Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Will Never Be Able To Spell Again

Yesterday, as I was walking through one of the city malls, I came across a gigantic poster-presentation about the planet.  One had an English caption that said:

"Earth at Neight"

And I thought, "Well, duh!  That totally makes sense!"

Just like it makes way more sense to write "fein" instead of "fine."  Or HEIDI instead of HIEDIE.

Or, how I never want c's to make k-sounds now.  It's so much more logikal, for example, to write "aktually."  And while we're at it, let's just do away with the whole double-l thing because that's just over-the-top.  Aktualy.  Maybe even: Aktualie.  Yeah, I like that second one better.

Zoo should be "Suu" or something like it--it is in my head now anyway.   And now, instead of "So" I want to write "Zo" for reasons that are actually too complicated to go into at the moment.

I bring this up for two reasons.  1) This FRIEK OUT poster is beautiful unto my soul  and 2) when we made our grocery list this week, I found myself writing, "Zucker" instead of "Sugar" and "Apfel" instead of "Apple" and "Milch" instead of "Milk"...

The language assimilation...It has begun...

Turns out I did that whole "spelling bee" thing back in the day fur no gut riesun.

Monday, January 30, 2012

It Snowed, and Then We Went on a Walk

Oh hey, 13th century church that is on my street.  Just, you know, checkin' out the neighborhood.

My face may be the color of a tomato, but it's a happy tomato.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

So You Want to Make Some German Food?

I know, I know.  This is pretty much the first thing most people think when they wake up in the morning.

"Shoot!  Today I really want some cabbage!"

I get it.  I really do.  And I'm here to help.

So, let's start with the all-time easiest German dish you can make:  Gurkensalat.  aka Cucumber Salad.

All German food joke irony aside, this is actually frakin' amazing stuff.  You're going to look at the ingredients and go, "I....I...don't know...about...this ideaaaaa..."  But, you have to put your trust in me.  My first name is German.  See?  Trust me. ::I am patting your arm with reassurance::

Also, it's super cheap to make and takes about two minutes.  So check it:

(The Heavenly Cucumber Salad of Dreams)

1 (English) cucumber, or 2 reg. American cucs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar (pref. cider vinegar)
dry or fresh parsley, for added optional loveliness

*Step 1*  Peel the cucumber (but leave little bits of the peel on places.  It's an added loveliness thing.)
*Step 2* Slice the cucumber as thinly as you can.  Aim for see-through-it-ed-ness.
*Step 3* Mix everything together in a bowl (add parsley option just on top).
*Step 4* Eat it.  Super fast.  It's that good.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why am I Writing This?

On Monday, I turn in my beloved office keys--my last-name-misspelled-in-German-phonetics office keys-- and enter the strange voidishness that is going to be February and March.

No University classes to teach.  No FinNland project to work on.  No German courses to take.  Oh, blerg.  Who's idea was it to put the two-month semester break in February and March?!  Of all months!  Of all the crazy?!


So I will write here in February and March (as I learn German at home, and do my Master's courses, and explore the city, and whatnot).

Because I've always gone to a blog to write, it seems.  Ever since I first learned about blogs, actually--way back in the Jurassic period, you know, 2006.

Then, after a bit, I'd finish a chapter of my life and make a new blog--like buying a new journal.  This latest blog is number three; had one in Grad School, had one in Oregon, and got one for Europe.

They're just my casual journals.  That's all they are!  Just a place where I can put the funny or beautiful or interesting things about my day--and having one helps me notice the funny or beautiful or interesting things about each day.  I like that.

I like to blog and I like it when other people blog.  I like getting to know other people through theirs and I really like letting other people know me through mine if they happen across it.  I've always thought this.

HI, strangers!  Hi!   привет to people in Russia!  (I have a friend named Mikhail from Russia.  Really.  Last night he said that Jesus is like a red, red rose--and I'll bet you want to know what that was all about.  Welp, so do I!  It made no sense.) and Hi people in Minnesota, and Hola people in Spain!

So, when I asked myself today, as I walked past the 3 &'s and the Murder-Cow-Sign, "Why are you writing this blog, really?"  That was my cross-my-heart answer:  I just want to remember things and I just enjoy writing about life.

And there's so much to write about!  Because I live in fraaaaarikilickin Europe!  I could write about light switches and it would be interesting.


Or even office keys.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Can't Judge a Book...

No Two Things In This Picture Are Not Orange

And the color of the day is.......

Guess.  Guess!  Can you guess?! (This is what happens when you take a picture next to Engaro the Orange Ceramic Wall.)

Aaaanyway, I have a story about this book.

But before that, I have a story about victory.

First, today I finished my first semester teaching English at the university here--students gave me chocolate in thanks--victory! (But, I will miss my students.)

Second, I went to go get a haircut by myself (?!).  (This was huge. HUGE.)

I said (in German), "Hi. I'm very bad at German because I'm from the USA, but I really need a 'Pony-trim.'"  And they said, "Okaaaay. Sit down?  It's 2 euro."  And they trimmed my pony and I felt so brave!  I also learned the words for "straight," "layered," and "to your eyebrow level."  All very useful, everyday words, you know.

P.S. Bangs = "Pony" here.  There are so many jokes I could make about this I can't even think of where to start.  Also, I've discovered that Ponies require a lot of upkeep, much like ponies require in the US.

Third, I was feeling so good about the whole Pony-trim success that I marched right into the city library and picked out a book from the kindergarten shelves.  Yes, reading books for 4-year-olds is my highest linguistic aspiration at the moment.  It had this little girl and her mom on the cover, and it was called Raspberry Jam.  I mean, doesn't that look like a nice, friendly, happy book to read for your Day of Victory German practice?

Yeah, it was.  Then halfway through the book, the girl's uncle DIES from DEPRESSION and the rest of the book is all crying, funerals, and mournfully shoveling dirt into graves.

Thanks for the downer Raspberry Jam!

And that's your update for today.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nanu Nanu.

Don't worry, it will make sense soon...
After about a month of waiting "till the conditions were right," Paul brought home three fishes to our little aqua-aquarium.

I told Paul that the aqua-rium was all his to go crazy with, but I asked him if I could claim a single fish as my own and I wanted an algae-sucker.  Algae-suckers are rad.

So I came home today to my first pet in a very, very long time.  Paul bought one algae-sucker (which is, at present, sucking contentedly on a rock immediately to my right) and two honey-colored gourami buddies.

I want to name my algae-sucker.  These are my ideas so far:

Herma (Short for Hermaphrodite, since we don't know if it's male or female)
Kuh (say it like "coo."  It means cow in German, since that's what it is pretty much.)
Spazz (since it spent 20 minutes having what looked like fish-seizures when we first put it in the tank...I'm worried.  And yes, it has to be Spazz with two z's.  It's my vision.)

That's all I got so far.  I think I've lost every shred of creativity I ever had.

Paul doesn't think he'll name his two gouramis (because he thinks that if you name a pet, then it dies.  I think that if you name a pet it dies because all pets die...but maybe he's right.  I don't know.  Never tried not naming a pet).  As for me, in my head I've started thinking of them as "Mork and Mindy."  I don't even know why and it's completely out of my control now.  Just popped into my head.

Remember that show, Mork and Mindy on Nick at Night!?  How weird was that show, right?  Robin Williams as an alien that comes out of an egg-shaped spaceship?  I don't even remember anything about Mindy because my brain still can't get over the egg-ship.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Short Vignette from the Life of Paul

Once upon a time, Paul was on an LDS mission in Germany.  This time was very, very long ago.

One day, Paul the Missionary went out into the German world to go visit people--because it was his job and stuff.

At one house, Paul knocked on the door and it was opened by a shirtless man.

Before Paul could say a word, this man did the following in rapid succession:

1. Held up his hand in a "stop" gesture.
2. Directed a forceful "peace sign" gesture toward Paul.
3. Emphatically bellowed, "VICTORIA!"
4. Shut the door.

And that is why this picture was taken:

Unfortunately, it was too cold to go shirtless...

The End.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How to Be Cheap in London

You can't.

Haaaaa, just kidding...kind of.

But really, London is a strange place because many things are free, but the things that have an entrance free are very pricey.  For example, entrance to the awesome Tower of London is about 30 dollars per person.  Wowza!

So, here are three ways we were able to afford a five-day trip to London.

Tip #1:  Get cozy with some college dudes.

We made some pretty nice friends at our hostel--because we were sharing one small room with four other twenty-something dudes on bunk beds.  Thanks for letting me have the top bunk guys!

Hotels in London are super expensive (for us) so we opted to sleep in a 6-person hostel room.  For both of us together, that came to around $60 each night.  Sure, it's sort of weird to come home to three shirtless men jamming on their ipods--but they are friendly shirtless men who let you have the shower first.

Also, we made sure we got a hostel that was in a nice neighborhood, near the places we wanted to see (so we didn't have to pay for tube transportation all the time), and that included a breakfast.  Granted, that breakfast was CocoKrispies and toast but that's still breakfast!

Overall, I liked our experience with the roommates, and the hostel was actually really cool since it used to be an old Victorian mansion.

See now, a place with a doorway like that HAS to
be kind of cool!

And a lovely interior.  Sometimes people were asleep on their
backpacks on the stairs, but, hey man, I can dig it.

Tip #2: Play the field.

There are always cheaper ways to get into expensive places.  Some are even legal!

For example, you have to pay an entrance fee of around $23 each for Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral.  We actually were okay with paying those because Paul loves religious architecture and history so it was worth it for our traveling priorities (I'd already seen them in 2004, but I didn't mind touring again).  However, if you don't need to walk around and be able to poke into every corner with an audioguide, you can go into both of these beautiful churches for worship services for free!


And not only that, but if you choose a service that has music with their famous choir and organist then it's a free performance of life-changing gorgeousness.  We went to Evensong at St. Paul's (it was my favorite memory from before too) and I'll always consider it the most spiritual and beautiful experience of my life.

The Tower of London would have been
worth it at full price,
 but I'm not complaining about our 2-for-1 deal!

So, other than the tip about the church services, I'd also say that you should try to find coupons where you can.  We found a deal where, if we bought our day-pass for the tube at a particular station (that we were going to be at in the morning anyway), then we could get 2-for-1 coupons to St. Paul's and the Tower of London (and many, many other things but those were the ones we used).   We were going to be buying a tube pass anyway, so this was like saving $60 in one day for doing what we were doing anyway--the difference was we knew about the secret beforehand.

Thirdly, lot of people go to London and want to see a show in the evenings--who wouldn't right?  It's like another Broadway!  But, most people think that they get the cheapest tickets from the half-price TKTS booth in Leicester Square.

Not so!

The TKTS booth sells half-prices for the nicest seats of popular shows.  But, if you show up at the theater an hour before showtime and just ask for their least expensive seat or if they have any hour-prior deals, then you can get into big-name shows for as little as $25 each--and that's a steal for a top-notch Broadway!

Another option for more "high-class" shows like the Ballet or the Opera in London are to buy standing-only tickets that are only about $15 each.  That's almost ten dollars less than what it would cost to go and see a movie in London--and you're seeing world-class art instead.  Also, you make friends with your neighbors and you can move around in the back (stretch your legs and whatnot) during the performance--way better in many ways than being trapped in a little seat with no armrests for three hours.

Fourth, like I said before, there are so many free things to do in London too!  There are four unbelievable and huge art museums that I can think of off the top of my head.  Or the Natural History or can't-miss-it British Museum.  The Imperial War Museum is incredible!  Or just walking from Kensington Palace through Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square--they could charge a lot of money just to walk through there, but they don't--it's free!

Finally, walk.  Walk walk walk walk walk walk walk.  Get your walkin' shoes on and walk London.  Don't pay that 2-4 pounds per tube ride when you can just walk 15 minutes through a beautiful park or neighborhood.  2-4 pounds per tube ride really adds up.  And, if you plan it well and your hostel or hotel is already centrally located, you can spend an entire day without riding the tube once--and it'll be a really great experience!  I promise!

Tip #3:  Don't eat...

Okay, I mean, you can eat but try not to go crazy.  Besides, it's Britain so it's not like you're missing too much anyway (oooooo!  Burrrrrrn!  I actually like mashed potatoes and roast meat dishes--I just thought I'd drop the joke that you all expected.  And, if you don't eat Indian food in London then bummer for you because that's the closest you're going to get to the real thing without actually flying to Mumbai.)

And, if you can help it, try to eat outside or cafeteria-style or in pubs--then you don't have to pay a huge VAT or tip.

When we were there, we'd eat our hostel breakfast and then one "biggish" meal in the afternoon and that was about it.  If we got hungry, we'd have a snack, sure (like a scone from Harrod's), but not an all-out meal.  The only restaurant meal we had was the Vegetarian's Dream Indian Lunch Buffet, and that was only $10.   I think we really saved a lot of money by just eating warm, traditional Cornish Pasties from food stands and amazing, fresh burgers and vegetable salads from the farmer's market in Covent Garden.  We definitely did not eat crappy food on our trip, but it sure as heck didn't cost us an arm and a leg either.


Final note: I am a disciple of RickStevesianism so here's what I believe:  spend your money on what your priorities are.  For us, our priority was getting to as much history as we could in three days--so we cut as much as we could off of lodging and food.    But if your priority is relaxation or a foodie road trip, then you'd cut back on entrance fees to the Tower of London and that sort of thing.  If you're traveling somewhere for something, then don't skimp on that thing for sure!  Go crazy!  That's why you came!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ridin' on a Buffalooooo

I've already mentioned the fact that we had trouble getting songs stuck in our heads when we were in London.

Tell you what, this particular statue in Kensington Gardens did not make that any easier...

The second we saw it, both of us immediately started singing renditions of this:

'Cuz she's ridin' a buffalooooooooooo.

(Watch out, she's got a metal stick)

A lady on a buffalooooooooooo.

(And she's got some friends to back her up)

Ridin' a buffalooooooooooooooooo.

(And one of them is gonna throw a wreath at you)

Gotta get these birds off its head, need some help from the


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Last Day...of AWESOME

Which could also be called "The Almost Equally Long Walk But With Tube Pass Addition" (10.3 miles).

Our last full day in London was spent doing as many of the other things we had wanted to do as could fit in before midnight.

Or first goal was to find the traditional souvenir (singular.  There's a rule against getting more than one).  It's a tricky process because it has to fit a few criteria.

1. Be very small (so we can bring it back to the US with us and also to be used as a Christmas tree ornament)
2. Be inexpensive (we have a 10 euro limit).
3. Be distinctive. (We want it to really represent the place we've been to--maybe by being some sort of traditional craft or representing something we did or noticed particularly).
4. NOT from a souvenir shop. (I kind of refuse to spend my 10 euro budget on anything plasticky that is so soulless it has to have the word "LONDON" written across it in neon pink for it to count.)

So, where do you go when you need something unique, cheap, and unmistakably "London"?

"Anything and everything a chap can unload is sold off the barrow in...."

And it is no joke.  You really can find anything at the Portobello Market.

You know, Bedknobs and Broomsticks (see video above) is more or less spot on about Portobello.  Of course there weren't strangely dancing sikh soldiers, steel drum parades, or thinly veiled references to prostitution but there were storefronts and storefronts of paintings, antiques, cut glass, books, food, clothes, maps, bedknobs, and  broomsticks.

Paul found our perfect souvenir on a little table in the middle of the street covered with antique leadwork soldiers--straight out of Winston Churchill's childhood or The Velveteen Rabbit.  We chose this little guy to take home and he's perfect:

Bearskin hat, brass buttons, and bayonet-
the whole package

The Portobello Road song was stuck in our heads all day long, I'll have you know.  And we were sad to leave, but London called.  So we walked through the Queen's Gate in Kensington Gardens, bought our tube passes, and set off to see the sights...

Curtsy at the Queen's Gate

We kind of really love the new BBC series "Sherlock"--so we
took a trip to Baker Street to see where the detective "lived" (221b
Baker Street).  
 We walked from there to King's Cross Station, in a valiant attempt to find Platform 9 3/4 so we could do a daytrip to Hogwarts... but class must be out right now because the entire place was a giant construction zone  and I looked for that darn sign valiantly.
I blame my squibiness.
(sad face.  I wanted to watch Paul run through/into 
a wall...)

But, on the way, I got to see my beloved Regent's Park and
the newly revealed restoration work on the St. Pancras
Renaissance Hotel!  It was all in scaffolding way back in 2004
and only recently was re-opened.  Isn't it beautiful?

We popped down to the unbelievably huge 19th century
department store, Harrod's.  I wish I had taken pictures
inside of the faux-Egyptian decorations or the
world-renowned (for its diversity) International
Food Hall...but it was so incredibly crowded in there.

BUT we did buy a scone (sk-aaahn, not sk-own).  It was Britishy.
We walked from Harrod's, down the street, to the Victoria and Albert Museum where, at some point, Paul summed up most people's feelings by asking, "This museum is huge and awesome...but...what exactly is it about?"

We decided that it must be about...things that are decorated?

We got to see...
The reliquary of St. Thomas Becket*

If you look close enough at this blurry picture, you can see him being put in
his tomb on the top panel.  On the bottom panel you can see the famous moment when
the three knights from Henry II ("Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?!") attacking
him as he performed mass at the alter of Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.  The knights are
on the left.  Thomas in the middle.  And two horrified monks are on the right.

A plaster cast of Trajan's Column in Rome.


I'd heard about this column before in multiple lectures
but I had NO idea how massive it was--so wide and SO tall.
The V&A museum had to cut the plaster cast in half to fit it
in this gigantic display hall.

I saw the tomb of my great(x 234)-grandma Eleanor of Aquitaine.
We are definitely related since she even reads books when
she's dead.**

And we found this fish standard-bearer.
It was so, so, so funny.  Paul wants it for our house.

We tubed over to the Houses of Parliament really quick for another photo shoot before the sun went down.
Well done, Queen Victoria.  Well done, our cheap camera.

And ate our scone from Harrod's on
Westminster Bridge

And did another quick underground trip
 to go walk over the Thames on the Millennium Bridge
(the one the death eaters destroy in
a Harry Potter movie?).  We checked out the Tate
Modern (for about 5 minutes...no time!) and made sure we
saw the rebuilt Globe Theater on the exact spot it stood during
Shakespeare's time (Tamra, this one's for you).
For our last evening, Paul bought us tickets to the Royal Ballet's "A Night with Gershwin."  They were sold out, so we got standing-room only tickets.  But it was probably the best value purchase of our lives.  Ten pounds for two and a half hours of Rhapsody in Blue, American in Paris, Broadway songs galore, and gorgeous, amazing dancing.  (Thank you Paul!  You know me so well!)

Plus, we made two friends there in the back row who reaffirmed to me how much I love the British--how funny and kind and friendly they are.  By the end of the night, I felt like this man and woman were my siblings or something...that we would see each other again next Christmas.

I wish I had their addresses...I want to send them birthday presents...

But, I didn't get their addresses, so they'll always just stay in my memory as my back-row Gershwin friends.  Good times. We took the tube home again around 11pm and fell into bed.  Another amazing day.

Shoot...I really miss it already.

* Paul and I used to spend every Sunday watching episodes from the History Channel/BBC documentary series "The History of Britain."  So we get really excited about seeing these sorts of things.
In the National Portrait Gallery, we pretty much just walked around pointing at everything and saying, "That was in it.  That one was in it too.  That picture was totally in that one episode about Colonialism."

Or, whenever we'd see something that reminded us of a quote (yes, we've actually memorized quotes from....a documentary series) then we couldn't help but say it out loud in obnoxious ways.  I'm particularly good at doing an impression of the boy king, Edward VI's, letters about his sister, Mary.  I think I said a whiny, "My dear sistah, the Lady Mary..." about 25 times in all our museum trips combined.


**  I'm related to Eleanor of Aquitaine, which means I'm related to Henry II (the King who inadvertently --so they say-- ordered the murder of St. Thomas Becket, see reliquary above).  

Which also means I'm related to Richard Coeur de Lion (as it says in French on his statue at Parliament...since he never really liked or lived in England anyway).  You'd know him as the Robin Hood hero, Richard the Lionhearted.  

Which ALSO means I'm related to King John, the bad guy of Robin Hood.  Who is also the King John who signed Magna Carta.

And I saw Magna Carta at the British Library (which we went to in between King's Cross and Harrod's).

And I said, "Grandpa.  I know you didn't want to sign this thing, but it's good that you did.  You get a lot of flak, but I still love you and your genes!"


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Second Day--The Very Long Walk

That's it.  Right there.  The epic walk.

Back at 27 Palace Court
On our second day in London we woke up at 7am and headed straight out the door.  (Well, we got dressed first.  We were excited but not senseless-excited.)

The first goal of the day was to officially complete my TRIUMPHAL RETURN and walk to the BYU London Center, where I had lived for a term back in 2004.

So, since it was just one mile away from our hostel and the walk went straight through Kensington Gardens, we set off as the sun rose to walk through a place that I loved so much when I lived there.

The fog was rising off Round Pond, the sunrise made the Price Albert Monument look so beautiful, and we walked by Kensington Palace and the Orangery.  We saw the swans and the crazy crazy joggers.

It was actually...kind of surreal to be back.  But also awesome!

At that point, we looked at our map and thought, "Well now, Westminster Abbey isn't that far away, and most of the walk is through parks.  Who needs a tube pass?"

So we walked.  We walked through Hyde Park, past the Wellington Arch, alongside Buckingham Palace, through St. James Park, and finally we arrived at Parliament Square and Whitehall.  Which, I suppose, is the place to see some tourist attractions--so many, all so close together...

This is me being like, "PAUL!  Horses!  Carriage!  Be
in the picture!"

My quiet morning rest on the steps
at Buckingham Palace.  Notice that
the flag is up in the middle--the Queen is home.

Well, we had to get one of these pictures...

Part of our American Presidents Abroad
Collection (Paul with Abe Lincoln)
-- along with Wilson and me in Prague.

Entrance to Westminster Abbey.
So beautiful.  So historic!

Facade of Westminster Abbey

Houses of Parliament--my favorite building
in London, still. 

The Horse Guards!

Trafalgar Square at Sunset

Trafalgar Square lions.

Well, by the time we got to Trafalgar Square and had walked through the gigantic National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, it was pretty late in the day.  So, we thought, "We've made it this far without a tube pass!  Let's walk to the British Museum!"

So we walked some more and made it to Bloomsbury.  Where we saw...
The Rosetta Stone!

The Elgin Marbles!
(The sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens)

Ancient Assyrian Sculpture!

Pharaoh's Tombs

Viking Helments
Roman Emperors

And many, many, many other amazing things.  The British Museum is one of the most awe-inspiring (and overwhelming) places on the planet.

And then, it was 9pm, our knees and feet were killing us, but we had made it this far and we decided to try and walk back home.  Through the West End, through Piccadilly Circus, past Green Park, through South Kensington, and back home to our beds.

11.2 miles of walking in between the sites, untold miles walked inside all the Abbeys, Parliaments, and Museums we saw.  It was epic.  Our epic journey through London.

Monday, January 16, 2012

First Day in London--A Photographic Essay (with some words)

Fate brought them together.

We've arrived and we're eatin' a Cornish Pasty (paa [like baa]- stee)

Westminster Cathedral, not Abbey.  This isn't what a lot of lost tourists want to believe it is.
But, it's nice and Catholic and pretty inside all the same.  We went to the REAL Westminster
on day two.

Prince Albert Memorial Gates in Kensington Gardens
About 30 seconds from our hostel.  It was so rad.
I'm usually there in the picture, for scale.

Tower of London

Beefeaters.  We love them.

Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London-- Not a happy place.

White Tower--the tallest building in Britain for quite
some time. Building begun in 1067.  Also, the walls
are 15 feet thick!  That's like, three of me...thick!

Paul at St. Paul's
Thanks for the "Burger with
Rocket" (Rocket = Arugula),
nice organic farm lady!
Dinner at the Covent Garden "Real Food Market"

And then we went to see "The Lion King" because it was THERE.
end day 1

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