Monday, January 31, 2011

"Is Life Shiny For You?"

That's what an Irish girl in my class asked an American classmate today in Reading Theatre as general "How are you today?" and I thought it was such a cute, happy expression!

Today started early (well, early for me.) I woke up later than I wanted, at 7:30, and ten minutes later, was out the door to meet Laura. Where were we going, you ask? Silly, we're theatre kids- we were going to freeze ours butts off outside a theatre for two and a half hours, hoping to get tickets for tonight's showing of King Lear!

We fought our way onto the tube- morning rush hour is just about as fun as afternoon rush hour, as it happens. Finally, we reached Covent Garden around eight, got to theatre... and there were already about twenty-five people, maybe more, in line waiting for the thirty available tickets. First of all- why were that many people sitting outside a theatre a eight a.m. in the freezing cold?! Were they insane? No, they're just theatre people. The two women on either of us, at least, were both actors, and I don't doubt that a good percentage of the others were, too. There was also the attraction of a very famous actor (who I've never heard of) playing the title role.

We took our places at the back of the line and figured that if everyone got one ticket, we'd be fine. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. The women ahead of us was getting four and I'm sure people further ahead were getting more than one. Still, we decided to sit it out, even though sitting on the stone steps of the store we were in front of was really cold.

The people at the head of the line were obviously ticket-stalking pros. They had sturdy chairs, blankets, and lots of things with which to entertain themselves... and they needed hours of entertainment because, as we found out later, they had arrived at 4 a.m. Yeah. I love theatre, but only an audition is going to get me out of bed before four (yes, I have.)

Everyone in line was very nice to each other, holding places so people could run to the nearby cafe and get coffee and breakfast to go. I brought my Nook along and made the mistake of reading The Postmistress when it started getting really tragic and needing to cry. I tried not to though, since my tears would have frozen to my face. (Actually, I'm exaggerating- it's been a lot warmer these past few days, thank goodness. I don't know if I can handle that kind of cold until March.)

So we waited there until 10:30, when the box office opened. When the person about eight places ahead of us left the window, they announced that they were sold out. So no ticket :( I wasn't too put out; as I've stated before, I'm not a fan of King Lear. But I'm sure it still would have been a good experience.

The street we were sitting next to.

On a different note, I have been becoming increasingly annoyed in my RT class. Our teacher is quite young- a Ph. D. student- but a very good teacher for the class. However, a lot of my classmates are quite rude to her; if she expresses an opinion, they shoot her down before she can even finish her sentence. And while this is a critique class, they don't do this to their fellow students; they at least let us finish our sentences. The same students constantly challenge the assignments.

The big drama today was that a girl had come into our class from the other section of the same lecture and was distressed that our teacher wanted our theatre program (or here, "programme") project to look fairly artistic and creative. She assured us that it would not affect our grade; she just wanted to see us put in the artistic effort. Unfortunately, even this statement caused the girl to protest that this was unfair; her original teacher just wanted a document and she wasn't going to accept someone who made an artsy program getting a higher grade than her. Our teacher repeated her statement, but then two students who had been there since day one joined in the protest. The girls sitting around me and I were just shaking our heads, wondering what the problem was. Our teacher had made her point clearly, but the one-sided debate went on for a good ten minutes, and then was brought up again later.

I don't get what was so hard to understand and why some of my classmates refuse to respect our teacher. No matter an instructor's age, if they're your instructor, you need to practice at least common courtesy around them. Apparently Americans have a bad reputation for treating teachers poorly, but I can say that I have never seen that kind of behavior in a college classroom. Most likely, it's just the students; God knows we have enough problem students in American universities... but maybe ours just don't even both to come to class.

"The good news is, we're all born innocent. The bad news is, we all end up driving on the freeway." -Stephen Tobolowsky

Sunday, January 30, 2011

London Audition #2

This past Monday, I went on my first real London audition. You might be wondering why I am writing about it now, nearly a week later. This is because I am extremely superstitious about stuff like this and believe that if I talk about it, I will jinx it. However, since the director said he would let us know by this weekend and Sunday has come without any word, I'm thinking I didn't get it.

The audition went really well, actually, which just goes to show that not all good auditions glean parts. In fact, many good auditions don't and vice-versa. I've gotten parts when I went to auditions exhausted and left thinking I was terrible. You never know what they're looking for, I guess. This time, it wasn't me, and that's the way it works sometimes.

(Notice how level-headed I am about this; I really did want this part, but it doesn't feel life-or-death like the other one did, even if I did dream about this one for the past two nights.)

The audition was for a play by a playwright that is well-known in England, but who I’ve never heard of back home, Jim Cartwright. It's an edgy, very dark piece from the '80s.

I got to the theatre fifteen minutes early, and it took me a second to find the venue as it was literally under the train tracks. However, I was the first one there. Two girls walked in right after me and we went into the green room and met the director. Over the next forty-five minutes, the room slowly filled up; there were a good number of people there.

The director gave us a pre-audition talk and then we started. Though I got there first, I was one of the last to audition, which kind of screwed me up a little bit because I chose a monologue from the script (a requirement) that just reading it made me cry. I was ready, I thought in the beginning. I'm gonna impress them with my crying skills; God knows I do it enough in my real life. But all that waiting kind of killed my mood, which shouldn't happen, but does. Also, everyone was talking around me and I felt really anti-social not joining in. I didn't for about two hours, but then an older lady started chatting with me about books and her love of Metallica, and then later I was talking to a girl my age. The girl was very interested in America, saying that she was going to go someday and she knew that there resided a tall, handsome American boy just for her (funny how people dream of different things, huh? All us American girls came here for the same thing... oh, and an education :p)

When I got into the theatre around 9:50, I wasn’t feeling teary, no matter how many situations- real or fictional- that I presented myself with. I feel like life might be easier if I were a Method actor, but… I’m not and I don’t think I ever will be.

I went in and climbed up onstage. The director was gone and I was hoping that he was going to come back; was he bored already? His assistant director took my picture and we chatted a bit about my experiences in England so far- I was the only American at the audition, so of course I stuck out. That's another reason why I didn't talk much in the waiting room; I dreaded displaying the neon sign of my accent.

Oh, my accent… yeah. I haven’t mentioned yet that this play takes place in Lancashire, England. And that accent, according to a few sources, is very hard to learn without a few months and a dialect coach. Me? I had a few days and YouTube. When you take acting classes, one of the first things you’re told is that you should not audition with an accent unless they ask for it. I had been practicing with an accent and it wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t know how good it was (if it was at all) and I didn’t want to insult anyone with a horrendous accent. So even though I wanted to blend in, I decided to follow the rules and use my own accent. It helped that the director (who didn’t have an English accent himself) gave us permission to use our own. In hindsight, I'm glad I used my own; it allowed me to concentrate on what I was saying, not how I was saying it and if it sounded bad.

Finally, the director came back, assured me that using my own accent was fine, and I started the monologue. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I got teary but never actually cried, and it drives me crazy when that happens; I could feel the tears built up, but the wall would not come down. It's like a really obvious metaphor for my acting in general.

The director asked me to move a little more, to use the whole stage, and I did so (I hope.) They seemed to really like it, saying it was great to watch. Then the director asked, “Do you think you could learn the Lancashire accent if you needed to?” I said yes, that usually if I hear an accent long enough, I can emulate it, which is true. He said that it might not have to be Lancashire- he might be able to work different accents in, including my own. We discussed this at length, and in the end, I think we were all pretty happy with what had gone on.

The director had told us at the pre-talk that he didn't want to have callbacks if he could help it. I don't know if they took place on Friday... if they did, I wasn't invited. I'm not sure if we'll be notified even if we weren't cast; it's always helpful to know when to move on.

Like I said, not getting this part doesn't feel nearly as bad as the other one. Partially, it is the whole thing that I got to put myself out there for it and I know the audition wasn't bad. I also know that I presented them with a very full conflict schedule, what with Thursday class rehearsals and all the plays I have to see. It helps, too, that while I really do like the play and think that being in it would push me in a way I've never been pushed, it's not a play I've pined after like the other one; I just haven't had time to develop the same passion for it.

So maybe I'll go and see it when it comes out. It is a pretty awesome play. I just wish I were here longer so I could audition for more stuff. Come March, I won't be able to audition for anything because the performances will most likely commence once I'm gone. But there are other auditions still on the horizon, so I have those to look forward to.

EDIT: Just got the final word- no role. Oh well.

Friday, January 28, 2011

IHOP Is The Breakfast Place of Liars

Since I just finished my review of Julius Caesar (if 300 or less words can be considered a document of any length... really, teachers?), I am taking a break from homework.

First of all, may I present to you my biggest triumph of my day:

Yes, that's right, I made scrambled eggs (they were not neon yellow, as they appear in the picture)! Hooray! As I've mentioned, I'm not much of a cook, so this is a pretty big accomplishment for me. They were delicious and I only burned myself twice!

The one thing I don't like about making scrambled eggs is that you have to pay close attention to them, and I usually read when I cook here, so the cooking of these eggs was cutting into my reading time :p

Here's something that seems obvious that you don't realise is a cultural difference until you're stuck. I mentioned yesterday that I was going to go looking for art/office supplies for my project. I was just looking for stuff like scissors, glue, colored paper, etc. But... where do I get that stuff? The first places I would look at home would be stores like K-mart, Wal-Mart, Staples, etc. But they don't have those here.

I remembered picking up some thumbtacks at an office supply store by the study abroad office in Kensington, and I remember seeing them everywhere. But the only thing I remembered about the name is that it started with an R and there were a lot of consonants. This did not help in a Google search.

Eventually, I figured out what it was called (Ryman, for any fellow students reading this), checked their hours and for a closer location (Kensington's rather far from school), and headed out. I found the place without too much trouble... and it was closed. Actually, EVERYTHING was closed. It's Saturday. Color me irritated, especially because it's so cold here that when you exhale, you let out an opaque cloud.

Four random things:

1) I love that people here use the word "clever." It's such a lovely word and we really don't use it in the U.S.

2) Last weekend when we were waiting for the waterfall to cease, Adrienne was jonesing for some chocolate chip pancakes. We expressed our love for IHOP pancakes and asked Emmie if they had IHOPs here. She said that they do not. So basically, their name is a lie :p They should be called AHOP.

3) I heard the phrase "tucking in" (a.k.a. beginning to eat) on Thursday. I had heard it before in books, and that's another phrase we don't use at home.

4) I'm not sure exactly how over the list I am, considering how much I've been torturing myself by reading stuff about the show. It'll pass. #masochist

That's all for me today. Tomorrow- another homework day (without supplies for my project.) Hurrah.

"There Is the Sense One Gets Walking Around London At Night, of a God Grown Sleepy."*

Hello, everyone!

I love the little traffic feed I installed on the right there- it's fun to see when people visit my blog. I've been trying to make sure I don't update needlessly and bore you all with, "Today I went to class. We learned stuff," so that's why there wasn't an update yesterday... because that's all I did :p But my Thursday class, Adaptations, is going to push me just like I knew it would. One of our main focuses (and a thing we're meant to try and emulate in some ways) is the Wooster Group which is a theatre group from New York that puts together some very... interesting pieces of theatre. Not my style, but that doesn't matter- an assignment is an assignment. So next Thursday, my group will be performing a ten-minute presentation that involves blasting different songs at the same time by the Beatles, among other artists, lots of quotes and pictures about love and death playing on four different computers at the same time, innumerable Post-its with German words written on them, and an incestuous brother and sister confessing to their dead mother about their love, then reciting speeches from things as varied as Romeo & Juliet and Titanic. It's going to be... fun?

It suddenly got ridiculously cold here yesterday and it hasn't gone away. It's probably the coldest it's been since we arrived and we are not enjoying it. It actually flurried yesterday!

Last night, Laura asked me if I wanted to accompany a group along to a museum tonight; they didn't know which. I said yes and we ended up at the Tate Modern after my class today. As I've said before, one of the things I love most about London is that you can hop on the tube and go anywhere you want in the city... and almost anytime you want!

I feel terrible saying it, but the museum didn't do a lot for me. I'm not an art person, so I just kind of look at the works and hope that through osmosis or really hard staring, I can get some sort of meaning out of it. It doesn't help that it was modern art... sometimes it just annoys me. For instance, there was a "piece" there was literally a mirror attached to a piece of canvas, none of the canvas showing. That is not artwork, it is DIY. Laura claims she's going to look at that "piece" when she is angry to help her get it all out :p

The nice thing about museums here is that they're free. Sometimes you have to pay to see the temporary exhibits, but mostly, you can come and go as you please and not pay a cent!

Speaking of cents, I really do like the money here. While I still sometimes have to remind myself which coins are 20p (pence) and which are 10p, I like that there are pound and two pounds coins. It tends to mean that I have more money than I realise in my wallet!

In other news, I have not had any reportable cooking accidents, though I continue to burn my wrists on the edge of my saucepan. Tomorrow, I am going to attempt to make scrambled eggs, so I'm sure an entertaining story will ensue from that.

Tomorrow, a few of my friends are going to Wimbledon, but I opted out of the trip. Besides needing to do homework I've been neglecting, Wimbledon doesn't thrill me too much and it's extra money to go because it's on the other end of the city, so I figured I'd stay nice and warm in my room. I may have to venture out to get some supplies for an assignment, as the school store here has nothing beyond folders, and will likely freeze to death in the pursuit of art supplies.

And now some pictures I took tonight:

St. Paul's Cathedral from the Millenium Bridge

St. Paul's again from the south bank of the Thames

*A quote from the novel The Postmistress by Sarah Blake which, as of page 96, is pretty awesome.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fake Moustaches

HELLO, readers! I knew had you guys for a reason- because when I write a blog entry full of complaints and sadness, you kick me in the pants and tell me to get over it. And I have- hooray! Twelve hours after the announcement on Monday, I no longer felt like I was being stabbed in the chest every time I thought of the list, and now, it barely twinges.

I know I still have over five months here, but WOW is time flying! It's already mid-way through my fourth week here! And in a little over two months, my classes will be finished. Crazy!

So remember the difficulty I had in Episode 2 of Rachel is Stupid, being unable to find the theatre? Well, I had to go back to the area in which I got lost last time, but to actually see the show that was at that theatre. And get this- I go down that street, looking around at the buildings I had already seen... and there was a big freaking banner for the theatre. It was obviously new, considering how shiny and unmarked it was, but I think I actually went, "SERIOUSLY?!" out loud.

Because of the mix-up, I got there an hour early, and since I now knew where the theatre was, I went into the giant department store right next to it, Selfridges. I may be wrong, but I was under the impression that Selfridges was just a clothing store, and perhaps it is, but this one was four stories high and hosted lots of different companies, from books to clothes to electronics to candy. It was crazy, and most of the brands were the kind that didn't put prices on anything because if you didn't know how much it cost, you obviously didn't belong there. They have Jimmy Choo and Chanel upstairs; I thought only Harrods did that. I did get a small bag of mixed candy (yay, sour gummy worms!) and a cute notebook with Peter Pan characters on it. After browsing through things I will never be able to afford in my lifetime, I headed over to the theatre.

I had to see A Doll's House for my Reading Theatre class, and if you talked to me recently, I probably complained to you about it. I hate A Doll's House. Besides being boring, it's incredibly anti-feminist (I know, Nora leaves at the end, but she still spends the entire play until the very end NOT doing that.) I did not want to see this show.
Once I entered and got my wristband (instead of ticket), I was at the bottom of the stairs to the theatre and there was this guy standing on the landing. He went, "Pssst!" I looked up and he said, "You coming up here?" I didn't answer. He said, "Come up here." He looked super sketchy and I wondered if I had just paid twelve pounds to walk into my death. Two other people started climbing the steps, so I went up with them. Sketchy Guy said, "They're a little sexist up there- you wanna moustache?" and he opened his jacket to display a bunch of moustaches on sticks lining the sides. "No charge," he said, and handed me one.

Upstairs, there were two rooms- one set up like a men's smoking room/bar and another as a women's dressing room. I went up to the bar to get an Orangina (delicious orange soda that's rarely found in the US). "No moustache?" the guy behind the counter asked. I pulled it out of my bag. "Oh, I'm sorry, sir," the man said, and poured me my drink.
As an actor who has done a fair amount of interactive theatre, I should not be so put off by this kind of this, but to be honest, it totally freaks me out. Is this how the audience felt when I was doing my shows?

As I said, I didn't want to see this show at all. But the set was pretty cool looking and it started in a very unexpected way- two corseted women and three women with their chests ace-bandaged did a short, simple dance and then exited. As I found out a little later, it was an new adaptation of Ibsen's work. The theatre that was doing this show did it so, so fantastically well. It was an all-female production, but the three women who played men were so convincing that I never questioned them for a second. The actress playing Nora was wonderful, and reminded me very much of Keira Knightley in pretty much every way, but especially her delivery and mannerisms. One actress switched from a female, Irish maid to a male, English doctor constantly, sometimes within ten seconds, and was great in both roles. The actress playing Torvald played him appropriately as a complete creeper. Even though I detest the play, this new adaptation made the dialogue less stilted and instead of pretending to be a feminist play, it actually was, bringing the time into a more modern setting and showing just how little some things have changed. I LOVED it, really loved it.

Seeing required theatre here is showing me how stubborn I can be about certain pieces of theatre. While it has happened that I don't want to see a production and hate it, much more often has the case been that I ended up loving it. I'm trying to see all the theatre I can here, and now that will include stuff I might not want to go and see. I'm seeing King Lear this Monday- despite my abhorrence of it, Laura wants to and there are good actors in it, so hopefully that will save it from the fact that it's King Lear :p

And now for your regularly scheduled observations:

-People don't eat on the tube. That sounds weird, but in America, people eat on trains and stuff. But no one ever eats and rarely drinks on the tube. Maybe that's why it's so clean.
-People really do say "cheers" in place of "thanks."
-Shoppers use these personal little carts in the grocery stores that look like this:

That way, they can walk with their groceries and not have the bag handles gouging into their hands. From what I've observed, in the US these are generally reserved for a few elderly people (though not many), whereas here, everyone uses them!
-They still sell hair scrunchies in regular stores.
-A new word I learned on Monday night: faffing. While it can have some cruder meanings, basically it means wasting time doing useless things, which is how I heard it applied.

And now for something completely different... I just found this video and it's awesome. It made my little actor heart feel all warm and teary.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Showing Up (Or Not)

While yesterday was filled with semi-natural disasters beyond my control, today has been the hardest day for me here so far, and that's because my home school posted their cast lists for the last two shows of the year.

As I mentioned, one particular show was attractive enough to me to make me consider not coming here. I wanted it that badly. But, as I also mentioned, there was a really good chance that I would stay at my home school, audition, maybe not even get called back, and not get the part. Then I would have felt stupid.

I knew all of this and I still know it. But I when I woke up this morning, I knew the list would be up and I was as nervous about that as I would have been if had tried out. Possibly more. And when I saw it, it almost killed me. Not because of who was on it, really- pretty much everyone in the theatre department is really good- but because I hadn't even gotten a chance to try. My name wasn't on the list because I hadn't even been able to be considered.

People are always shocked at the amount of auditions I go on. I try to audition as much as I can, for every and any type of job. It doesn't even actually have to be a job; it can be volunteer. I just want to work. And I think the reason I do this is because it makes me feel like I have a handle on a career that is only partially under the pursuer's control at any given time. In the grand scheme of things, I don't audition a ton as compared to people who are living in New York or Chicago or LA, simply because I have school, and even if I fit a role perfectly, the fact that I have an evening class on one of the rehearsal days means I can't audition. If it were my choice, I would audition instead of going to class (in my opinion, auditions are more class than any class will ever be, but that's a whole other can of worms.)

But I digress. What I'm trying to say is that, at least for me, it hurts worse to not get a part when you didn't try to get it, because you know that you weren't even in the running in the first place. It's hard to look at a cast list knowing you might not be on it; it's harder to look at it and know you definitely won't.

My teachers always tell me that 90% of show business is showing up, and I try to show up as much as possible. Most times, it leads to nothing, but other times, great things happen. I've had male roles changed to female for me and I've gotten calls a year after I went on a call to do a project with the same person. You never know what showing up will get you. It might get you nothing, it might get you something, or it might seem to get you nothing at first and then come around when you're least expecting it.

I hated not being able to try. It's no one's fault and I am, of course, happy for all of my friends who got roles. But I've been drama-queening my way through the day because, honestly, I'm really very upset about this. It's hit me harder than I expected.

I'll get over it. I always do. I allow myself twenty-four hour mourning periods for stuff like this, and then it's time to move on. Because there will always be other auditions, and as my mother will tell you, I exit almost all of them saying, "I REALLY want this one!" I really did want this one, but I'll want another in another second, even if I still pine for this one for awhile.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Of Fires and Floods

Oh, readers... remember when I said that I probably wouldn't write this weekend, as it would mostly be spent doing homework? Oh, how wrong I was.

The other day, Adrienne pointed out that we had not actually been shopping. What a crime- especially since I had been given permission by my mom to get something "London-esque" for my birthday. So we decided to meet Laura and Drew at ten this morning and go to Covent Garden and High Street Kensington.

I had planned to go to bed semi-early, but suddenly started making headway on some writing and kept typing and typing until two a.m. So I didn't get up on time, and when the fire alarm went off at 9:40, I was still in bed. My alarm hadn't woken me up, but the terrible, drawn-out screech of the fire alarm definitely did. It was worse than the one back at my home school, which I didn't think possible, because there was no break in the sound- it was just one loud, long noise.

But as I had never heard the fire alarm here, I wasn't sure that that was even what it was. I know you're thinking, 'Well, what else would it be?' But something you have to realise about me is that it takes a good ten minutes after I wake up for me to start thinking clearly. I have no common sense when I'm half-awake. So I grabbed my coat, shoved my feet into shoes, and ran out into the hallway. I saw no one. Maybe I was wrong. Or maybe I was crazy and there really was no alarm sounding. A few seconds later, Adrienne came out of her room and we both stood there. Rest uneasily in the fact that, if there is a fire, we will both probably die :p Finally, Emmie emerged from her room and said that it was, in fact, the fire alarm, and the three of us made our way to the door of our flat. We opened it... and found that the lobby was flooded with water.

Now, when the fire alarm goes off, even if it is a drill, the last thing you expect to find behind any door is a waterfall. But my building is apparently the building of disappointed expectations... or perhaps just surprising discoveries. There was water pouring from the ceiling, quickly forming puddles and rivers in our tiny can't-even-be-called-a-lobby. We picked our way through it and outside.

It was cold. Especially in pajamas, which Emmie and I were both wearing. Adrienne had actually gotten up on time, so she was dressed; Emmie had been doing homework. It wasn't any warmer forty-five minutes later when we were still waiting outside. We stood outside of our building and watched as the firetruck arrived, the firemen dash to the door... and pull up short as they saw, not flames, but water. They kept looking at each other like, "What do we do with this? We've never had to fight water before..." For the next twenty minutes, we watched firemen and QMUL security walked in and out of the building, looking confused and occasionally walking out with dripping-wet tools. The ceiling outside of the building, as well as inside, was now steadily leaking water.
Eventually, they said that there was a good chance that we wouldn't be able to get in for at least another hour, but that they would unlock the cafeteria (which is not open on the weekends) so we could sit in there and stay warm.

Let me paint a picture for you. Swarming the cafeteria were fifty (lots of people weren't there this weekend) grumpy international and English students, most of which are still in pajamas. Add to that that most of us had not eaten breakfast- even those who were awake when the alarm went off- and it was now about eleven. They made it very clear that they would not be giving us free food (which would have been crueler if there was actually breakfast being made in the caf.)

I sat in the caf with Adrienne, Laura, Emmie, Megan, Deanna, and Drew. None of us were very happy, especially when it was announced that it would most likely be another hour before we could get in because they weren't sure about the electricity. Eventually, they announced that everyone could go back in... everyone who didn't live in the east flats, which was my flat. Yay. They tried to placate us with the promise of food, but when they did get some food, it was fancy assorted chocolate cookies, Coke, and Sprite. I enjoy all of these things, but not in the morning when I haven't anything else to eat. I ate two cookies because I was hungry, but decided that to make that my breakfast would mean seeing it later that day. We all refused the soda.

I was grumpy; I figured that if we left for shopping at ten, we'd be back around two and I would clean, do laundry, and finish up some homework. Well, now it was noon and they were saying it would be another hour. They gave us vouchers for an Asian place so we could go there for lunch. Besides the fact that the thought of Asian food, just like the idea of fancy cookies and Coke for breakfast, made us all want to throw up, they asked, "Who does not feel adequately dressed to go to an eating establishment?" I looked down at my QMUL t-shirt and pink plaid pajama bottoms. Maybe if I said I felt this way, they'd let me change and then, instead of going to the restaurant, we'd leave campus to go shopping. But after we answered the question, they left it at that in a "well, that's nice, sucks to be you" way. Thanks.

Because of the schedule train wreck, I thought it would be smarter not to go shopping. But the thing was... we couldn't do anything else. I could stay on campus all I wanted, but without my books and computer, I couldn't do anything.

Oh, my God- my computer. How much water had gotten into our flat? What if the ceilings in the rest of the flat had opened up and even now, all of my stuff was getting soaked?!

We couldn't do anything about this, but we could try to leave campus and actually do something. figured that for clothes, I could maybe borrow something of Laura's, even if it was yoga pants. I was wearing normal shoes and an acceptable shirt. But here was the big problem- I couldn't see. I had left the flat without my glasses, thinking we were going to get back in soon, and I have terrible vision. It could be worse- I'm nearsighted, so at least I could see people I was talking to. But I knew walking the streets and going on the tube without my far vision would be a bad idea. Also, neither Adrienne or I had our Oyster cards. At this point, all I wanted was real breakfast food, my Oyster card, and a pair of pants that weren't bright pink plaid.

Adrienne is much more assertive than I am. She went up to the woman in charge and asked if the two of us might sneak in and grab our things- her bag and my glasses. The woman waffled a bit, so Adrienne exaggerated my condition to legal blindness. Finally, she talked our way into the building and we were allowed in with an escort.

Inside the flat, they were busy water-vacuuming up the large puddles that stretched from the "lobby", past the kitchen, to about the third dorm room. They were removing some things from the first two rooms- soaked. But the four or five rooms at the end of the hall- including mine, Adrienne's and Emmie's- were completely dry. Phew! Once in our rooms, we got the things we begged for- her, bag; me, glasses- and I also grabbed my bag and a pair of jeans. We went up to Laura's room, I changed into normal clothes, and we were off (after stopping by the caf to let Emmie know that her stuff was all right.)

Because we got started so late, we only did Covent Garden today, but I got a dress marked down by forty pounds (I paid fifteen) and a pair of Oxford shoes, which Laura and I have been pining for. We're probably going to do High Street Kensington sometime this week.

When we got back, we walked through a mostly-dry hallway and talked to Emmie; they hadn't allowed people back into the flat until two. I'm glad we left- it would have been a lot of wasted time.

Now to a lot of boring- cleaning, laundry, homework.

Quote of the Day:

"When you've made a life of theatre, you know what it's like to work hard. You know what it's like to feel the triumph of a standing ovation. And you know how close you always are to disaster. When your life is dancing on the edge of a cliff, you tend to believe in gravity." -Stephen Tobolowsky

Friday, January 21, 2011

Opera, Death, News, and Tears... Among Other Things

Wow... I didn't think I would have anything to write about this weekend, but I think entry's going to be quite long because yesterday was eventful.

But first, today- I went to the Tower of London with Adrienne and two other friends, Deanna and Megan. Adrienne and I had already been there when we came on preview, but it was nice to go again. If you go one day, definitely take the guided tour. The yaomen guides (or at least the two we've had) are really funny and project well and are generally great tour guides. So we did that, then wandered around to all of the things you could see. We did see some new stuff, as last time we had a time limit; we were in no rush today and so stayed for nearly four hours. Some pics:

^ The white building is the last standing house from the Tudor era in the area.

^The Traitors Gate, through which many who were executed, including Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey, entered.
^A picture I snapped against the rules.
^Anne Boleyn's (among other's) execution spot.

And now for yesterday:

Part One: La Vie Boheme

Or actually, just La Boheme. Yes, I finally got to the opera last night. It took me longer than I thought it would to find the theatre, as it was tucked down a small side street that was only labelled on the side of the street that I wasn't facing as I walked toward it. Finally, though, I found it and went in about fifteen minutes early.
The show itself was really good. It was the first opera I've ever been to, so even though I love me a good period piece, I'm glad it was a shortened, modern version. Though I didn't know the story upon which it was based, it translated pretty well to modern times, save for a few things, like the death scene where Rudolpho is clutching Mimi's beanie hat and crying and Mimi is singing about the nice, warm mittens they got her (a bonnet and a muff in the original... which isn't much better. I can't take people singing about items of clothing seriously. Love, yes. Accessories, no.) The modernised script could be genuinely funny in some places, though, too- there were lines sung like, "What's up?", "You know this is crap," and "Piss off!"
The coolest part about the show was that they physically moved us along with the show. When the characters went to the nearby pub, the entire audience was taken down two floors to the theatre's bar, where we all stood and the actors pushed past us to get around. I happened to be in the exact spot they had to cross, and at one point, I was chest to chest with one of the actors as he sang past me. It was pretty cool. I also heard the person behind me saying that the cast is one big ensemble and the leads change nightly. How cool!

Part Two: Some Exciting News

The student-run theatre group on campus that visited the associate students during our theatre induction told us that night that their organisation would be holding auditions for their annual New Writer's Festival in a few weeks, and at the very tail-end of this announcement, they said there were also oportunities for technicians and writers, if we were interested. Of course, I was interested in the latter and took down the information. They said I'd have to act fast- it was Wednesday and they were picking the pieces that Friday. So as soon as I got back from my 21st festivities, I selected two stand-alone scenes and sent them in.
The next morning, I got an e-mail in my inbox telling me that they needed more information. What were the pieces about? How many actors were needed? How long were they? Did I have technical preferences? If I didn't have enough time to do this and needed to pull my pieces, they said, they'd understand, but they hoped I could get the info in. I sat down right then, wrote it all out, and sent it in. Thank goodness for e-mail, is all I can say!
Then last night, I got back from the opera and went into my e-mail. There was a message from the Queen Mary Theatre Company. It began like a normal rejection letter: 'so many high-quaity submissions,' 'such a hard decision,' etc. etc. *sigh* Oh, well, I tried. I scrolled down to see the list of the chosen plays...

Both of mine were on the list.


I am so. Excited. I think I actually squealed, then I ran over to Adrienne's room and jumped around a little, then went back to my room and jumped around some more.

I AM SO EXCITED! While a few scenes I've written have been worked on/produced (in the film company I work with and in a few small acting schools), it's never been to the scale where people have auditoned for my pieces and a director was assigned. And it's a festival! They asked me if I wanted to direct and I said no; I don't enjoy directing and I also have a tendancy to get a little precious with my material, so I think being in charge of my own scene would be dangerous.

Of course, I'll look like a completely morbid person to someone who sees just these two scenes- they're both about funerals, but instead of being sad, they're both making fun of them. (According to friend and acting psychologist Stuart, it is because I am making light of something I am uncomfortable with :p) When I sent them in, I wrote, "Also, I promise I don't only write about funerals. These were just the two best pieces I had on hand."

I'm happy these were the two I sent in. While they both have the same basic subject and are comedic, they're actually very different. One is about sort-of love, the other is about three generations of family. One is about two people at a funeral, the other is about an elderly woman facing the fact of her death. One is completely from my imagination, the other is based on a real-life dinner out. And most of all, one took me months to write, and the other I wrote in forty-five minutes at a playwrighting workshop and edited only very lightly before submitting it.

I can't wait to see the final products, and I'll try to film them so I can share them with you, too!

Part Three: My Own Brand of Homesickness

Last night, I was Skype chatting with my lovely friend Kara, telling her the news above and wishing her many a broken limb at this semester's auditions back at my home school. As it happens, I was a little late- the auditions had already happened and callbacks were that night, and Kara, talented actor that she is, was called back for the lead part in a wonderful play. I freaked out with happiness for her and tried to ignore the incredible pang that hit me when she told me this news... because I love that play and I've been pining for that part for awhile. In fact, I want it so badly that it was the one thing that made me consider not coming here. However, I know that there was way too big a chance that I wouldn't get the part, especially at my home school, so I didn't let that change my decision.
So I tried to ignore the feeling that I had been hit by a truck at the mention of callbacks for a part that is on top of my MUST PLAY BEFORE I DIE list. But then Kara wrote, "I thought of you because I know you love her." I started crying.
I want that part SO badly. I want it, I want it, I want it. I could fill this entire blog with that sentence and it wouldn't cover how much I want to play that part. And to know that if I had stayed, I might have it within my grasp (maybe... there's a chance I might not even have been called back.) So to know that I willingly gave up that chance... well, if I didn't walk around London thinking how happy I am here every other minute, there's a good chance it would kill me.
That being said, though, I gave up a lot of opportunities to come here, but I think I'll find that there are just as many here. After all, one of the opportunities I gave up was entering a scene I wrote into a competition.... one of the same scenes that's being done in the festival here. So there's that point of view.
But I still really want that part. And I cried more than a little over it last night. So maybe homesickness is hitting me... I suspected it might happen in a weird way, and this could very well be it.

Quote of the Day:

"This is just a question for the world at large: why are all the abusive teachers reserved for actors, singers, and chefs? Why not biologists? I can just hear it- 'Oh, that is NOT spirogyra. That's not even flat endorsal vintrali, I mean COME ON!'" -Stephen Tobolowsky

Rachel is Stupid: Episode Two

Hey, fans, we're back with another episode!

So soon?! you exclaim. But in your heart of hearts, you know that Rachel is occasionally a fountain of stupidity, and oh, fans, the fountain was flooding forth like Niagara Falls last night. Let us again visit the incident from Rachel's P.O.V.

I was supposed to go to the opera last night. Seriously, the opera. It was for my Reading Theatre class, which is, as of now, my least favorite class, though for reasons that are administrative and not academic*. So after going to the library to do some homework, I headed to the tube station a full hour before the show was to start.

I had done my research. I knew that I had to get off at Tottenham Court Road to reach the theatre. Unfortunately, I assumed that the direction in which I had to go after that would be clearly marked, since it has been for every other theatre I've gone to so far.

But you know what happens when you assume. It was not clearly marked. But even worse than that, the real problem was that, because I had spent the better part of two nights before calling around the theatres/going on their websites and getting all of my tickets for every single show I had to go see in the term, I got my theatres mixed up. Instead of asking for the theatre that I was actually visiting last night, I kept asking for the one I'm going to on Tuesday. Obviously, I was unsuccessful in finding it.

In my desperation, I called Laura and asked her if she could look it up for me (good thing I topped up my phone beforehand... I had a feeling I'd need it.) Because I gave her the wrong theatre name, she got me directions to go to that location, which I did.

Or tried to do. Besides the fact the apparently, every person with large luggage in the nation decide to (slowly) use the tube last night, here's the thing- even when I was in the right location for the incorrect theatre... no one had heard of it. This theatre is supposed to be located on a very small, dead end road... and it's not there. Not only is it not there, not a single one of the six people I asked had ever heard of it. People keep telling me that things happen for a reason and I try to believe it, so perhaps the reason this happened is to show me that, uh... Tuesday's theatre isn't present in this world.

So I had an incredible amount of fun running through London (literally) until it was too late to get into the show whether I found the theatre or not. It was especially amusing for the people around me, I'm sure, because my knee is still spazzing out, causing me to have to gimp my way down the sidewalk. It was only after the time had passed that Laura contacted me and was like, "Um... I think you might have the wrong theatre," and then it all became clear to me. I felt like an idiot, mostly because I am one.

So I'm going to attempt to go back tonight. The good thing about getting a new ticket is that I actually get to sit down, and for a student price (the other one was standing room only... and when you have to take extensive notes, that doesn't work out so well.) Maybe Harriet Walter will be there tonight :p

*The issues that are making this theatre-going-for-class thing very hard are caused by a glitch in the system (we were told at the theatre induction meeting on Wednesday.) Basically, QMUL decided that they were only going to buy enough tickets for the "actual" QMUL students in the class to get, which means that, because most of the shows are at well-known theatres that sell out in a second, we associate students are not even guaranteed to get a ticket... but you have to see the show to take the class. And if you do actually get a ticket, it's almost always full price, as opposed to the ten of fifteen pounds QM charges you. It's incredibly frustrating, especially because I feel like the "real" students don't understand that, if they don't go on the specific night that QM reserved their tickets, their ticket just sits at the box office, unused, when an associate student who can't see the show otherwise, could use it. When we began our discussion on Julius Caesar this week, only half the class had gone to see it. That means at least six reserved seats sat empty. Ughhhh.
And unfortunately, neither our teacher nor our advisor can do anything about it except apologise. This means that class is pretty much operated under don't ask, don't tell- if you don't see a show, just pretend you did so she doesn't have to kick you out of the class. (Though this can only be taken so far; there are a certain amount of papers that need to be written on specific shows.)
In good news, my home school was offering extremely cheap tickets to a very expensive show that I am required to see, one that has been sold out for months. When I told them I needed the ticket for academic reasons, they said they'd do what they could, but it was still a lottery system. Thankfully, I found out today that I did in fact get the ticket! So now I have tickets for every show that I'm meant to see, however expensive those tickets may have been.

This weekend will be much less exciting than last weekend- I have much homework to do and my room is a mess. As much as I wanted to avoid buying large-ish things that I'll just have to desert when go home, I really need something to organise my papers... they're EVERYWHERE and driving me crazy. I think a group of us might venture out to a museum, though I'm not sure which one, and I want to do a good amount of writing and sign up for the gym. Whoo, hot times at QMUL :p

Quote of the Day: "Why is this so important? Well, because it's the subject of my Ph. D." -my history teacher (possibly not professor)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"If You're in a Tragedy, Don't Drink Anything!"

So I realised that even though I told you about my birthday, I didn't show you! So here are some pictures from the day of my twenty-first:

The package my family sent.

The cool thing about the package (besides all the yummy food and the ostrich) was that it came while I was Skyping with my mom, so she got to see me open it! (She also got to see me go to sit down at my desk, miss my chair, and fall on the floor :p) My friend Laura also made me some delicious chocolate chip cookies!

Outside the gift shop at the Titanic exhibit

My delicious replacement for alcohol! (I've got much less than that left now!)

The best garlic bread in the entire world.

And now for some random pictures I took yesterday:

An ad on the tube that makes me laugh every time I see it.

Poetry on the tube!

Don't you just hate it when your cough is all tickly? :p

I'm almost done with my second week of classes- one more in two parts tomorrow. I had Adaptations today and while really love it, four hours is just a really long time to have a class. But I did have fun today- it was a smaller than usual group, as some sort of sickness seems to be going around and other people had to drop the class, so we had a really good discussion about the play we were reading, starting with dissecting the title and the different connotations it would have today and then going through definitions of words we had to do for homework and finding moments in scenes from the play that matched it. Then after tea we discussed the articles we were supposed to read. As it happens, because our teacher skipped around a bit, I read a few articles too many, but it taught me a lesson, anyway. I had underestimated the amount of reading that needed to be done, thinking it could all be done in one short shot... but as you can see from this list, it was a little too extensive to sanely do in that timeframe.

So while I did get it all read in time, my procrastination meant that I was up until the wee hours of the morning reading and then got up an hour early to finish.. after not being able to fall asleep for a long time and having to be in class at nine. So never again!

I thought the booklets we got for some classes were a little weird, but after using mine, I actually quite like it. Instead of handing us articles to read each week, they're all in the booklet. Not only is it very neatly put together, but this way it's easy to refer to past articles. I found it a very good resource- not to mention that all of the articles we had to read for class today were really interesting (well... save for one.) Here's what my booklet for Adaptations looks like:

And on the inside:

So I'm really finding that handy. I also felt like I could hold my own in the discussion today. I think our orienters kind of exaggerated the differences between the English students and us; they made it sound like our English counterparts would eat us alive in class and we'd feel dumb all the time. But I contributed a good amount to the conversation, got some "that's a really good point"s from my teacher, and made more Shakespeare references than I even knew that I knew (my class loves to reference Shakespeare.) The quote in the title was said in our discussion; since so many people are poisoned in tragedies, we feel it's a good rule to follow in general. So so far, I think I'm doing all right in my classes.

Random fact of the day: here, you don't just call your teacher "professor" because they teach you. In the UK (and perhaps all of Europe), professor is actually the highest rank, and you have to work up to it. So while it's not an insult if you accidentally call your instructor "professor," they like to be called by their proper title (I suppose much like addressing an American professor as "doctor"- they usually correct you and say that they're not a doctor.) So while some of my teacher may be professors, others will fall into the following categories: Lecturer, Technicaly Director, Senior Lecturer, Reader, or Performance Supervisor. Now if I could only figure out which of my teachers fall into which category...

Oh, also... apparently, the weight of another year of life is too much for my body to handle. Halfway through my birthday festivities yesterday, the muscles of my right knee decided to completely spaz out, leaving me hobbling around and unable to climb stairs like I was 121 instead of barely 21. Now they're still quite painful and I don't know what's wrong with me. Getting older is FUN! :p

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Got a Feeling Twenty-One is Gonna Be a Good Year

I turned twenty-one today... scary. I am getting very old.

However, while last year I was very sad to get older, this year I was not so sad. Possibly just because I'm in a different location, possibly because that location is LONDON, and possibly because my friends made the day sound full of prospects. And while last year I wanted to cry, this year's birthday was lots of fun!

I met up with Adrienne and Laura to go to the Titanic exhibit in the O2 Bubble in Greenwich. This was a part of London we'd not been to yet, and it's all spiffed up for (we believe) the Olympics.
I was a little worried that exhibit would be the exact one I saw when it came to Harrisburg in 2006, but while it was similar, the O2 Bubble has a lot more room than the Whitaker Center and so was a lot more elaborate and really interesting (and sad... I want to cry every time I read about the Strausses.)

We had some delicious pizza for lunch, then headed back to school because Laura and I had to go to the theatre induction meeting at 3:30. Out of twenty-five associate students, only five of us showed up. The meeting wasn't terribly interesting or, really, relevant, because an introductory meeting is a littl redundant after a week and a half of classes. At the end, though, the students from the theatre society came in and talked to us about the student run drama group, which sounds like fun. Besides auditioning, I'm going to send in a couple of pieces of writing into them. Then they mentioned off-hand that there were auditions for the Queen Mary Players happening... in ten minutes. So as soon as we were dismissed, I went across the hall to the small theatre and auditioned for the next show, which was a pretty chill, short affair.

Once I returned from that, Adrienne, Laura, and I headed to Covent Garden to Cafe Pizza. If you are ever in London, you MUST go here; they have amazing food. This is the place where we had that amazing garlic bread and desserts and vowed to go back. We again had the delicious bread, but this time got dinner in addition to our dessert... and I won't be surprised if we go back again, because it was fantastic. I think we would have stayed longer than we did, but it was pretty crowded and we were being stared down by a waiter, so we took that as out cue to leave.

To answer the burning 21st birthday question, no, I did not drink, despite the extensive wine list at Cafe Pizza. I am relishing the fact that I am in a country where drinking is old hat by this age and therefore can avoid all of the pointed eyebrows that would wiggle as their wearer asked me, "So... did you have fun last night on your 21st birthday?" However, I did purchase sparkling apple juice from the liquor aisle in the general store and am drinking it frmo a tumbler, so I think that counts. Plus, I still had a ton of homework to do and a 9 am class tomorrow that lasts seven hours, so it wasn't exactly a primary partying night.

So I had a wonderful birthday in London- what a perfect place to celebrate it!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kitchen Adventures, Etc.

Not me

My name is Rachel and I am not domestic. Just putting "Rachel" and "kitchen" together in the same sentence is sure to garner some laughs from those who know me best. However, since my uni doesn't have a meal plan, that requires me to cook unless I want to shell out money three times a day for prepared food at school, I have to sort of learn to cook. I say "sort of" because I know how to make pasta, chicken, potatoes, and cookies (and my cookies can be a little dodgy if I've read the fractions wrong... be very afraid.) That's it. But my mom has just sent me a link of student recipes, so no doubt there will be more entries about my adventures in domesticity.

But we shall focus on two particular instances that occured in one night (Friday night.) I wasn't sure if we would be given dinner when we got to Herne Bay (though it turned out that we did, other people did not, so it was a good plan.) So I turned on the stove to boil some water for pasta, put the pot and water on with some salt, and went back to my room to finish packing. About ten minutes later, I went back to kitchen to find that the water was still sitting there very What the freak? Why wasn't it boiling? It had been sitting there for ten minutes and I could feel the heat from the... oh. The burner next to the one it was sitting on. Oops. So I grabbed the handle of the pot to move it and burned my hand because it had been hanging for ten minutes over the burner that was actually on. I'm super smart.

Burning myself seems to have been my thing this week- when I was cooking chicken in a frying pan the other night, I kept trying to rest my wrists on the edge while flipping it or cutting it to make sure it was done. And this weekend at homestay, I burned a shiny strip across my thumb while straightening my hair. Pain for beauty... and food :p

That same night, Adrienne joined me in the kitchen as I was washing off some of my dishes. The water pressure in the sink I was using was nothing, so I decided to turn it off and heat up some pasta sauce while I waited for it to sort itself out. So I'm taking the sauce out of the microwave when the sink I had been using turned itself on full-blast, the water hitting the basin so hard that it was splattering the floor and walls around it. I put down the bowl of sauce and ran over to try and stop it, but no twisting of the knobs would make any difference. Adrienne and I both stood back and just watched, a little freaked out... and then the other one started doing the same thing! We both attacked a sink, twisting the knobs every way possible (so... two) to try and stop the water, but nothing worked, the water was scalding hot, and we didn't want to get soaked right before we left, so we stepped a safe distance across the wet kitchen and watched as the sinks worked together to spurt water everywhere.

"I think the kitchen's possessed!" Adrienne yelled over the sound of water on metal, and it certainly seemed that way for awhile, but apparently the spirits got it all out of their system a few minutes later, when the water stopped drilling into the sink and the water pressure was nil again... making it just as difficult as before to wash my dishes. :/

In semi-blog related news, I'm ecstatic that The Social Network won a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay (among other things) because that's the first thing I noticed about it when I was watching it on the plane over here- the writing is fantastic. Go see it! This relates to my blog because I would like to sing the praises of Facebook for allowing me to find out about an audition next week in London. Before I came over, I researched a ton of London theatres, subscribed to them on Facebook and Twitter and looked at their audition dates. One subscription on Facebook got me invited to an auditon for a play in which there is actually a part for me! So I'm pretty excited about that :)

One more thing I noticed when I was on homestay- when I'm in conversation with English people, I auto-correct a lot (look at the use of linguistic lingo. Gotta make that terrible class worth something.) Auto-correcting, if you don't know, is when people (women are more prone to it) automatically elevate or change their speech in an effort to make some sort of impression on the person they're talking to. In my case, when I would converse with my host mother and/or her children, I would make a big effort to replace my American vocabulary with British- coach for bus, university for college (and never "school"), tube for subway, football for soccer, etc., and I do that a lot with my English classmates, as well. As I said, this is less in an effort to appear English (considering that my accent sticks out glaringly) than it is an effort to blend in as much as possible and avoid any double-takes during conversation; I just want to have the conversation.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

End of Homestay

We had our last day of homestay this morning and afternoon. Caroline made us an English breakfast- sausages, fried eggs, toast, bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms (though I only had the first three.) Then we went to the bandstand for coffee/hot chocolate.

We were there for about an hour, then I went with Caroline to walk Beji and Adrienne stayed in. I'm glad I went on the walk, because I saw some gorgeous scenery:

After that, Caroline made us some delicious chicken and pasta and garlic bread. Once that was finished... it was time to go. Sad :( I really enjoyed Herne Bay and will definitely go back if I can.

Here are the pics I promised from Canterbury:

The nifty things I got while there:

And now for this weekend's random observations:

-Our host family really did have a cupboard under their stairs.

-Their bathroom was also carpeted.

-Pit bulls are illegal to own because they're only thought of as fighting dogs.

-Trailers (like the ones people live in) are called caravans, and even though there are collections of them, they're quite nice and are not considered trailer parks. It was apparently a fashionable way to live in the fifties.

-Their orange juice (or at least the kind we had) tasted like orange Kool-aid.

-No differentiation is made between Coke and Pepsi- it's all called Coke.

-The guy who makes crepes in the Canturbury shopping area makes them very well. Nutella and coconut... yummm.

-They don't have Groundhog Day here. Caroline was very entertained by our telling of what it was.

That's all for today, everyone!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Homestay in Herne Bay!


First night of homestay was lovely and very relaxed. We left about 5:30 (wearing seatbelts on the coach… I can’t get over that) and arrived in Herne Bay two hours later.

A few things about Herne Bay- it’s given the name “one of the sunniest places in Britain,” not that we saw any of that tonight, as a) it was dark, obviously, and b) it had just finished raining (it was raining so hard back at university that it was going sideways.) Hopefully tomorrow, when we do some sightseeing and shopping, we’ll see this nickname put into play.

The town in located in north Kent on the coast- again, something we didn’t really get to see, but according to our host mother, Caroline, they’re just a three-minute walk from the beach. The town was founded by the Victorians (yay!) and smugglers used to use the beach and the nearby pub (conveniently called The Smuggler) to make trades. Pretty cool for a small-ish town where everyone knows everyone! As I said, we didn’t see much of the town, but what we did see was very nice.

I had eaten a bit of dinner very early in case we didn’t get any when we arrived- nothing worse than being a guest in someone’s home and being hungry but too shy to be like, “OMG FEED ME I’M ABOUT TO EAT MY OWN HAND!” (That generally gives a bad first impression; gluttony and all that.) But we did get dinner, some very yummy lasagna at about nine p.m., which is quite late, but I think late dining might be a European thing. Oh, and Caroline had some chocolate cake for us… mmmm. We played with the dog for awhile (Benji- soooo cute!) and then just hung out in the living room and watched this movie called St. Trinian’s 2- obviously a sequel, but we didn’t have trouble catching on. It was pretty much a typical teen girl movie, but I really liked it- it was very funny with a great cast (including David Tennant, Colin Firth, Talulah Riley,and Gemma Arterton) and I’m seriously considering seeing if I can get a copy of it that will play at home off of the internet.

The house is very small- I think the entire downstairs could almost fit in my living room back home- but it doesn’t really seem like it. There are three bedrooms and a good sized kitchen and bathroom, as well as a dining area and living room downstairs, and I think they’ve got a sun porch in the back. Plus, as Caroline was telling us, she’s redone a lot of it and it’s all really pretty. Caroline has two children- Hannah and Dominic, who both live at home, though they’re out of school. We only saw them briefly, and it seems like Caroline hosts people a lot, so they weren’t terribly excited by our presence :p


Just as good, in fact better, since it was an actual whole day. Adrienne and I got up around 8:30… okay, I’m lying, we were supposed to get up at that time and ended up getting up more around nine-ish, got ready, and had cereal and toast and jam for breakfast. Caroline offered to make us a lunch to take with us on our trip that was scheduled, but since we weren’t sure when we would get to eat (and because I had no bag in which to carry said lunch), we said that we would get it at the location. She insisted we take some “crisps” (chips) with us and asked us if we would like chicken or beef and onion flavoring. Adrienne and I were very confused by these meat-flavored chips- what happened to plain old potato? I ended up choosing the beef and onion and they pretty much taste like mild barbeque chips.

We met up with the school group at ten and the bus headed off to Reculver Towers and Fort, which are Roman ruins about ten minutes away from Herne Bay. Basically, my reaction to this entire day was, “We just don’t have stuff like this in America!” I’ve always known our country is young compared to, well, everything else, but it’s only being in a country so much older for even this long that has proved that to me. Some pictures of the ruins:

As you can tell, it was really windy there, and very cold. I wore a dress and that was a very poor idea, considering the wind. Luckily, my coat was the exact right length to hold my skirt down! We only had about twenty minutes allotted to look/explore the ruins, and while they were cool, it was much too cold to stay there for much longer. I was very impressed by the sea, however. Mavbe it was how high above it we were, but I’ve never seen an ocean that big before.

After we left Reculver, we headed to our next destination, the Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum, and as we drove, we did actually see the sun! It didn’t last long, though- it started to rain by the time we got to the museum.
We only got about an hour at the museum, but that was enough time, as there were only two rooms. It was pretty cool, though- they had a lot of pictures and objects from WWII like gas masks, identification books, gramophones, guns, etc. Oh, and the two huge planes sitting in the middles of the rooms! I enjoyed it immensely, especially since a lot of the stuff were things I included in my WWII-era novel last year.

Once finished there, we headed off to Canterbury for some sightseeing and shopping. As soon as we got there, Adrienne, Laura, and our other friend Deanna got some lunch at the first café we saw, since we were starving. After we were fueled up, we checked out all the cute shops up and down the street.

Caroline had told us that the shops there had much better prices than in London, and she was right! I got a few things, but all for very low prices- I’ll post some pictures once I get back to school tomorrow.
Towards the end of the trip, we went into the Canterbury Cathedral. We had debated whether to go or not, since there was a service going on, which meant that a big part of the cathedral was closed off. In the end, though, we knew we would regret not going in, so we paid the entrance fee and did so. I’m really glad we did- it was beautiful inside and the crypt was suitably creepy (especially accompanied by all the choir music from the service happening above us.) The creepiest part of that room was the fact that there was one particular resting place that was surrounded by small statues: men praying, figures holding books and other random objects, and an angel floating above… and every single head of the smaller statues had been deliberately removed. Creepy.

(I'll post some pictures of this tomorrow when I get back- the internet is being very weird and I don't want to lose this whole entry.)

Once we were finished there, it was time to get back on the bus to head to Herne Bay. We officially met Caroline’s kids, who were very nice, and played a game with Caroline and her son before dinner with everyone. We had roast, Yorkshire pudding (which was not a dessert, despite the title; as it turns out, we had already had the dish on our first night at Queen Mary- the bread bowl type thing with the stuffing ball in the middle), and potatoes, and it was all very delicious with gravy. Oh, and some more of that chocolate cake.
Tomorrow there’s a gathering at the bandstand for us and the host families and we leave shortly after- so soon! It’s been really cool to see a completely different side of England- they try to make sure students do so during their homestay. Then once we go back, it’s time to dive into classes again!