I Know The Sun Will Be Rising Back Home

When you’re a world away from everyone you love, how do you keep those relationships intact? When there is always a 5 hour time difference and an ocean in between you and the life you left behind. That’s the thing though, the life that you leave – it keeps going whether you are there or not. My loved ones back home don’t just put their entire lives on hold just because I’m no longer there. Holidays, big life moments, birthdays and family drama continue even if I want to hit the pause button on that life while I’m off having my own life. I know, that’s an unfair and selfish thought, but I think everyone has moments like that. Even so, how do you compromise and work to keep relationships healthy when the people are in two different countries?

In this day and age, technology rules our lives. And I’m thankful for the advanced technology we have because it’s what makes my stay in London that much easier. I’m blessed with all the technology that I have, which includes my laptop, iPad, iPhone and UK android phone. I’m given a opportunity to stay in touch easily with each gadget. I have iPhone messaging, FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp (plus my UK phone lets me make phone calls home for super cheap!). And while, all these things are great, they don’t always make things easier.

I’m an independent person by nature. I grew up close to my large extended family, whom I love dearly, but can be suffocating some times. I always felt coddled and I never had to do much on my own. So when I got older, I became much more independent. I like space and having my own life and doing things at my own pace. Something that my Mum does not understand most of the time and often creates friction between us. When I got into school here in London, she made me promise to email her every single day to check in. Obviously I agreed to ease her mind, but I knew that wasn’t going to work out. And it didn’t. How was I suppose to create a life here and let myself grow, if I was so completely tied to my life back home? If I had to remember to send an email or received an email wondering how everything was? I can’t function that way.

At 23, I need some space, I don’t know if I would have received the same demand for daily emails if I had went to one of the graduate schools back home in the United States, but it was something that I couldn’t deal with and I still can’t. Which causes tension that I can almost feel even with an ocean in the way and ultimately it came to a head and caused around a week of complete silence on both ends. I have an amazing Mum and a good relationship with her, and I can understand her point of view to an extent, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting her to understand my point of view and what I need. I know that she’s worried about me being so far away, but I’m trying to create a life for myself away from her and my life back home. I don’t want to have to email her everyday. She doesn’t get that, or maybe she doesn’t want to get it.

So how do we comprise? I can’t go back to sending daily email check-ins, but she can’t go all week with radio silence on my end. We still haven’t figured out the best way to handle it so that we’re both satisfied. We try to Skype at least twice a week, but the emails fluctuate and leave her on edge, I think. I wonder if a part of her is also frustrated that it’s much easier for me to keep up with my friends and brother. It’s easy for me to send a quick text or a Snapchap to them, with no regard for the 5 hour time difference and I have no sort of obligation to them. It’s easier to communicate and keep a good relationship working when smart phones are involved, I’m not going to deny that. My brother and I tend to get along better when we’re not together, so me being away actually has strengthened our relationship. We text almost everyday, nothing important really, just about music or things I’ve seen or what’s happening back home. We enjoy the time apart and use that to time to talk more, which I cherish. And I’m fortunate when it comes to the friends I have, they’re incredibly loyal and understanding. They know I have a life here and that I can’t be home for the important things. They don’t have expectations and are always willing to keep me up to date with their lives, just as I am with them. Making this work well, is all about wanting to make things work. People that are important will take out of their day to set up a time to FaceTime, or will plan a trip to come visit you. I have an entire summer jammed packed with people I love coming to visit!

In the time I’ve spent here so far, I’ve realized that it’s not about where you are in the world. Life is going to continue, whether you’re curled up with your Mum watching TV in Pittsburgh or if you’re sitting on your bed writing a blog post in London. You just have to remember that you have to make an effort and keep things in perspective when it comes to the people you’ve left back home. Most days I find myself sitting on the bus looking out the window thinking about how the sun is just rising back home. How while I’m typing this, my family is in their beds and my best friends are either just getting home from a night out without me or have been asleep for ages. Sometimes it’s hard to be away, there isn’t a way to get a hug from someone you miss or a way to eat that home cooked meal you’re craving, but you remember why you made the move in the first place. And in the end, all I have to do is go pick up my phone and I can hear someone I love’s voice, because I know no matter where I am in the world or the time it is, they’ll always be a phone call away.

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I Am a Human Being

(Disclaimer: I’ve been debating with myself on whether or not I wanted to post this. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the content – I wrote it in a rage filled moment. Then I wasn’t sure if it really had a place on my blog, though at the end of the day it’s MY blog. Finally, I wasn’t sure how I felt about others reading this post. Ultimately, I feel quite strongly about this, which is why it’s finally being posted.)

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When people see me,I can tell you exactly how they perceive me. They see my hair color. My not so perfect complexion. The size of my thighs. The clothes I am wearing – and most people would say those things are my identifiers, what make me, me. But in reality they are only seeing the physical attributes I possess. They do not see the person that is behind those things. They don’t see the brain, the intelligence that earned me a Bachelors degree and a spot in a graduate program. They don’t see the girl who worked at those crappy part-time jobs to save money to pay for school and rent. The don’t see the way my eyes light up when I talk about something I love. They don’t see the girl who is someone’s daughter, someone’s sister. Because maybe if they did, they wouldn’t treat me the way they do.

I shouldn’t have to be uncomfortable when a man sits next to me on the bus. I shouldn’t have to cross to the other side of the street if I see a group of guys headed my way. I shouldn’t have to avoid going out alone once it gets dark, even if it’s just to the corner shop. I shouldn’t have to live with the anxiety that someone could put their hands on me without my consent. I tumblr_muzifpRRuf1sjmu9ro1_1280shouldn’t have to live with the knowledge that one in three women have experienced a sexual assault. But I do live with these things, because this is the world I grew up in – where jeers and catcalls are an every day occurrence. I am no stranger to harassment. I am not some naive girl that has been sheltered from the outside world. I have been on the receiving end of lewd comments, of public groping and I’ve felt the terror of walking alone in the dark late at night. For 3 years, I carried pepper spray because I went to a university known for sexual assaults. The sad thing is, for awhile you get use to it. It becomes a normal part of life. You brush it off and move on.

But the thing is, it’s not to be brushed off. It should inspire rage and fury. My body was not made for you to tear it down with your words. Your catcalling is not a compliment. I am not my bra size, nor the width of my waist. I am not my hair color, skin color or the shade of lipstick I am wearing. I am not the number of calories I eat a day, the hair on my legs or my little black dress. I am not an object and I will not stand by and be treated as such. I am a person and I will not stand idly by while you attack me. I will sneer in your direction and ask you if you’re interested in having your reproductive organs stills working properly. I will call you out if you are staring down my shirt. I will not back down when you attempt to push your inappropriateness on me. I will not show you respect, when you do not show me any.

tumblr_mjxlyorn9P1rhseqwo1_1280My body isn’t here for your approval. I will not be defined by what’s in between my legs. I will not blush and turn away when you throw your disgusting words my way. I will not accept your actions as a complement. I will always fight back. You’re desire to speak to me in such a manner, does not trump my right to shut you down.And while you may look on in surprise when I react this way, I am tired and I am livid. I refuse to be  treated like less than a human. Try and bully me into submission. Call me “frigid bitch.” I will not flinch. I will remain unmoved. In case you’ve forgotten, woman means human. And humans deserve respect.

 

 

 

Public Transportation

As I’ve previously said, I’m good with directions, despite being a bit befuddled with navigating the streets. Finding my way around London has been a learning experience that I’ve come to find is both frustrating and exhilarating. I get to discover a new route or part of town that I previously over looked, but only after completing 13 trips around the same block, all the while trying to ignore the obvious stares of the people I’ve passed, yet again. For me, getting around London is actually fairly simple. I’m lucky enough to have a wide variety of options in the area I live in.

Taking the tube is a piece of cake for me and it’s almost directly across the street from my accommodations. I can easily switch between lines, I know which route is faster and what to avoid. Like Victoria is quicker, but usually more crowded. Russell Square’s lifts are absolutely ridiculous, because I spend more time waiting for one then I actually did on the tube. The Tube is just easier to use, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best. Sometimes using the tube is completely off limits.

With the recent Tube Strike, I ran into a bit of an issue. How was I suppose to get to and from my evening class. I had so far been relying strictly on the tube because it’s just was easier for me. Now that was completely off the table. I was worried about taking the bus since I hadn’t done it since coming back to London and left me with so many questions. Which bus did I take? When did I get off? How close to IOE could I get? Was I going to end up on the complete opposite side of London with no idea what to do? Turns out, I wouldn’t get to test the bus system out that week. Because of the strike, public transportation was an absolute mess. Some of the girls in my building waited hours for the bus and then couldn’t even get on because it was so packed. Buses were in a complete standstill in my area. There was no way I was going to make it to class successfully, let alone get myself back home! Thankfully, my professor was understanding and I did not attend my class last week.

That’s why I tested the bus out early this week, incase it was needed because of the strike. I didn’t have a horrible time determining my bus route, because the lovely Sara over at The Window Seat suggested the Citymapper app, which was a lifesaver – THANK YOU! Honestly, how exactly did we all survive before we had smartphones! And because I had the app, I didn’t stress out as much as I had previously thought I would. I knew what number bus I was planning to get on and the general direction I was going, everything else I would figure out as I went, and I had the app for backup. I got on the bus and enjoyed the journey. I had a window seat that let me look out on the neighborhoods we passed. It was so different than the tube; on the bus you can see the shops and actually see the change between areas. I took the bus to Euston bus station, because the bus was going to stop directly outside my building and well that’s just easy. I knew Euston wasn’t all that far from IOE so I figured I could easily get from one place to the other.  Yeah… not so much. If anyone was in the Euston area and noticed a girl with a cheetah umbrella wandering around in a complete circle about 3 or 4 times, that was me. Finally I pulled out my phone and looked up directions. Once I got on the right track, well it was actually so incredibly simple that I could have kicked myself. Walking from Euston bus station to IOE opened my eyes to how just wandering around can be helpful. You stumble upon things we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

Another form of public transportation is the trains. I’m actually a huge fan of the trains that go out of central London. Last time I was in London, I used to have to take a 20 minute train ride in from either Kingston or Surbiton. I cherished those 20 minutes of sitting on the train with my friends, it was such a fun part of our days and it was great to see people’s reactions to us. That’s why when I took the train out to Battersea from Victoria station, a few weeks ago, I did so with such an effortless ease. To me, it was like riding a bike. You never forget. Much like the tube, the train has always been easy for me.

I’m sure I’ll have more experiences with London’s public transportation, but that the moment it hasn’t been all that exciting. The exciting parts are when I step off my transportation and set out exploring! That’s the part I love.

Lost and Confused, but Excited in London

Something to know about me is that while I can’t drive a car (and I’m quite dangerous on a bike, as well!), I am exceptionally good at directions. I can’t operate a vehicle, but I can get you where you want to go – from the passenger seat. So imagine my surprise, when the second time I come to London, I’m a complete lost cause. Don’t get me wrong, I can navigate the Tube like a champ, it’s just everything else that leaves me looking like some lost and confused tourist. The minute I set foot outside a Tube station, I completely lose all navigation skills. I spend more time wandering around the streets than actually going anywhere. I don’t even want to go near a bus, I don’t think I’ll ever really figure those out. It took me weeks last time I was in London, and I was always wary. And don’t even get me started on the proper way to cross the street. I’m quite sure that I’ll end up dying because I always forget which way to look for on coming traffic.
1601114_10201172625225833_1328959719_nDespite my total confusion on navigating the streets, because I almost always refuse to pull out my paper map – I draw the line at looking like a complete tourist by doing that! – I’m still excited to go explore new areas of London. In my time here, I’ve taken little trips to certain parts of town and just walked around trying to learn the area, although if you dropped me off in any one of them, I’d probably still have no idea where anything was.

When I first settled in, I decided to pick a section on the Tube map and just get off and walk around. A family friend lived in the Chelsea area and suggested that I head out that way. I rode the Tube out to Sloane Square and stepped out into a very posh neighborhood. Once I left the station, I found King’s Road and while it contains some excellent shopping – which of course didn’t go unnoticed by me – but what I find interesting about the road is it’s history. Like the fact that the Led Zeppelin owned headquarters for Swan Song Records resided there until 1983 or that Ian Flemming’s James Bond lived in an unnamed square just off King’s Road. I just walked and walked for a few hours, eventually though I stumbled upon a couple thrift stores and well I couldn’t pass those up. Tip for any thrifters out there – stores in nicer areas have nicer things! That being said, the stores I went into had some decent enough things, though one of the stores was quite expensive for a secondhand store in my opinion.

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I’ve also gotten off at the South Kensington station, solely to go to The Hummingbird Bakery, which I’ve heard rave reviews about! They have stores in Notting Hill, Soho, South Kensington, Spitalfields, and Islington. The store was adorable, if not extremely small. It was busy when I stopped in, but the employees were incredibly nice. The girl that waited on me was friendly and even offered her suggestion on which cupcake I should try since I was having such a hard time deciding. I ended up getting the Black Bottom Cupcake, which I highly recommend because it was probably one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had, only rivaled by the Sweet Carolina from Sweet Carolina Cupcakes in Hilton Head, SC! But back to The Hummingbird Bakery, it featured some pretty amazing looking things and I will for sure be going back to sample some more of their merchandise. Other than visiting the bakery, I didn’t spend to much time in South Kensington, but it also looks like another posh neighborhood with good shopping in the area.

A family friend had been living in London for the past few months until recently and I was lucky enough to meet up with him a couple times before he headed back home to the States. He treated me to dinner at two places I had never been to, both of which I liked tremendously. Carluccio’s, we visited the Covent Garden located branch. Probably the nicest place I’ve eaten at in London by far and had some of the best wine and Italian food I’ve ever had in my life here. Once we were done with dinner, we walked around Covent Garden and I scooped up some Laduree macacrons. If you’ve never had something from Laduree then it’s safe to say that you’re life is severely lacking. No, I’m not kidding, nor am I exaggerating. Everything in their shops is a little slice of Heaven. I’ve been to the Champs-Elysees branch in Paris and it’s a million times more amazing than London’s shops (NO OFFENSE LONDON!) Right before my friend left, he took me out to Shepherd’s Bush to show me Westfield, since shopping is my one true love in life. That place is where I want to go when I die, it’s so amazing and it makes me wish I wasn’t a poor university student. We ended up eating at Wagamama, which is a Japanese style restaurant, which I had heard of from my previous trip, but had never eaten there.  One of the students in my program when I was here last said it wasn’t anything special, so I didn’t have too high of expectations for my visit. I had the Chicken Katsu Curry and loved it! I’m a huge curry fan, so this was right up my alley and I will definitely be getting it again. Though, both restaurants don’t exactly fit my budget at the moment. Hey, I’m lucky if I can afford a £3 Meal Deal from Tesco!1512661_10201163211390493_95765146_n

One lesson I relearned while wandering around London these last couple weeks; stay away from the tourist areas on the weekends. Honestly, I completely forgot about the fact that it’s madhouse in certain places on the weekends! If I’m going to visit any of those type of places, I’ll be sure to do so during the week so as not to get pushed over by some of my fellow Americans here on vacation!

Until next time, stay rainy London! And just you wait, I’ll figure you out eventually (I think I look less lost and confused every day). Also, can someone, please, tell me where I can find a decent caramel latte, because I have yet to find a single one that I’ve actually liked!

Why I Came to London

I get asked all the time why I chose to go to London of all places to study for a year. And let me tell you, it’s incredibly difficult to explain, let alone have them understand. The short version is that I did a summer abroad program in London a few years ago and loved it. Thus I decided to come back. And well the long, but honest version…

Have you every been in a place where you just felt complete? Where you got the feeling that this is where you were meant to be? Last time, everything just felt like it fit. I could be myself here and that’s not always an easy task. I had the time of my life when I was here last time and I just fell in love with London. I loved the rush of the tube, being just another person in the crowd. The atmosphere and the culture are perfection. You can’t describe it, you just have to feel it. People don’t usually understand that, but the thing is that people don’t have to understand why I wanted to come here, because it’s my life and my decisions.

I knew as soon as I had left London last time, I’d be back and when I made the decision to apply to graduate schools, I knew that London was where I wanted. And once I got in, I made sure it happened. Once the time came, I packed my bags and began my adventure – something that I hope you’ll enjoy reading about! Keep an eye on my blog on all the upcoming posts on my time here.