...you've got four Christmas cards AND a Congratulations card from England in your postbox when you get home!!
Thanks people, see you all on the 28th December :-)
|I cried a little inside when I noticed the roads that had had tarmac just dumped on top of the cobbles beneath|
...oh, and my Masters!
When one of my 'original' Pescara friends moved away, one who actually knew where my first house here was, he gave me the remainder of his bottle of Caorunn gin. It was actually thanks to that bottle that I turned to quite like gin: it's now my preferred spirit. Anyway, the bottle is now empty, probably after over 3 years since it was opened.
I'm having a quiet gin lemon to congratulate myself on passing the examinable assignment for my last Masters module. It means I'm now waiting for the awards department to get in touch with me about my participation in a graduation ceremony hopefully at the Barbican Centre in March...I have a Masters in Education to go claim.
Ironically, the module I've just completed is sort of 'anti' exams...arguing that intelligence is held between people, not in them, and is therefore difficult to 'examine'. As a result I know I actually managed to jump the last hurdle, a month early too, thanks to my Mum, my tutor, my prayer line, and my friend once based in Pescara who's now all the way over in Chicago. When I see them (...if I see him...in regards to my tutor), I will give them a ruddy big hug and a hi-5 to say thanks...
...but for now, this gin's for you!
Yes. I am in a pensive mood, a state of sadness. It can happen sometimes.
I'm sitting on the cold floor just inside my doorway. It's a shadowed area away from the one light I turned on automatically as I entered my house. My house. My own space. And yet today it seems so undeserved, so foreign.
In a year I feel so much has changed. My memory, for one, fails me more often than it used too. It's due to my stress levels I think, unconscious ones. The lack of decent sleep joined with the worries for the future: a future that is so wide and expansive that I am excited by its energy but scared of how it has every potential to cave in on itself.
It's like when a mosquito is dancing around you, attempting to attack. With its smallness it can make you scratch for hours, days even. It literally feeds off of us, taking our blood, and yet with our hands it can be squished.
Squish. A word that mud is made of, like squelch. Onomatopoeic. Says how it sounds.
Let the 's' linger and it fades away to nothing. A hint of what was but the start of what will be. Adventures to be grabbed in an instant. Laughter to be shared over and over and over as the memories that do resist the ticking clock move the moments onwards.
Why do I keep the clock ticking by my door when it doesn't tell the time?
On my official day off, Friday - a localised bank holiday, I did work stuff, but exciting work stuff! The Saturday and Sunday I 'touristed' Padova and Verona.
After arriving in Ferrara, I caught a bus. I recognised the station from when I went there to visit a friends parents who have a B&B in a near-by town. This time however I met one of my close friends I met in Pescara who has since moved north.
Before arriving in Ferrara I went to the Loris Malaguzzi Centre with one of my colleagues. The centre is where the Reggio Children foundation is based, a particular focus for a learning style based on play within the whole context of a child's life. There were exhibitions of objects children have created over the years as well as an example of an Atelier, a working space at out in a certain theme which encourages play through resources laid out purposefully to be investigated. My colleague and I found many inspiring things, if which I took how simple the original resources are as it is the teachers observations of the child's interaction with the objects and others that is the focus. Monday I'm going armed with a new observation sheet and plans to work with three children at a time :-)
In Ferrara I took an aperitivo with my friend, it was great to see her after so many months. We then ate in an osteria where I tried some typical Ferrara dishes:
Garganelli - cusina e butega (con erbette) (twisty pasta tubes)
Cappellacci di zucca al ragù (pumpkin filled pasta shapes with bolognaise)
Tenerina (a chocolate cake thing)
Saturday led my friend and I to Padova. I enjoyed walking around the streets even though we did not see lots. We entered the Basilica of San Antonio and we wandered around three of the squares: Piazza delle Erbe, Piazza dei Signori and Prato delle Valle. In the prato was a large street market where I purchased some knitting needles and wool. To say I didn't see half of the things I could have done is an underestimate so I'll have to return to the city.
On Sunday we headed to Verona. As cities go, considering it's quite a 'famous' Italian city thanks to Shakespeare's Juliet, it was a surprising place to explore. The views of the buildings from the river and the different types of architecture, all generally old, was really interesting. My friend and I spent aages people watching in one of the squares as our feet were hurting from all the walking. Somehow I found myself being told some of the original Verona stories by my friend's work colleague who met us in the centre. He pointed out things that you would need a decent guidebook/tour guide to tell you, like the cuboid carved in a stone that was used to control the size of the bricks used in some of the buildings.
I leave the 'north' of Italy feeling excited about seeing the sunshine again (in these places fog prevails most of the time) and yet I also feel that it won't be long til I return to Padova, I really did like it a lot.
...where many bad choices in the once present, that is now the past, truly affect the future.
The photo below is of a Christmas present from a very dear friend of mine. Today, more than others, I have really felt how friends, real friends who believe in you, have got your back but also serve to push you onwards and upwards. They can see your potential but can also see what's blocking it and today I had those blocks pointed out to me, pretty clearly, which is handy!
Now, I have the battle to get past those blocks, destroy them completely if possible (how I wish they were made of polystyrene!). I believe in change however as change for good exists, change for bad does too. This last year, on reflection, has been particularly crucial in changing me for the worse, a back slide if you like, a serious one, let's say avalanche.
Although I'm excited about what's ahead, I've got to focus on the here and now, the everyday: doing, reflecting, asking, recognising, observing, listening, considering...oh that would be the process of 'learning' then. I need to see if I can put into practice the theory I've just studied so hard to understand, easier said than done of course. This last year in Pescara is going to be a year for sharpening up.
Now, where's my hidden stash of chocolate raisins?
|A sculpture in the |
Metropolitan Art Museum,
New York, that nicely represents
how I feel about
...dah, dah, dahhhhh...
Life is temporary like a Transformer
I arrived into Newark airport on Tuesday 19th August and stayed with my friends near Hoboken, New Jersey, for four nights. In that time I navigated the public transport system (bus, PATH, light rail, subway), I would say, quite successfully but had to get used to recrossing the same Avenue/Street whilst getting my bearings once off of transport.
On Wednesday I walked the High Line (see photo), ate clam chowder and sat on different benches, around Washington Street Park just people watching. We then went to a rooftop bar for drinks which was pretty awesome.
On Thursday I had my first ever surfing lesson at Rockaway beach during which I got bitten by a crab, bumped on the head a few times whilst falling off and saw dolphins. To regain some sustenance we headed to a fish taco hut for my first taste of fish tacos...it was like a fish finger sandwich (a.k.a my favourite food) on caffeine, so yummy. That evening I happily surrended to the suggestion to a night in.
On Friday I ventured to the Metropolitan Art Museum and bought myself a sketch book before wandering the hundreds of rooms. I became disorientated regularly but did see many a painting and pretty thing. It's amazing to see so much history and visions of the past frozen in time that can be looked at, and interpreted, by the likes of little old me. I was a bit frustrated my the musical instrument bit because, although interesting to look at, musical instruments are to be heard to be fully appreciated.
On Saturday I missioned to my other friends apartment in Manhatten, armed with my 25kg suitcase, backpack and handbag. After a bus, subway, and another bus, I landed at my friends, where, yet again, my good ol' British accent meant the doorman heard Dora, rather than, you know, Laura. Quite entertaining really.
After dumping my stuff, we went to my friends rooftop garden for a BBQ, followed by a quick drink in a beer garden then home. It was a peaceful Saturday, with many taxi rides here, there, and over there again.
On Sunday we headed to Broadway!! We got discounted tickets to see the Avenue Q matinee which was hilarious. I highly recommend it as a show, genius, especially if you too are questioning your 'purpose' as myself. After the show we ate sliders (small burgers), drank beer and then headed home.
On Monday we have wandered around Wall St and the 9/11 memorial, after I'd devoured a ridiculously chocolaty cupcake from a cute cupcake shop. The fountains where the twin towers were are quite impressive, large, and seemingly bottomless. It's so strange to think how a few minutes can change the course of so many lives and affect so many but the memorial is one way to ensure such a strange tragedy, such as 9/11, can make a difference to those directly affectes, and all those who visit it. Life really is temporary.
Erm. Chicago. It felt like I was there for much longer than a week and yet it also feels it was shorter than a day. I'm not sure how to capture my week in Chicago using this blog post...I truly can't...so a summary will have to suffice.
The days were typically spent with my friend, running errands, attempting to sort out her recent house move etc. I think I probably made the house worse as, being in 'holiday' mode, or perhaps just the general "What am I doing?!" feeling that I had the whole week in Chicago, I didn't finish anything that I started, including the flat-pack bathroom cabinet. I ate brunches, met friends of my friend and also went to a hot yoga class, which was hot and very sweaty. The highlight of the days has to be the baseball game, there was an air display rehearsal going on over head and peanuts and hotdogs to be eaten, amazing (oh and the baseball game....).
The "What am I doing?!" feeling prevailed through the evenings when I wandered aimlessly around the city, finding touristy things to do whilst my friend worked. I managed to do a walking tour of the public sculpture in the city, listen to some very experimental jazz in Millenium Park, go up the Willis (Sears) Tower at sunset, do a quicker than quick tour of the Art Institute AND go on a river cruise to see the iconic buildings...through fog. I also spent one evening writing my postcards at the coffee shop mentioned in a previous post.
The nights that followed the evenings were pretty unpredictable: sometimes I met my friend and we just went home, other times we went out for drinks or dinner. I've eaten sushi, pizza, Italian style food, udon noodles, popcorn, mac n cheese, pulled pork sandwiches, sweet potato fluff (!!) and more. Randomly, one night I briefly popped into a strip club...as you do...but decided (surprisingly) it wasn't a place for me. Another night, I played cards and laughed so hard my sides hurt, something I wish I could've done more, but alas time marches on.
Chicago was great fun, manic but loveable, full of people with lots to see and do. I've talked more about American sports than I ever thought possible and definitely had an adventure to say the least. Next stop: New York!
It's happened, I've lost track of the days, pure holiday bliss.
Sunday I attended my friend's third wedding reception, yes third. When you are an international couple with family all over the place you need to celebrate everywhere! I had a great day, met some new characters to add to my friends list and enjoyed some good grub. Oh and I was able to get creative whilst assisting with the decorations of the hall.
The Monday after was total relax. The day started with a short hike up to a rock that had an awesome view of where I was staying. One of those peaceful, on-top-of-the-world, style locations. After two friends departed for their home towns (both of whom I will be joining soon enough), I spent the majority of the afteroon chatting on the terrace with my friend. Awesome. A dinner at a Nepalese restaurant followed by frozen yoghurt from a self-service shop where you could put as many toppings as you wanted, which of course I did, ended the last full day in Golden, Colorado. A really neat town.
Now, after repacking my suitcase I find myself feeling a bit, emotional I suppose, whilst at the gate for my plane to Chicago. You see, the next stop, a week in Chicago, brings friends old and new together. Harriet, my high school friend who died last October, visited this city in 2011 and spoke very highly of it and one of my closest friends I met in Pescara returned to the city this year.
So, when another friend was joking about which of my American friends I like best, judging this by the length of time I'm spending in each city, there's one thing he didn't consider: Harriet. Harriet loved Chicago but more than that, she loved New York and I'd never be on this adventure if it wasn't for her. Although the idea for a big American adventure began on 28th August 2013 when I declared I wanted to be in New York for my 'Golden' birthday (28, on the 28th), the scale and length of the trip snowballed when Harriet died, it became more important.
The photo below Harriet posted to her Facebook stating it was her favourite coffee shop whilst in Chicago, having visited it a few times and always finding solo travellers to talk to. So in all the excitement and things to do, I'm going to head there for a coffee, just because. It may well be just another chain coffee shop to some, but to me, it's more than that, so much more.
It's the altitude!
Sooo...turns out the level of oxygen in the air reduces a bit the higher up you go. The result of this is breathlessness, tiredness, nausea and a little bit general confusion. Add to that a bit of jet lag and it's all peachy!!
On August the 6th I managed to fly out to Denver and I watched three films...three! It was a 9 hour 40 minute flight in the end and I didn't sleep at all which was random. I did eat everything I was given, and drank soooo much tea. I must say I loved the flight!
When I landed I met my friends and we headed to a bar for a welcome beer. The menu was insane, there were well over 60 beers to choose from, maybe even nearer one hundred. The thing is that beer is a big thing here in Golden.
Day 7 started with hiking boot shopping. I bought some new, properly fitted, boots as a birthday present from the money my Mum, Dad and brother gave me. The boots came in handy for the walk we did over lunch. A leisurely 4.5 mile hike up to a lake past some moose, as you do!!
I'm finding the elevation here difficult to comprehend. The car park was at 10,300 ft, higher than the highest mountain near Pescara, Gran Sasso. My 'ground level' base is my friends house which is actually 5,675 ft up, compared to Pescara's 0 ft. Apparently the altitude doesn't only affect breathinf due to the oxygen level but baking cakes too.
After hiking we went for dinner in the town of Bouldner which has a really lively pedestrian centre with lots of buskers and street artists. There was one man, in his late 50's, who put himself in a 20x20 inch box, some skill!!
Day 8...a well deserved lie-in and pancakes for breakfast before heading to an amphitheatre called Red Rocks 'cos, yeh, it's in red rocks! It was beautiful. We then met another friend and did a tour of a brewery, the biggest single brewery in the world, Miller Coors.
As my friends Mum works at the Miller Coors brewery, we got a v.i.p. tour with extra tasting samples and bonus sites to see. The beer making process is pretty long winded taking 55 days. It was really interesting and provided a great opportunity to catch up with my friends over free beer!
The evening event was a painting session. A group of us followed the instructions of an artist to create a copy of a painting. It was fun but really intense as we had a time limit to follow so had to go pretty quickly. It was amazing how different everyone's painting turned out even though we were following the same instructions.
The night ended with some happy hour sushi that tasted better than anything you can get in Pescara but cost less than half the price. The is certainly a huge variety of food at ridiculously reasonable prices.
Fact: I did not fly anywhere on Wednesday 6th August as scheduled.
Day 5: A cheeky trip to London
Whilst packing my suitcase for my multiple trip adventure - Devizes, Windsor, Denver, Chicago, New Jersey, New York - I put my Oyster card in my travel pack. "Laura, you're not going into central London, why do you need your Oyster?" I said to myself. Flash forward 5 days and yep, I'm on a tube, the Picadilly line, into London...Shepherds Bush to be precise. I'm going shopping!
On arriving to the airport after being unsuccessful checking-in online or at the self-service machine, I was informed that the aeroplane was full. The B.A. rep babbled on about having problems with the original plane and so a smaller one was drafted in instead of cancelling the flight completely. This meant only some people couldn't fly, rather than everybody. Made sense.
I was given 3 options: 1) volunteer to fly tomorrow 2) wait and pray enough people volunteer to fly tomorrow otherwise fly tomorrow anyway 3) wait and be successful. On weighing up these options I went for number 1. The night in a hotel with breakfast, lunch and dinner with the compensation money meant I would have some time to do some yoga (my back is crippled after sleeping in a field), and the money means I could buy the Longchamp shopper I've been pining after for months - I've tried cheaper alternatives but they're just not the same.
And so. I'm gutted I've missed out on visiting the hotel where Stephen King wrote The Shining and seeing the highest paved road in America, at 3600ft, as my friend had planned but the extra $650 spending money (well, minus the Longchamp) means I'll be able to say "Yes" to all the activities my friends suggest instead of rolling out the "I'd love to but...", yay!
N.B. Whilst in London I managed to:
- transfer the compensation from the random Visa Electron card that BA had given me into my bank account
- use a Boris bike to cycle across Hyde Park and along Mayfair
- stumble around the Underground system attempting to get back to my hotel
-miss dinner due to my failed negotiation of the Underground
- eat a Zinger Tower burger courteousy of KFC as a substitute for the missed dinner!
- enjoy salmon and Philadelphia on toast for breakfast, yummy!!
I've moved to Holiday Inn Express Windsor which is nearer Heathrow ready for tomorrow's flight, a real bed, rather than an airbed in a tent that's too small for me.
After packing up the tents etc. three quarters of my family headed to meet the last quarter for a pub lunch. Then my Mum and I were left to our own devices to find the Holiday Inn and we ended up popping into Windsor where Mum bought some new shoes!
Day 4: Legoland!
It was my fourth time going to Legoland and I loved it. Two of my best friends joined my Mum and I as we looked at the Miniland (buildings made of lego from all over the place), we watched the pirate stunt show whilst we are lunch and I queued for half an hour to use a digger for 3 minutes... At the end of the day my Mum and I sat like big kids and made an eagle together. All in all a very ' big kid' day!!
After managing to complete my final Masters essay and submitting it at 8am, I slept an hour and then headed to the airport. A flight, and 2 coaches later, I joined my Mum and Brother on the infamous cricket tour...and so begins my "one photo a day..." blog posts.
Day 1: 17 hours awake and I'm designated driver for the cricket tour lads. Hand stamp, sticky floors and sweaty people.
Day 2: As the Brother failed to take me for a flight in May, we flew over today's match to check out the game.
Play is a set of behaviors that are freely chosen, personally directed, and intrinsically motivated.
My Easter was a bit of this and a bit of that, I went south to my friend Monia's for the weekend. Here's a report of the main things that happened in the form of the whatsapp messages I sent to my Mum over the course of the weekend. For those of you not accustomed to the whatsapp format, my messages are on the right, my Mum's on the left, and each message has a time stamp to show when sent...
I really feel like I'm in a phase of 'unlearning'. I'm trying to 'un-do' all the things society, cultures and identities have led me to believe is 'right', the 'real method', the 'best way', what it is to be 'intelligent', to 'know' and to 'be'. Today I've drawn a conclusion that by living in a world of many people there are many, many paths and we just have to focus on the moment we are in and do what we can with that. It's the most difficult thing I've ever had to get my head round.
|...yep...that's a picture of frying pans...|
|impressive stone carving|
|The bell tower|
|the 'back end'|
|The only keyhole of 3 front doors|
|Through the keyhole|
|Primroses! It's Spring :-)|