Looking Back.

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I’ve been meaning for a while now to write a post looking back at my time abroad, now that I’ve been home for a good bit. For the record, this is motivated purely by a desire for spiritual health and fulfillment, and is not in the least bit related to the fact that if I don’t do one last post, the official count will be left at 19, which is a horrifically uneven number. Just to set things straight.

Well, it’s been kind of gloomy today, so it seems like as appropriate a time as any for some retrospection, UK style. Also, fittingly, tonight is the season finale of 24, and Jack is leaving London behind. It seems right that I finally let it go as well. I mean, Agent Bauer and I are kindred spirits in a lot of ways. We both get  very sentimental when things end. I often cry, as does he. We all remember how he wept in his car at the end of Season 3. Although that may have had something to do with the fact that he had just overcome a debilitating heroin addiction and then chopped his daughter’s boyfriend’s hand off with a fire axe.

But I digress. I shall put on my wellies and my jumper and my knickers, and I shall commence.

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It’s crazy that it’s been over a month since I left the UK. On my last night, I stood on Waterloo Bridge at 3 in the morning, holding my shoes and contemplating my existence as I stared at the lit-up clock of Big Ben. The moment was somewhat broken by a passerby wearing a backpack, evidently on his way to the library or a late-night school field trip, demanding to know where my shoes were and if I was alright, perhaps concerned that I was about to be Taken or plunge to a watery death. But it was a nice sendoff nonetheless.

What has come to pass since that night on the bridge? And WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN???

I can’t say that, really. But what I can say is that during my first couple of weeks back in Southern California, my body experienced a sensation similar to what happens when a large mammal dies in the desert and then as a result of intense sunlight and dry heat rapidly deteriorates into a bleached pile of bones picked apart by buzzards and jackals, except much quicker and much more dramatic than that. I had not realized that the wet weather of the UK had affected my homeostasis so markedly, but let me just tell you: it did.

I can also say that I have finally gotten used to speaking loudly in public without fearing the burn of one million eyeballs glaring at me because of my unrefined and ex-colonized accent. It is mostly a good feeling, but also kind of sad. It was nice to be different.

I can lastly say, with great certainty, that I miss it. I’ve been reading Bridget Jones and Nick Hornby, I’ve been listening to Lily Allen, I’ve been watching Misfits, and I’ve stubbornly not eaten sheep intestine unless there is additional sheep intestine wrapped around it. Sometimes at night, I’ll close my eyes and imagine my entire running route through the Heath. But all that can’t bring me back.

You know what, though? That’s ok. Because here, there’s no Regent’s Park, but there is the beach. And I’m not meeting any Morrissey fans, but my sister sure likes Lady Antebellum. (Jack, please don’t send me anthrax in the mail because I just compared Morrissey to country music). There’s beauty and kindness and hilarity everywhere you go in this silly spinning spherical body in space, and that’s a nice thing to realize.

No matter what, when you leave somewhere, you’re leaving people and places you love behind. But there are more waiting for you on the other end. That’s what I’ve learned in this post-abroad state. That’s what I want to tell Jack as he softly sobs into his shirt in the parking lot of the elementary school he just saved from the bioweapon. And that’s what I need to carry with me as I embark into the terrifying piranha-infested swampland that is Real Life.

Don’t think I have any idea what I’m talking about? I probably don’t. But maybe I should say it with a British accent.

Then I’d sound well clever.

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We’ll Meet Again.

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Well, here we are folks.

Today is the day that I leave this green, gloomy, LOVELY country. And I don’t really know what to do about it.

Because this hasn’t been any old trip. This has been a tangible, impactful, incredible life experience, and I have the numbers to prove it. For example….

Number of Pret sandwiches consumed: 16

Number of non-academic books read: 25

Number of tube carriages mooned: 1

Inches of rain since January 1: 14

Inches of rain in LA in the entirety of 2013: 3.6

Number of love letters written to Royal Parks employees: 1

Number of financial letters written to Transport For London employees: 1

Number of 1 pound mushroom packs purchased at Sainsbury’s: 15

Number of Topshop purchases: 5

Number of Instagram photos uploaded: 62

Number of food units stolen from self: 10

Number of times Hampstead Heath visited: appx. 1 million

Number of times Oyster Card swiped: 645

Total number of comments left on this blog: 56

Number of comments left on this blog by relatives: 40

Items checked off bucket list: 9 out of 11

Number of months in UK: 5

Number of tears I will be producing on the plane today: equivalent to volume of the Thames


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It is hard to know where the last five months have gone. I could go on and on now about how life is short, so live in the moment, seize the day, kiss everyone you meet, etc etc. But as I am just a simple young biped on this giant planet of ours I will spare my lovely readers the life lessons and just say this: thank you.

Thank you to my parents, for forcing me to turn in my abroad application, for enduring my phone calls at all hours, and in advance for enduring the incredibly overdramatic crying that is on the horizon for them when I return. Thank you to everyone back home for reading this blog and keeping me company on Whatsapp and generally caring that I no longer was on the North American continent. Thank you to my sister, for giving me THE ABSOLUTE MOST internet love a girl could ever ask for.

And thank you most of all to the friends I have made here. To my Americans, for sharing this adventure with me and representing our country with pride and class. They may have stared at us on the tube, but they cannot take away our dignity. To running club, because joining was one of the best decisions I made in London, and I have never met a nicer group of people. To my floor, because I was so lonely and TERRIFIED when I first arrived here but then I walked into the kitchen that first night and easy as that, I had friends.

Thank you to Finchley Road Station and the Evening Standard and the large flightless bird in Golders Hill Zoo and Pret and The Inbetweeners and the Strand and the Black Lion pub and Yarm and M&S and the N13 bus and Regent’s Park and Parliament Hill and Waterstones and pound coins and the Thames and Lily Allen and the Queen and MY DISGUSTING DECAYING BLACK HOLE OF A KITCHEN. I am the luckiest girl in the entire world.

As I set out today, back to the land of the free and the Big Mac, my heart will be full of love for all the people I have met here and the places I have seen. I am full of goodness. And I know I’ll be back.

In the words of Vera Lynn, via Johnny Cash:

We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when. But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.

Although let’s be real, this is England, so a sunny day is a bit much to hope for. Let’s settle with partly cloudy.

Cheers!

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Spare Change.

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It is a bit strange how five months seem to have sped past  me faster than Paolo and Lizzie on a periwinkle Vespa. One minute, I’m lying awake on my first night here in my cinderblock jail cell dorm room, convinced that the building is haunted by the souls of 1970s British orphans, begging me to crimp their hair for them. The next minute I only have one week left, not nearly enough time to crimp the hair of all the ghosts I now know. How is this possible???? Where has the time gone???? I don’t want to go home, there’s still so much to be discovered on British Netflix!!

I guess now is the proper time to ponder how this journey has affected me. Am I wiser? More sophisticated? More confident in the correct way to spell wo(u)rds? Better at cricket? Suffering from a vitamin D deficiency? (Definitely yes on that last one.)

I wonder if my friends and family will even notice anything different about me upon my return. Perhaps I should explore the possibility of a Ringo Starr haircut, or get a tattoo of ‘God Save the Queen’ somewhere tasteful, like my forehead. Or perhaps I should just step off the plane smoking ten cigarettes at once and calling everyone I meet a nob.

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Have I changed? In some ways, no. For example, I have always avoided confrontation like the plague. (In London, I have also tried to avoid the plague like the plague). And being in this harsh British climate has not toughened me up very much, as far as I can tell.

EXHBIT A: My favorite place to run in, Hampstead Heath, has a park attached to it that inexplicably has enclosures containing several dozen species of animals, most of them being, like myself, completely unsuited to this clime. Instead of housing, say, I don’t know, several hardy beavers or a sensible goose, the ‘zoo’ is home to, among others, one (1) endearing yet flightless rhea, native to South America, two (2) Patagonian maras, native to Argentina, and my personal favorites, four (4) ring tailed lemurs, native to MADAGASCAR. It is very hard for them to move it move it when they are too busy sitting on each other’s laps in front of a heat lamp wondering what the point of having incredibly dextrous paws is if one can’t even go outside most of the time.

ANYWAY, the other day I was doing my usual running route, checking up on all my animal buddies, when I saw a disturbance in the lemur area. A couple was tossing pieces of bread into the enclosure, in clear violation of the many signs forbidding the feeding of the animals and several cartoon illustrations of an obese lemur looking like it had been given access to LSD, which is apparently what they will look like after eating several crumbs of bread. I’m telling you, the lemurs were going crazy, they were hanging on the top of the cage and staring at me with these wild eyes, as if to say, ‘ WE KNOW IT’S BAD BUT IT TASTES SO GOOD!!! DON’T JUDGE US YOU SWEATY BIPED!!”

I had the words ‘Don’t feed the lemurs!’ on the tip of my tongue, but instead I just stood there, looking sadly into the manic orange eyes of my ring-tailed friends as the couple tossed the last of their bread over the fence and walked away. So I guess I haven’t really changed in that regard.

EXHBIT B: There is no Exhibit B. I think the lemur anecdote is poignant enough to stand on its own.

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But maybe I have changed a bit, in other ways. Maybe internally. I feel like my heart is bigger. That may be a hormonal condition, in which case I should finally take advantage of the NHS… or it may be that it has expanded to make room for all the lovely people I have met here.

Like the coffee cart guy on campus who gave me free fruit on my birthday. And my floor mates, who coach me through my panic attacks and put nice notes under my door and give me cannolis. And the guy who works in the locker room at Regent’s Park, because I love him. And most of all, the lemurs.

So maybe I have changed, and maybe I haven’t. Maybe I’ll bring home with me a new expression or two, or a new strain of flu virus. But I’ve received a lot of love over the last five months and I’ve given a lot out, and that has made this experience more than meaningful.

But perhaps I should also develop a Cockney accent so that my parents feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth.

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Jolly Good.

HERE ARE FIVE REASONS WHY I AM VERY HAPPY TO BE LIVING IN LONDON AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME AND SPACE.

1. It gives you incredibly high self esteem.

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I have just returned from a week-long holiday in Greece, where I had a lovely time with my lovely friends. Not only did we find AND lose the Traveling Pants, we also spent long hours engaging in the art of modern storytelling, performing vivid and stirring re-enactments of famous scenes such as ‘Harry Potter Is Given Gillyweed By Dobby at Last Minute’ and ‘Will James Bond Be Able to Survive Both the Razor Sharp Coral AND the Man-Eating Sharks? (Yes)’. Truly wonderful.

I began the holiday with skin approximately the color of low fat cream cheese, and returned with skin approximately the color of low fat cream cheese that is a bit off color in a questionable way. In Greece, I was a shining beacon of pale-ness. But in the 20 hours since I have returned to London, no fewer than FIVE people have said, ‘You’ve gotten quite brown!’ in an awed manner. If I don’t see myself in the mirror for a bit even I am convinced that my body has been swapped with that of a Brazilian beach volleyball player.

2. Today at the grocery store I saw a young woman buying appx. 15 assorted bottles of alcohol as well as several platters of fruit, one of which she gave to her 85 year old grandma in a wheel chair to hold.

Where is this party?? Why have I not been invited?? Don’t these people know I am TAN?

3. There are bookstores.

Yes, Waterstones is a chain. Yes, I shop there way too frequently, and have a tendency to stare at the bookshelves for about forty five minutes whilst slowly descending into a stupor and generally getting in everyone’s way. Yes, I have no idea what I’m going to do with all these books once I have to make my way back across the pond. (Perhaps create a piece of public art? Do pieces of public art have to be asked for? Or can you just make them and then no one can do anything about it because art is humanity’s salvation and so on? Would I just stack all the books up, or would I get creative? What happens when it rains? Why is it so difficult to give back to one’s community???) But there are still bookstores, and people still read. Both of these things make me very happy.

4. I wore Birkenstocks today!

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(See previous post). For those interested, half the day I wore Birkenstocks w/0 socks, half the day w/ socks. I was rejoicing internally and externally.

5. My friends are back.

Finally, finally, all the people I know and love have trickled back from wherever they were hiding from me and now they are HOME! Granted, they all have their heads falling off because of exams, but whenever they want to listen to some soothing music or eat some cheesecake or watch Jack Bauer punching a million people in the face… I will be there. Because what’s the point of living in a lovely city if you don’t have lovely people to share it with?

As time keeps marching on, and the end of my time here approaches, I can only be thankful for the things I have done, the friends I have made and the number of new profile pictures that have been added to my repertoire. Some days are good and some days are not so good, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s all more than ok in the UK.

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Spring Has Sprung.

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Fact: I deeply inhaled a mutantly large chunk of pollen on my run today. Subsequent fact: it is spring! Unrelated fact: I inhaled a fly on my run today as well, but it was normal sized.

I know that according to whichever poor soul is in charge of the tides, Earth rotations, daylight savings time and providing Punxsutawney Phil with enough food, water and bridal magazines, spring hit this tiny blue planet over a month ago. But the city of London must have insulted the lovely season at a dinner party recently– which is sad but frankly not surprising– because it has taken its sweeeeeet time in gracing us with its presence.

But when I returned recently from my week and a half European Party Tour 2014 feat. David Guetta, it was like the whole city had been transformed. London is BLOOMING! Birds are chirping at 4 in the morning now, JUST BECAUSE! The air smells slightly LESS LIKE SMOG now! Hurrah hurrah hurrah!

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And what did I do to celebrate this new season? Run like Heidi on the hilltops, yodeling and making goat cheese? Weave a massive necklace out of daisies and yucca fiber? Do my taxes? No!  I’ll tell you what I did! I spent all week in the library, talking to no humans, slowly but surely going INSANE! On the bright (PUNS ARE ALWAYS INTENDED) side, the library room I spent every single day in has a glass ceiling, so I would periodically stare up at it and blink desperately at the sky. On a sort of related note, I now see why it is so difficult for women to break through the glass ceiling, because (a) it is very high up there, with no convenient means of access and (b) it would be a very rude thing to do, considering all the hardworking people who are studying beneath it and don’t deserve to have shards falling all over their persons.

But the end is almost in sight, the essays are almost complete, and I will soon be able to frolic and churn butter and ride on top of swans all I like. And this just in from the American front: my lovely mother and father will very soon be making their way across the majestic Atlantic Ocean to visit me. Which is very exciting for many many reasons that I cannot even BEGIN to list for you now, but one of them is that they will be carrying with them… MY BIRKENSTOCKS!

ARE YOU READY FOR MY BIRKENSTOCKS, LONDON?? SOMETIMES I WEAR THEM WITH SOCKS! DO YOU THINK YOU’RE READY FOR THAT?!

I don’t think it’s ready. But it’s springtime, people. And my toesies are going to showsies.

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Lone Wolf.

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Dear readers:

Due to my ultra-thrilling international lifestyle, it is safe to say that over the past few months I have become a person whom most tabloids would refer to as a “young socialite”; whom lifestyle magazines would describe as a “globe-trotting adventurer”; and whom the majority of Jewish periodicals would dub as “a nice-enough looking girl, even went through confirmation, but she hasn’t done Birthright yet, what’s up with that?”

I have spent the last couple weeks living up to those names, hop-scotching around northern England, Scotland, Paris, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, good friends by my side, leaving nothing but broken hearts in my wake, and still not going on Birthright.

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In Amsterdam, I was lucky enough to meet many of my BFF’s cousins, who introduced me to THE AUTHENTIC DUTCH HERRING, as well as many other THE AUTHENTIC DUTCH snacks (we will not discuss the immense disappointment that was prompted by the ill-advised purchase of a BELGIAN waffle). We also stayed directly above the world-famous Black Star Coffee Shop, which hosted swarthy characters day and night and perfumed our apartment quite nicely. In Denmark, the fun continued, mostly due to the fact that the entire Scandinavian region is actually a cloning zone for incredibly attractive blonde humans who are then sold to H&M and the Bond movie franchise. (Safe bet that most of them have not been on Birthright either).

And then I returned to bonnie England, a spring in my step and a duffel bag on my side, full of stories and Passover-friendly desserts, only to find my dorm… empty. And not just my dorm. The whole honking city!

Because it’s Easter! And apparently on Easter, everybody is with their FAMILIES, or something silly like that! That includes the employees of every grocery store in my vicinity, which is nice, I hope they all had a lovely time, but also I almost fainted while standing in delirious hunger outside a closed M&S Simply Food before bursting in to the nearest Subway and breaking Passover just a teeeeeny bit in the form of a blessed turkey foot long. Don’t tell the Jewish periodicals.

In addition to my Subway-sated hunger, an empty London also means another thing: for once in my life, I didn’t have someone to tell about every tiny thought that popped up in my tiny brain. Which at first seemed very terrifying to me, because you would be surprised how many tiny thoughts a tiny brain can have.

But the thing is, London is lovely to be alone in. I got really lost in the rain today, and there was no one to say “Erica, where are you taking us, and why are you wearing velvet in this weather?” I could just wander around in my velvet to my heart’s content. My skirt got caught up underneath my backpack a record five times, but because the streets were so empty NO ONE EVEN SAW.  And I just popped in to the Tate to see if the modern art had gotten even MORE modern since I last saw it (I believe it has. Although I may have just not visited the room with the big clay poop balls on the floor the last time I was at the museum.) My day, my way!

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So while it’s always nice to explore with someone by your side, and talking to another, sentient human is generally preferable to talking to yourself or a coconut named Wilson, it’s also nice to have some alone time. Especially if it’s in a city like this one, where, if all else fails, there are 45,644 statues of old white dudes to hang out with if you get lonely.

But this tiny brain does have a lot of tiny thoughts. So if you want to share stories with me, be my guest! I’m in the room that smells like damp velvet and a sacrilegious Subway sandwich.

Happy everything!

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Roses are Red.

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My apologies, loyal readers, for taking so long to post this one. I have been very busy doing exciting things such as trying not to get eaten by the fog in Scotland and also eating haggis in Scotland and also attempting to feed haggis to the fog in Scotland. But I am back and better than ever!

One of the classes I am taking this term in London is a poetry writing class. Yes, it is just as you would imagine it: we all wear berets and cry and eat cheese and snap frequently. Or perhaps I am describing France?

Regardless, I am in a poetry class. It has been a wonderful experience for me, and I really feel like I have grown as a writer. Admittedly, that is mostly because when I started I had 0.0000000 experience and now perhaps I am at 0.0000001. But that is improvement!

We talk a lot about imagery and metaphor, and the use of creative language to describe everyday items in unexpected ways. For example, in the words of the late, great Scottish poet, Robbie Burns,

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

Also in the words of the late, great Scottish poet, Robbie Burns,

Och harr Loch Ness, Ben Neviss;

Glen, Harry Potter was filmed here, kilt Mel Gibson Jacobites.

Or something.

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All of this poetry on the brain has really helped me see the great city of  London in a new light. The sights and sounds of my daily life are just calling out to be metaphorized. Poetry is everywhere! Similes abound!

Shall we say…

The tube is like being in synagogue: you can’t wear flip flops, all the people are swaying, and everyone answers to a higher authority.

*snap snap snap snap*

Those sit-down Pizza Huts are like the time I wore a basketball jersey dress to a Bar Mitzvah: it was far too formal of a setting, and all you can do is ask “Why?” Also, there was pizza at the Bar Mitzvah.

*tears tears tears tears*

The Thames  is like the haggis I consumed in Scotland last weekend: you definitely wouldn’t want to go swimming in it, it’s quite brown, and above all, full of mysteries.

*beret beret beret beret*

That giant blue rooster in Trafalgar Square is like Samwell Tarly at the Wall: huge, completely out of place but still lovable, and certainly quite cold. Also known to cry frequently.

*baguette baguette baguette baguette*

British schoolchildren are like a Harley Davidson gang: they all wear uniforms and badges to identify themselves, they’re all on scooters, and 85% of them have handlebar mustaches.

*standing ovation standing ovation standing ovation*

I don’t claim to be anything more than a humble scribe. But in this great land where the English language was born and the world is so inspiring each and every day, anyone can be a dreamer.

Happy spring, people of the web! Why not go for a dip in the Thames? Or better, yet, Loch Ness…

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