, "Drecks?" "That's right, Drecks". It wasn't until we got there that we realized it's called "Drakes", and Dad had unknowingly been pronouncing it like a Brit hahaha.

To top off the evening we wandered about the city listening to the bells from the minster. Here's a video, and don't mind the shakiness (definitely need to work on my videography skills):

All in all, a very successful day in York. It was well worth the 3 hour detour to the north, and I would happily visit again!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

5&6: Leaving London

I loved London. The food was delightful, the buildings and the museums were beautiful, and did I mention that the food was SO GOOD? By the end of the fourth day, however, I was totally bushed. London is B.U.S.Y. Don't go there if you are prone to anxiety attacks.

Sunday morning Mom and I packed up our things and found our way to the Kensington Ward (with the help of a very nice Italian member). I was very excited to go to church and listen to all the talks given in British accents (sinful, I know. There are other more important reasons to be excited for church), but unfortunately, everyone who spoke was American. The man who blessed the sacrament was British and he gave a VERY interesting spin on the sacrament. I felt like I was transported into an Anglican church just during that moment.

The church we met in looked nothing like one of our usual chapels. It was a modern business building from the outside, and served as kind of a visitors center complete with Jesus statue and "I'm a Mormon" ads, and a chapel/cultural hall.

After church we took the tube to Paddington, then the train to Heathrow where we met Dad. For a while there we were uncertain whether Dad would be joining us on the trip, but I'm so happy he did! Mostly because I love going on trips with both my parents, and also because Mom and I probably wouldn't have survived the trip with out him. Mom and I have very different methods of navigating, and if we had to rely on each other to get to all our destinations (while driving on the left side of the road) we'd have strangled one another.

Our destination that night was Cambridge. On the way there we stopped at an airplane museum. Funny story, as we're walking around the hanger looking at all the airplanes, this little British boy in an old fashioned pilots cap comes marching right by us chanting "I'm the pilot! Of the Concord!" over and over again. Combined with the marching stance, the outfit, and the accent, it was hysterical. Dad and I died laughing. We spent a good 2.5-3 hours at the museum. There was lots to see and it was very interesting.

Once in Cambridge, we set forth into the city center not really knowing where we were or where anything was at all. It took a few days before we got a system down of using maps and screen shots of directions from our phones. I've come to realize that I rely on GPS way too much and my orienteering skills are badly out of practice. Pro tip: many of the red telephone boxes have wifi hotspots, so if you're truly lost just look for one of those.

We eventually found our way to The Eagle, a very famous pub in Cambridge. There were old pictures and plaques all over the walls of famous students who attended the University that used to eat at The Eagle. It was so cool! I ate Fish & Chips and Mushy Peas, and of course we ordered some Sticky Toffee Pudding afterward.

The next morning we took a tour of the campus and King's College Chapel. The chapel might be my favorite of all the chapels we visited. Or it is very easily a close 2nd to Westminster. The ceiling is spectacular. It's just so huge! It was fascinating to learn the details in the stonework, and where parts of the chapel clearly hold religious significance but other parts are purely political. Oh it's just so cool.

Centuries old vandalism.

The structure of the school system was also very intriguing. Different departments are separated into Colleges with their own living quarters and dining halls. It's very much like Harry Potter, the way the students are put into houses with a common room and dormitories. The relationship the students have with their professors is also very different. I like the way my dad put it, it's more like students and professors are "colleagues in the pursuit of knowledge". The students each have a tutor who works closely with them as well. It sounds like there is a higher standard for education but they are also given a lot of resources that we just don't have at our universities.

Students living quarters are in those little windows, and study areas/dining halls probably through the larger ones.

After lunch we packed up our things again and headed off to York. One of the first things I noticed when we got to York was the accent change. It's amazing that only a couple hours distance produces very different dialects. I am not familiar enough with the accent to explain all the changes, but there were noticeable differences. In London they might pronounce York with a very round "O" (yohrk), but in York they would say it more like "yahrk".

We stayed in a little B&B about 5 minutes outside of York. Across the street from was a quaint little church with a cemetery. All little towns have a church, a pub, and a post office. I did a little investigating of the church and found the outside to be much more delightful than the inside. The church is always open, but it was dark and no one was in there and it gave me the willies just to stand in the doorway.

That night we went to the pub just down the street and I got more Fish & Chips with mushy peas. Yummmm.

More from "Yahrk" to follow.