I’ve started a new blog: Faith, Words and Whimsy. Follow me there! It’s all about books I’m reading, stories I’m writing, my feelings about being a college graduate, and random things that come to mind. From one adventure on to another called life in general.
I started this blog August of 2010 for three reasons: to document my study abroad experience, to challenge myself to write frequently, and to explore what shyness is. A year and a half later, I have done that. I’ve written about many of my adventures in Europe and my musing on life and identity. Perhaps I was not always super dedicated. I still have not wrote about and put up pictures from my visit to Chatsworth House, the location used as Pemberley in the 2005 movie adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. And there have been long gaps where I have not written a thing, but I think that is because my focus has changed. I’m no longer interested in blogging at this time. Right now I’m focused more on my senior year at Kenyon. It’s been a time of ups and downs, as usual, but I’ve been enjoying living it, which is different for me. I’m one to be in the background. Different people have thanked me for being a good support, a steady rock on which to rest. I enjoy helping people, even if my best way of doing that is just listening. I am quiet and introverted, and I’m living life as I am. Though I still love to write, I don’t want to keep up a blog. A diary, yes, when I need to process my feelings and record events of my senior year, but not a blog. I’ll keep these things to myself for now.
Blogging was fun and I’m very happy to have written all these posts. These words and experiences are dear to me. It seems they made an impact on others too. Family and friends were the ones most interested in what I had to say, which makes sense, of course. They wanted to know my adventures while I was away. But there were a few people attracted to what I had to say about shyness. Someone who was a constant follower and supporter of the blog was Brittany, whose blog is The Shyness Project. In our blogs we each confronted our shyness and challenged ourselves to move out of our respective comfort zones. We both have successfully come out of our shells. Brittany is even writing a book about her project. Brittany was also very nice and asked me to share my life story of shyness on her blog. Here it is: Learning to Feel Free to Be Yourself-Not a Label. Writing it helped me to assess who I am and what I’ve gone through. Please read it to find out about my testimony. I do think I’ve come a long way. Honestly, I don’t think I identify myself as shy anymore, another reason why this blog and my username as ShyQuietFaith does not feel like it fits anymore. I definitely am still shy in certain situations. Everyone is. Maybe I am especially more shy in social situations than others, but I no longer feel debilitated by shyness. I lived nine months away from home and out of my comfort zone, so I feel way more confident at living independently, bravely, less shyly.
The most important thing I have learned is that we are who we are. Our characteristics should only characterize who we are, not become all that we are. As I said in the post on Brittany’s blog, we should be who we are in all our complexity. I’m still learning what that means for me. I’m still growing and I anticipate always having to reassess and change some more. Right now I want to do that away from my blog. I’ll still be having my adventures, even if they are as simple as studying for exams and eating at the dining hall with friends. No matter the mundane qualities, I want to take it all in. Senior year is bittersweet. It’s an accomplishment to have come this far, and it’s nice to see how I’ve grown and how friends have grown. But it’s still the last year. My college years are coming to a close. I want to take advantage of all the opportunities I can to learn, to spend time with friends and mentors, to find a job, and to take in the atmosphere of a place I’ve come to love and call home.
Maybe I’ll blog again one day. Maybe I’ll come back to put up book reviews and share encouraging messages. Maybe I won’t. But I plan to never stop writing, hoping, and dreaming. I’m still the quiet girl with a big imagination. I am the introverted Disney fanatic, who is naive and opinionated. I’m Faith, having my own quirky adventures with the life God has blessed me with. Feel free to read my past blog posts and look out for my name in the future.
Be blessed and be you!
I’ll leave you with some things I’ve been encouraged by:
- Shyness: Evolutionary Tactic? by Susan Cain
- Introverts in The Church
- 20 Ways to Overcome Shyness
- Sarah Kay’s TED Talk about spoken word
- Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk about the dangers of a single story
- “Don’t be afraid to stand out/ That’s how the lost get found.” A song that helped start this whole journey for me.
This time last year, September 25, 2010, I said goodbye to my family at Cleveland-Hopkins airport and took my first plane ride to Philadelphia where I joined up with friends to fly to London to begin my school year abroad. September 26, 2010 I went through Heathrow airport with nervous excitement trying to process the long transatlantic flight, that I was in a different country and that I was embarking on a long, long adventure.
Now, September 26, 2011, I’m back in Ohio, sitting in my dorm room at Kenyon College. It’s my senior year and the adventurous time of study abroad I had worried so much about has now come to close. That year is over. It is hard for me to comprehend, because it all flew by so quickly. It feels like so long ago that I was living in England.
I miss it: Exeter, Europe, traveling. I miss the dear friends I made. I miss having the independence of grocery shopping, cooking meals each day, and visiting so many different attractions. I miss looking out over vast landscapes of green fields and rolling hills. I miss those moments of peaceful solitude when I felt how I was surrounded by a huge world. Being on Kenyon’s campus is so different. I lovingly say that it’s in the middle of nowhere, since it’s surrounded by corn fields in central Ohio. My view now simply encompasses this hill on which the campus resides. Not much room, not much space. At times I feel trapped and claustrophobic, especially with the crowds of students walking around. It can be overwhelming.
I do appreciate being back at my home away from home. It’s nice to have these familiar buildings and walkways. I’m enjoying spending time with friends I missed dearly while I was abroad. I also really missed a liberal arts education and being able to take a wide variety of courses. So this semester I’m taking an English course on Caribbean Women’s Narratives, an Asian Studies/History course on the Silk Road, a 100-level Biology course and a yoga phys ed class. I love the subject diversity, but it has still been an academic challenge this past month and a half. Kenyon is very demanding and in Exeter I got used to having a lot more free time. Coming back I’ve felt off kilter and confused trying my best to get back into the swing of things. Nevertheless, I also have a confidence I didn’t used to have. I am a different Faith. Each year I change so much. My first year at Kenyon I was very shy, insecure, and solitary. I definitely felt bombarded by how different things were, coming from a sheltered upbringing. I tried pushing myself out my shell, nonetheless. Sophomore year I definitely became more social and more expressive. I put myself out there much more than I ever had, which led to times where I fell and hit bottom hard. The end of sophomore year was so demanding and stressful I developed some sort of tic in the form of intractable hiccups that still haven’t gone away. Even so, I enjoyed that year. I developed strong connections with professors and friends. It was the first time I didn’t want to say goodbye to people when summer break came and the year ended. Junior year was when I took the progress I made and challenged myself to run with it: my year abroad. Stripped of almost all I was familiar with, I really had to face truths about myself. It was painful, but it made me stronger. I gained great friends and mentors. I found out God did love and hold me even in the times I felt at my lowest. I also discovered out how happy I could be if I let myself really feel.
These past few months adjusting to being back in the US were a challenge, but I asked for some of that challenge. I tried my best to push past mental barriers that said I was inferior so that I could spend time with others. When I wanted company, I made myself socialize despite my fears. I also challenged myself to be honest when I felt overwhelmed and needed alone time. I was learning to believe that my introverted self isn’t a weakness, just a characteristic of who I am. Guess what? This summer was the best summer of my life so far. Yes, there were many lows, but the good moments were amazing, even more so because I let myself feel happy in those times.
I’ve gone through all of my changes and I’m not done yet, which I have mixed feelings about. I’m very scared of what this last year of school means: soon I will no longer have Kenyon as a base to call home. It will forever be a place I identify as a home, but I have to leave it for the larger adult world. Leaving England was hard, but I was there eight months and didn’t form the same connections that I did in the few years I’ve been at Kenyon. Kenyon is where I began finding out who Faith Bell is and enjoying being me. What’s my identity without it? I have to face this question and adjust with whatever the answer is. Also, I have to enjoy where I am now. That’s not easy for me, but I will try my best to enjoy each and every moment as it comes. Three years ago you could not convince me I would be the person I am now, having done the things I’ve done. I’ve rode planes, I’ve visited Stonehenge and the Eiffel Tower, I’ve developed close friendships, and I’ve come to love myself. What will I write a year from now? I have no idea. That’s so frightening, but if I let myself feel it, I’m a bit excited as well.
Tinashe Manika is amazing person I was blessed to become good friends with while studying at The University of Exeter. Another good friend, Munyaradzi Hoto, has the blog Born To Influence Change. In it, he featured friends and their inspiring stories. It wasn’t until I read the blog post about Tinashe, after knowing her for so many months, that I found out she is shy, or at least was shy. My impression of her was that she was, beautiful, vivacious, self-assured and funny. She continues to be all those things, but the idea that the friendly person I knew was also shy added another level of understanding to my thoughts about shyness. Tinashe goes to the River Church and the Christian Nooma group that I went to while in Exeter, and she seemed a natural leader, one I wanted to follow. Reading her story surprised and inspired me.
I’ve often felt that I was the only one who struggled so badly with insecurities, who felt so painfully awkward and almost incapable of connecting with other people because of shyness. Over these past few years I’ve learned that I’m not alone. I’ve found people around whom I feel it’s safe to be myself, so I’ve stepped out of my shell more and more. I started my blog hoping that there would be a way to show that people can have the victory over issues that feel debilitating without abandoning key parts of their character. This connects with Tinashe’s inspiration “to show girls, who are awkward like I was, that it DOES NOT matter where you are now, you can make it along with and even surpass those around you who are the way you want to be, the way you think people who are successful in life should be.” Hearing this testimony is another liberating step in accepting and loving myself and not being captive to insecurities and personal frustrations. I love that there are others who believe you don’t have to try to be someone else, that you can be a confident version of yourself, whether shy or bold, introverted or extroverted. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. We just have to learn what they are so we can figure out how to accentuate the strengths and live with the weaknesses. As she said, “[I]ts not about trying to not be afraid, it’s about being afraid and doing that thing anyway!”
I’m so glad Tinashe has had such a journey. You can never judge a book by its cover. I guess each of us feels people can read us so clearly, but if we practice confidence, we’ll impress confidence on others. I’d like to follow in her footsteps. I don’t have as big or as realized goals for my life like she does, but for now I’m learning more about who I am and how to see people around me, and I think it’s going well. We’re all amazing in our complexity. We just have to have the courage to shine no matter our fear. :)
Forgot I had a blog? Thought I forgot I had one? Didn’t know? Didn’t care?
Well, I have been neglecting to update posts. I forgot that one of the reasons I started blogging was to make sure I keep in the habit of writing. Well, for the past month or so I haven’t been in the habit of reading or writing, which for me is odd. When I was little I read all the time. Books were my friends. And writing was a way to form my own stories, ones floating in my imagination that I couldn’t find in other books. Unfortunately, after being an English major and stressing out over homework, I got burnt out. So I took some time to relax. But I forgot I actually enjoy reading and writing, that I usually find these things relaxing. I kept putting other things first. What other things, you ask? Well, writing in my diary. Working at the library. Staring at Facebook, willing the little red notification thingy or a chat message to pop up. Watching children’s movies (Winnie the Pooh, Pokemon The First Movie) and too much NCIS. (Yes, there’s such a thing as too much NCIS). Crocheting an Avatar: The Last Airbender blanket. Taking walks around Kenyon’s campus. Having driving lessons. Trying to hang out with friends. Sleeping. Many of these things are good things. I proud of those steps I’ve taken to get myself out of my comfort zone and my little box of fearful solitude, even if they are baby steps. But I do need to relearn how to enjoy moments of solitude, to read to my hearts content and write, to be at peace instead of feeling like I NEED to be occupied with a number of things. I want to find a balance but this summer has felt anything but balanced. Maybe it’s because of reverse culture shock after being in Europe for eight months. It is different for me to not spend the whole summer at home. I’ve had some low moments because I’ve felt out of place. I’ve enjoyed seeing friends and family after being gone for so, but I also have to face the fact that I’ve missed out on so many things and can’t relate in certain situations. I miss friends I got really close to abroad. And in June I developed allergies after never really experiencing allergies before. That was a miserable experience. But when I think about the positives, this has been the most eventful and most fun summer I’ve had since…I don’t know when.
Now that I’m not traveling around Europe, I’m trying to figure out what I can use this blog for. I guess it can still be a way to write stuff and push myself to present what I write, even if it is me blabbering about stuff. The coming school year I will be a senior and will have to do my senior exercise called comps, which consists of a test on a list of books and a writing project. I will be doing a creative writing project since I plan on graduating with a concentration in Creative Writing. So I need to keep exploring my opinions, keep practicing some sort of writing to get prepared for writing something worthy of graduating. Also, I have more ideas for post: some outings in England I haven’t posted about yet, some things on shyness and introversion. A friend suggested I put some examples of my writing, my stories, here for others to read. So I have to get back into the swing of things.
I’ve been having more mundane adventures, but to me, they still feel like a lot. Life is interesting. Often overwhelming, but often delightful. So, yeah, I’ll try to keep writing. Even if not many people are interested, I’m enjoying this exercise of my creativity.
Last weekend I was packing and saying goodbyes. Tuesday I took a train from Exeter to London. Thursday I boarded a plane for the USA. Now I’m home. It’s hard to believe. Besides jet lag, being home was an easier transition than I anticipated. I do miss my friends and the European atmosphere, but it’s also nice to finally spend time with my family after 8 months, to see my youngest sister go to prom, and to visit my home church again.
Run down of the past week:
In Exeter, I turned in my final essays for classes and went into town. I visited the beautiful Exeter Cathedral for their Evensong service. It was a beautiful cathedral, my favorite of the ones I’ve been in while travelling. Wish I’d gone more than once. Then I ate at Wagamama’s with Carolyn, John and Noah. All four of us unintentionally wore green. Thinking alike now. :) Friday there was an opportunity to go to Lyme Regis after a Ken Ex outing to Dartmoor was cancelled due to thunderstorms being forecasted. I decided not to go because after stressing about essays and running around, I wanted to have time to rest and do errands, like laundry. But now I’m kicking myself. I could’ve just slept on the beach. :P Oh well. Saturday I started packing and went on a picnic with some friends. Sunday was really hard because it was my last service at the River Church. Over the past months I had a great time there, grew a lot spiritually and made so many friends. The sermon was awesome. It was nice to see young couple and junior pastors Scott and Faye with their week old daughter Summer. It was so nice to meet her before I left, seeing how I was there for most of Faye’s pregnancy. So precious! After church had a get-together with friends from church to hang out before saying goodbye. I was really bad at planning so it was a scramble, but ended up grabbing food from Tescos and bringing it to Liana and Drew’s–other River Church pastors–house. It worked out. Had a nice time. Saying goodbye was so sad, but I’m just so happy to have spent time with them. Reminds me of the song from the movie Pocahontas “If I Never Knew You” , just not in a romantic light. (Favorite line: If I never knew you I’d have lived my whole life through empty as the sky, never knowing why, lost forever if I never knew you.) It’s nice to have met and enjoyed time together, growing and changing, than to never have known each other at all, wondering about what could have happened.
Monday I ran around cleaning, packing and giving stuff away. Got to hang out with some friends. Had a pizza dinner with most of my flatmates and it was really nice to sit down, laugh, and bond. I tried to have a movie night watching Anastasia after the dinner, but people got sleepy less than halfway through and I burnt popcorn, so it was kind of sad in the end.
Early Tuesday morning Hannah–a friend and flatmate–helped me get my bags to the taxi at 7am. So nice of her! It was odd to see my room bare, but also provided closure. Then I went to Exeter St Davids train station. Ken-Ex friends who’d gone earlier had alerted me that the lift (elevator) to the platform we had to get to (the farthest away from the entrance) was down so had to seek assistance. It was a bit nerve wracking because the station workers seemed busy, and while I was trying to figure out what to do, I was also trying to reassure my friend Adrienne, who was planning to visit London from France, not to panic even though she woke up late and was afraid she’d miss her train. It all worked out, though. Adrienne got to her train. I got the fun of walking across train tracks…with the help of the train station service people. It was really cool how they got me, a woman in a wheelchair with her husband, and a woman with a cane to the platform. I had always wondered why at a certain point the platforms tapered down to be flat and right next to the tracks. Even though there were signs telling people not to go past the point where the platform started tapering, I though it was unwise to provide the opportunity. But it’s necessary. A guy in a bright orange vest led us down to that point and waited until trains pasted and we got the clear signal to cross the tracks. He went ahead of us and we got over the tracks to our platform. So cool! But definitely DO NOT do on your own.
So I caught my train to London. Did I mention all the luggage I was hauling around during all this? I had my purse, a book bag stuffed, a large suitcase with wheels, and a Cleveland Browns duffel bag. They were all stuffed to full capacity and heavy, and it was so awkward figuring out the best way to maneuver all these things. Friends also on the program–Heather and Andrea–were taking the same train as I. Got to London after 2 1/2 hours, and then the three of us took a taxi to our hotel. We weren’t allowed to check in yet, but we were allowed to dump our stuff in their dining area, which I did because I had to walk over to St Pancras train station to meet Adrienne. It wasn’t far of a walk at all, just a few blocks and it’s right next to King’s Cross. It was good to see Andrienne again after visiting her in France just a few weeks previously. The rest of the day we hung out with the Ken-Ex group. We saw Hamlet at The Globe Theatre and that was a great experience! There was audience participation, great acting, and Ophelia seemed truly troubled and not just overemotional. The Globe was a beautiful place, too. For dinner we had a group meal at a vegetarian Indian restaurant where we thanked our professor for leading us through the year.
Wednesday most of us went to visit John Keat’s house. It was somewhat interesting, but the house itself was kind of boring compared to other houses on display we’d visited. After that we walked through Hampstead Heath, which was beautiful. So green and picture-perfect. We did laughing meditation on the heath and played with other people’s dogs who were out for exercise and some fun. Eventually we left the park to get back to get back to the Tube stop we needed to take, but we got lost trying to find it. After a good while of walking, we finally got our bearing, but we were exhausted, so we topped for tea at Le Pain Quotidien. The cafe was super cute and the food was delicious! Then we took the Tube back to the are where I hotel was, and split up to find dinner. The other meal was just a snack, you see. After dinner, we had tea at the hotel like my friends and I usually do. We watched Come Dine with Me: Exeter edition. Love that show. After the episode I had to say goodbye because I was leaving in the morning. It was surprisingly awkward. I wanted to say how much all of them meant to me and how I’d miss them, but I’m used to hiding my emotions, and I knew if I started trying to express myself I’d start crying. So I just said see you later, hugged everyone, and zipped out of there. The night still ended on a pretty good note, especially since I went to bed cracking up with Adrienne and Carolyn over the silliest things in our hotel room.
At 5:15 am Thursday morning I woke up and frantically got ready for my 5:45 taxi. I said final goodbyes to friends and roomies Carolyn and Adrienne. Then my friend Samantha and I were on our way to catch our flight. We got to Paddington station and took the Heathrow Express train to our Heathrow airport terminal. I had difficulty carrying everything, but eventually got to the terminal where we grabbed trolleys. The flight to Detroit was pretty nice. Comfortable. No one was sitting next to me, so I could spread out. My biggest complaints are that it was super dry in there and 10 minutes before landing had terrible turbulence. I almost threw up. It was terrible!
After landing in Detroit came the real stressful part: Sam and I had to try to grab our luggage, get through customs and security, and to be ready for connecting flight to Columbus in 40 minutes. Customs wasn’t bad, but security was super crowded, with some scanners broken. Compared to the European airports I’d been to, this one was so disorganized and frantic. Eventually, we got through and booked it to our gate. We got there with time to spare, so we tried to book it back to a currency exchange booth only to find that the line was to long. We had to hike it right back to the gate, dragging all of our stuff with us. So tiring! Once we got on the small plane, we had to wait for a long time to leave because it took a few passengers longer to reach the plane or something. I had a headache by this point, so I just tried to get some sleep. Finally, we got to Columbus airport. Sam’s loved ones were there with signs and it was real cute. I wasn’t too shocked though a bit disappointed to see my family wasn’t there. Got in touch with them to find out they were late because of slow traffic caused by a bad accident. My mom and sister got there eventually. Sam and her family waited with me, which was nice. It was nice to see my family. Suddenly I just fit back into that the structure of mundanity like I haven’t been absent for 8/9 months, except for the tale tell sign of being incredibly jet lagged. I’ve never had jet lag before. It’s the weirdest, most frustrating feeling EVER! I think when I got to England the jet lag must not have been so bad because it was 5 hours ahead timewise, and since I was tired anyways I’d just go to sleep when it was dark, which was sooner than at home, and wake up when it was light. I think it just worked out different because it got darker soon, while now that I’m home, it’s still light out when my body thinks it’s time to go to sleep so everything is out of whack. I haven’t felt very hungry, and though I’m tired, I don’t know if I should sleep or not right then. I think things are getting better though. People have told me to try to follow my family’s routine to the best of my ability, and eventually my circadian rhythm will adjust to this new routine. I’ve been doing that and slowly getting better.
Spent time with my family. Saturday was fun. My youngest sister had prom so we got to run to Sephora with her to get her makeup done and then see her in her dress. My grandma, aunt, uncle and cousins came by to see her off. It was nice to hang out with them. A lovely day. And today I went back to my home church and that was great to. I love my church New Spirit Revival Center. I’ve been enjoying cracking up laughing like I can so easily with my family. And my cat has been friendly, sweet and considerably cuddly for an inside/outside moody cat. And driving on the right and hearing American accents is nice.
I will miss the beautiful city of Exeter (though not all the construction on campus and the ill planned building known as Lafrowda). I’m sad I didn’t visit the beach. I also didn’t visit the quay at Exeter. So I feel like I failed in those regards. But I did get to know a lot of people and did some traveling. I survived a pretty independent few months cooking and shopping for myself and just living life. And those were my biggest goals. I could’ve been much more adventurous. (I also could’ve been more studious.) But I’m pretty proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone as much as I did. And I also learned some of my limits. I’m not athletic at all, and since Ireland, if I do too much strenuous walking and carrying heavy loads (what’s heavy for me), I get an increasingly more pronounced limp. When I get rest it subsides. I’m going to the doctor to check on that. But I learned I am me, and what others can do and are comfortable doing is often different for me. Often frustrating, but I have to be myself. Still learning all what being myself is, but I have learned some things.
The end of my travels? No. I’m looking forward to the future while holding on to the past and memories. Going to keep in touch with the friends I said goodbye to and soon catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a long time. Good to be home with family and soon I’ll be back at Kenyon to work the summer. I’m excited.
(End of posts? No! I still have more pictures to put up and outings to talk about. :) )
I have officially left Exeter. Now in London. In 2 days I will be flying home and meeting my family at the airport. I need to update more on this blog and add more details, but too tired at moment what with running around packing, cleaning my room, saying goodbye to dear friends, carrying 3 big heavy bags and catching trains. I’m shocked at how quick this experience has gone! I feel it’s time to go home, but it’s also set in that all this is normal so leaving feels so odd. Saying goodbyes are difficult, but I’m thankful for the time I had with so many awesome people who have changed my life. I thank them and thank God for them. I definitely want to come back to Europe at some point. I can’t stay away. Thankful that a dream has come true. (I realize this sounds very Disneyish but that’s me.)
Can’t say much. Have two essays due in a few hours and I still have some finishing up to do. Significance of today? Well, a week from today I will be flying back home to the US. I’m ready to go home, but not ready to say goodbye to new dear friends and the experience of seeing these places. But I miss my family and friends back at Kenyon and I’m tired. I feel it’s time. But I can’t focus on that because I have to do essays! So quickly, I realized that there’s been a soundtrack to my time abroad. The songs I’ve played the most over these past 8 months:
Willow Smith’s Whip My Hair. It’s so fun and I find it a bit empowering since so many natural hair communities latched onto it and it came out the same time as the Sesame Street video of the black Muppet singing about how she loves her natural hair.
Israel Houghton’s version of Our God. A friend posted the link back in December, I clicked play and within the first 5 seconds I fell in love with it, and that hardly ever happens! It’s my most played song on my iTunes and I’ve only owned it for like 5 or so months. The song is originally by Chris Tomlin and though I loved the words I never really liked how his version sounded. This new version made me so happy. I love Israel Houghton’s music and the song is an inspirational gospel message.
Then, most special to my experience, has been Kirk Franklin’s song Hide Me. My beloved friend and roommate last year introduced me to this song and it grew on me. Then it did not mean so much, just a beautiful gospel song (as Kirk Franklin does so well). But the song became very important to my study abroad experience. When I first got to Exeter, I played this song on repeat all the time. It helped me when I was jetlagged, when I was afraid of the new experiences and when I felt out of place, like a failure, a homesick. Yesterday in the hecticness of juggling accommodation fees and writing papers, I found myself it on repeat again at the end. Unintended, but I felt it in my soul and it’s encouraging me. When I am overwhelmed, I know that God is still there and I can get through.
I have been trying to write this post on my amazing trip to Ireland and France, but there’s too much I could say, and really, not enough words to express it all. So I’ll have to give the gist of it with more elaboration on particular highlights for me. :) (Click on thumbnail pictures to make them larger.)
So, the first week and half of April I spent my spring break in Ireland and France. I fell in love with the beauty of Ireland. I went with the Kenyon-Exeter group. We flew into Dublin and stayed there for a couple days, then took a train to Galway and after about 5 days there went back to Dublin for a two final more days. It was so exhausting but it was a dream trip where I saw and learned so much and bonded with my friends. The first few days I had my first experience of a hostel. It wasn’t bad. Our group learned more details of Irish–and specifically Dublin–history. Visited Trinity College, which is gorgeous. Saw the Book of Kells and other illuminated texts that were on display there. My favorite part of the exhibit was The Long Room which was (wait for it) a long room of dark wood with rows and rows of bookshelves reaching up to the ceiling. Carolyn and I had a Beauty and the Beast moment. We both find libraries really cool, and the library in Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast is the ultimate. There was a lot of giggling. I could’ve stayed in there for a long time, especially if it was more brightly lit. But the books in there are so old, bright light might mess them up. Sadly, I couldn’t take any pictures of the place. Learned about traditional Irish music on a music pub crawl. It was fun. Two guys played jigs and reels on their accordion and guitar. You stomp your foot instead of clap to this kind of music, and it did make you want to stomp along. Beautiful songs were sung. Stopped at 3 pubs. At the last one they asked for some people in the audience to sing something because it’s a sign of gratitude to sing something for the host. A lady from Minnesota broke the ice with a camp song. Then Norwegian and Swedish tourists sang a lullaby and another child’s song. They were beautiful.
Dublin was a cool place to visit, but it wasn’t my favorite place. It was so crowded with tourists and everything was so expensive, though that last part might apply to all of Ireland. I enjoyed finding a mall, which was beautiful with glass and white awnings, and a huge suspended clock, which John told me is the biggest of its kind in the world. I found a T.K. Maxx which made me so happy. It’s just T.J. Maxx with a different letter. Don’t know why the name is different in Europe. Unfortunately the things I wanted to buy either costed way too much, didn’t fit me well or would’ve been a waste of money. Saved it for more important things like souvenirs and ice cream. Oh! And Queen of Tarts! It’s a cafe sweet shop in Dublin. SO GOOD! I went there three time and had their raspberry cheesecake twice. Possibly one of the best–if not the best–cheesecake I’ve ever had. And I love raspberry cheesecake. The place is so cute. The cake boxes are tied up in pretty bows. ^_^
Galway was my favorite part of Ireland that I visited. Small town so more peaceful. Our group stayed in one of the nicest bed and breakfast EVER. Beautiful home and the two nicest hosts ever. (Sidebar: I love the Irish accent!) Did so much while in Galway. Bought a cool hat. Went on the Burren Walk. The Burren is limestone landscape in Ireland. We went to this farm, put on gear (rain trousers and rain coats), grabbed a walking stick and headed off after our guide. The cattle at the farm go up the limestone hills in winter. We followed the cattle paths. It was tough going but we took our time. When we first started up it rained. We were drenched. The hood of my raincoat wouldn’t stay on because it was also crazy windy. Eventually it stopped raining and the sun came out to dry us off. The higher we got up the rocky hills the more and more of the beautiful landscape we could see. It was breathtaking. I had to dodge cow patties and I’m not used to hiking at all, but I couldn’t help but smile and enjoy myself because I was seeing and doing amazing things with friends.
After week trekked back down from the rocky hills, we got cleaned up as best we could and had tea and apple pie at the farm. Then we got back into our tour bus to go to the Cliffs of Moher. I almost got carsick because we were driving on narrow, bumpy, windy roads and even looking out of the window in the middle of the bus was not helping my motion sickness. I ended up sitting shotgun up in the front of the bus (where the driver would be in the US). Made it all better. The Cliffs of Moher were another exhilarating experience. Look out over the ocean and see these cliffs. It was overcast and super windy the day we went. It was still beautiful.
There is a danger of falling or even being blown off the cliffs, so on this particular day there were fences keeping people back from the edge. I didn’t need a fence to tell me “Danger! Stay away!” Especially since I’ve almost been blown across a playground by weaker winds, I was not taking any chances at being snatched into the sea. Someone said they’ve been filmed for different movies like one the Harry Potter movies and Princess Bride.
The next day went horseback riding as a group. I was very nervous because I–unlike most of the rest of the group–had never been on a horse. I’m also very timid and large animals up close make me uneasy. Heck, dogs make me uneasy, and though I love cats, I’m also wary of them. So our group of 13 took the shuttle bus to a horse place. The first group of more experienced people went out first. The rest of us waited and picked out helmets and boots. Unfortunately, the first group took up a lot of time and there was miscommunication it seems about what we wanted. It was planned each group would have an hour out but the second group had some of our time eaten up. I was hoping we’d get a lesson on horseback riding. Nope. Get on the horse and go. For a analytical timid person who likes to plan things out before attempting new stuff, that was crazy. It was still fun. My friend Samantha told me how to control my horse since she’d ridden him in the other group. The horse liked to get close to bushes and try to eat grass even though not supposed to because of the bit. So we walked along a path and it was a beautiful sunny day. Being on the horse was interestingly intuitive. I kept having to pull up the reins to stop him from eating. And then on the way back I found out he liked to race and be near the front of the group because HE STARTED TROTTING! So I bounce along and he stops soon. I thought I was okay with that but then he decided to trot for longer and I was close to falling off. My left foot slipped out the saddle and everything. But I managed somehow to stop panicking, sit up and rein him in. Besides the moments of fear, it was pretty cool, and I’d like to try again another time.
The next day took a bus to the coast and then took a ferry to Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland. So beautiful. The island is considerably small. Most people in the group borrowed bikes and biked around. I walked with John and Noah. It was another gorgeous sunny day. The ocean right there. There were shingle (rock) beaches. So many fields sectioned off by limestone fences. Some fields had animals in them. Occasionally we’d have to move to the side of the road to let cars, trucks and horse drawn carriages go by. The horse drawn carriages were tourist things. Watched out for horse doodoo! We stopped to eat lunch at a shingle beach where seals were sunning themselves far out on the edge of the shore. We’d bought some stuff to eat at a convenient store. I’d forgotten how much I love brown bread after eating so much Hovis brand white bread. I bought some good homemade stuff and ate chunks of that with Clementines. Sat with Carolyn, Noah and John at that beach even after the rest of the biking group left and a tour of young French students walked on their way. So beautiful.
(Click on the picture and you see seals.) The walk back wasn’t so fun. I was noticeably much more sore from horseback riding and I was tired. I’m not used to walking so much. On that island I walked about 4 miles! O_O Impressive and I’m proud of myself, but I also reached my limit.
Next day went back to Dublin for the weekend. Unfortunately, after Galway, Dublin was not that interesting. Yes, it was bigger, but I really fell in love with the quieter area. I’m a city girl, but the rolling green hills and nice walkways were beautiful and charming.
Sunday morning the group split ways. I flew Beauvais, France through Ryanair, a cheaper airline that goes to smaller airports. I was surprised to find that most people on the flight were French people coming back from Ireland instead of Irish people visiting France. Ireland seems a big vacation spot. I met up with a friend who graduated from Kenyon. Beauvais is a cute city with statues, an old carousel and a beautiful cathedral being renovated.
I visited a cool Harry Potter themed bar called Le Baveur Chaudron (The Leaky Cauldron). Purple walls with gold trim and wood furnishing. Real simple. Mirrors in different frames were all over the walls, sort of like the moving portraits. And a broom hung on the wall. I got a yummy non-alcoholic drink. I want to find more cute little places like that that are chill.
I was in Beauvais for a two nights and then I took a train to Paris where I met with another friend from Kenyon. (I love the connections!) I only had one day to get a tour of Paris. Though my friend had a long list of places to go, things to do, I asked to shorten the list to the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame. I was exhausted by that time and just wanted to chill. I got to see those three things. I tried to find really good crepes and croissants. I didn’t get a crepe because we didn’t find any good creperies on our wanderings, and the croissant I had was good but not amazing. I may just be too picky. I’ll have to come back and try again! Seeing those landmarks were very cool but also unreal. Like my Stonehenge experience, I found myself there and it was both so significant but insignificant. I don’t know how to describe it… I keep feeling like I’d have to sit there and stare at it for hours, days maybe to really comprehend what I’m seeing, what it means for my life that something I’ve read about and heard about is now right there in front of me. I took many pictures so even when I can’t believe I was there and I need something more vivid than faint memories, I have the photos.
We rode the Metro a lot to get to different places. The metro provided more learning experience than anything. It was so different from the London Tube. Biggest difference I found was there seems to be so much more poverty in the area, or at least the poor people are in the station unlike the Tube. A homeless guy on the train walked around the car with his hand out for change and then got off at the next stop. Someone played a boombox really loudly and then switched it off when we got to a next station so the driver and officials wouldn’t here. He then asked for change for the music. My friend said sometimes actual musicians get on with instruments and play, but if caught, these people get in trouble. Also, a guy with a child yelled throughout the carriage about socialism and how he needed help to provide for his family and then went around asking for money. In the Tube there are people on the side of passage ways playing instruments or singing, but I’d never seen anything like on the Metro. Made me appreciate my experience of London.
While I was in France I really didn’t use any French though I studied it from 3rd grade to 12th grade. I had so many different French teachers over those years and some weren’t that good. I also didn’t push myself and I lacked confidence in speaking the language. I know my numbers, the days of the week, how to pronounce words and read some things, but not enough to really hold my own. I was thankful for my friends and their superior French language skills. Another problem I had was that whenever I did go to try and speak French (like just saying Hi, thank you, yes, no), German was a the tip of my tongue. Though my German is rusty and I lack confidence in speaking it after a year of no practice, German has become more intuitive and comfortable to me than French. Cool to find out. Maybe I’ll try taking another German class next year.
So I was only in Paris for 24 hours. Went shopping a bit, which was cool. A black saleslady complimented me (in English) on my twist out and I complimented her on her Afro pulled into a high bun. That was one of the highlights for me, because it was cool to have connection about natural hair in a different culture. It was awesome spending time with friends I hadn’t seen in a year. That meant more to me than seeing sights. A lot of fun, but I was also exhausted and ready to go back to my room and rest. Had a mishap and thought my train was earlier than it really was, which caused a scramble and then a tea break at a cool tea and dessert place in what was a mosque. Birds fly in and out and roost on chandeliers. It’s one of my friends favorite places, and the tea was all spiced and yummy. Eventually, I got on my right train. It was international, and I was surprised to find checking in was like checking in at an airport with passport getting stamped, filling out border control cards, putting bags through Xray machine, and then sitting in a waiting area. The ride was nice and I was sitting in a really nice area. Shared a table with 3 British people. Two were a couple and decided to eat cheese and bread. Wasn’t the freshest smell, but I managed to not feel like throwing up. I did get queasy when going through the Chunnel–the big tunnel connecting continental Europe and England by rail. I was hoping it would be impressive, but it was just a big and super long tunnel. Staring out the window at the darkness and passing tunnel lights disoriented me and kicked in my motion sickness. I spent the rest of the tunnel ride in the bathroom. But when we were going through the countryside, it was breathtaking. There were fields of bright yellow plants next to fields of bright green and some of brown dirt. That contrast and that bright yellow were mesmerizing.
So that was my spring break adventure. The two weeks after that I relaxed, took naps and then began working on my final papers. Hard to concentrate on work when the weather persists as sunny and warm. A friend was saying we need rain though, or the summer in England may result in water shortages. But I’ll enjoy it while it lasts. And the papers are coming along slowly. Gearing up to go home, which is both exciting and terribly sad. Trying to make the most of the few weeks I have left.
Early April last year–on the evening of Easter Sunday–I began hiccuping. I didn’t think the high-pitched sharp intakes of breaths were hiccups. I just thought I was hyperventilating for some strange reason as I was sick and stressed out. I may have had small intakes of breaths that were like hiccups a month before hand, but they weren’t so noticeable and not often. After a year I still have my daily diaphragm spasms, though they are usually not too frequent or loud. Only when I’m very tired and dehydrated do they really act up. When they act up when I’m not tired or thirsty, I realize that there doesn’t seem to be a pattern. But I’m able to live with these small annoyances, so life is not so bad. It just sounds so weird though. This is something that happens to other people on the news and in encyclopedias, not to specific people I know much less myself. Oh well. It’s a cool conversation starter. Hopefully I’ll be hiccup free again one day, and I hope that day is soon. My study abroad professor–who I love talking to–recommended I try a chiropractor and possibly acupressure. She explained that a small misalignment in the body can throw so much off in your system. I think I will go to a chiropractor this summer if I can find a good one. I’ll see how it goes. ^_^