Sunday, November 29, 2009

My favorite time of year!

I love this time of year.  What between Halloween, my birthday (AND Veteran's Day), Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and then New Year's, it's always seemed like it's just straight holidays this time of year, which makes me very happy.  And this year I got an extra one, which involved both fire and fireworks.  It's called Guy Fawkes/ Fireworks Day!

I don't remember if I posted anything about Halloween, but I seem to recall writing about gleefully gutting and carving a pumpkin, so I think I may have posted about Halloween.  In the event I did not, let me know- because there are some funny pictures you should all see.  Suffice to say I'm lucky my flatmates didn't take my rather manic glee at being allowed to carve the pumpkin all alone as a sign that I was definitely sick in the head!  :P  And much fun was had by all.

So we'll move on to my birthday.  First of all, it was during reading week for History.  Reading week can most accurately be described as a whole week's break from one subject of classes.  If you are only in one subject, as most students here are, this means a whole week with no classes during which you sit in your room or the library and study diligently like a good student...

...Yeah.  Right.  And then pigs fly.  So anyway, it was History's reading week, and I had no class on Wednesday, which was ever-so-conveniently my birthday!  YES.  So the night before (we have to go back there) I went over to a friend's flat, and we proceeded to play a game of revenge on her evil boy flatmates who wake her up at 3AM hollering.  It was quite simple, really.  She invited everyone over, and a majority of them being Spanish, a deafening racket was duly accomplished.  Suddenly, at midnight, I looked at my friend Edu and said, "Hey!  It's my birthday!" which of course they all knew already.  He counted to three and by some strange occurence everyone knew that was the queue to sing happy birthday.  So they sang happy birthday to me in the hall at the top of their lungs, punctuated with some good drumming on the walls.  And since I didn't have to be up the next morning I stayed out late and had a grand old time.

The next day I pretty much did nothing.  I mean absolutely nothing.  I must have stayed in my PJ's til after noon, and after my shower I put on other bumming-around-the-flat clothes til I changed for dinner.  My flatmates had told me only, "You should be ready at about 7:45 (I think it was) and wear something nice.  Not too nice, but nice anyway," to which I responded, "Oh, so you mean like my church clothes."  They laughed, and I still don't know why!  But suffice to say that is almost exactly what they meant.  So at 7:45 I was ready to go and we walked to this restaurant with terra cotta colored stucco and a covered porch with a blue door.  Little did my flatmates know that I'd been pining for weeks to try this little place called Abuelo's (that they'd chosen this one place over another Mexican place in town was a special bit of birthday luck!), and little did we know we were about to experience the most legit Mexican food I've had since I got here.  It was very good- I had a margarita and a burrito with guacamole on it.  We ordered chips and salsa too, and here is where the first big shock of the night took place.  That salsa was HOME MADE.  Just like mom's.  I mean... really.  Just like mom's.  Not in the figurative sense, but in the more literal sense.  It tasted (almost) exactly like my mommy's salsa!  I happily dug in and they remarked that it was spicy as I piled it on tortilla chips and munched away like it had been months since I'd had good salsa.

Anyway, dinner was excellent.  They wouldn't let me pay for my part, and they got me a box of chocolate and a beautiful picture frame with pressed roses in it, in which I am going to put a "family picture" of us.  Anneleen got me a little saucepan and a frying pan, she said, so I wouldn't have to always use someone else's.  We were joking about me using everyone else's things to cook with, and I said, "In other words, 'I got you these so you can use them and leave them sitting dirty til they cool without irritating me.'" and we all laughed because of course that was one of the reasons she'd gotten them, besides wanting me to have my own.  We'd had a discussion the week before because I kept leaving people's pans dirty on the side to cool off, because I won't put cold water in a hot pan (though they will!).

At the end of dinner, we went home, chit chatting the whole way.  I was so happy, because ALL my flatmates were all there together.  I love nothing better than to have all my friends in the same place.  It's like all is definitely right in my little world when this occurs, and is in fact the best birthday present of all.  But I was a little bummed I hadn't gotten to do anything with to foreign kids on the night of my birthday, and in fact wouldn't even see them til next week!  But of course I'd just had good food and I had my flatmates- so I really wasn't that bummed out.  And I reckoned I'd just go home, drink some hot chocolate, and go to bed.  Perfect end to a perfect day.  We even talked about it on the way home.  Anna said, "I think it's time for hot chocolate," and I agreed wholeheartedly as we walked in the door.  I went to open my bedroom door to throw down my stuff when all of my flatmates began acting suspiciously.  By suspiciously I mean they had all bunched up in the hall and were looking at me.  I looked at Anna and arched one eyebrow at her and she said, "I think maybe you should open the door..." and I laughed, because of course I'd just heard a chorus of "SHHH!  *giggle*" coming from in the living room.  I believe I said something like, "Oh my gosh, you didn't!" which is really rather typical.  I couldn't think of something less cliche'd to say?  Honestly!

So I opened the door, and about 30 people shouted "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" and started singing to me, and Nerea, who is probably the one I'm closest to, just about tackled me giving me a hug.  I don't believe I stopped grinning for the entire evening.  I had no idea they were all going to be there!  And they were ALL there (except for one who was in London with his mates).  They'd all signed a card and there was a cake and I honestly don't remember what I wished for.  But I blew out the candles and then DID go and chuck everything in my room.  From (I swear) thin air, they had all conjured like 5 cakes and several bottles of wine (good wine, or... good for Uni kids on budgets.  Not the nasty cheap kind, anyway) and even something that was quite reminiscent of champagne and indeed may have been.  We had fun and eventually took what Nerea also calls a "family photo".  It was pretty epic, and I'm gonna go ahead and send it even though you can see some of that aforementioned alcohol crowding up one corner.  We had to set the camera on the microwave and set the timer, which was PRETTY funny.

Mmmmkay.  I'm sorry it's big, but I wanted you to be able to see everyone.  I want to point out my flatmates and Nerea, but I'm not naming everyone else because there's a ton of them.  So, in that first row behind me you'll see four girls sitting.  On the left of these girls, next to the guy in the red shirt, that's Nerea (Spain, of course!).  Then next to her is Nuriya (red and grey shirt, Kazakh), Anneleen (red shirt, Belgian), Anna (black and multi-colored shirt, English), then Faustine (black shirt, silver necklace, French) and on Faustine's other side is Alex (she's wearing blue and is standing).  I believe we counted and in this group, there are over ten countries represented.  It's utterly insane!  I love it.  It was probably one of the most memorable birthdays I've ever had in my life.  For a whole two hours, I got to have everyone I know and love here in One Place where I could be with all of them.  And I had no idea it was going to happen!  The Spaniards had gone to lengths to subtly and completely convince me that they wouldn't see me!  Which is really pretty amazing when you think about it, because I'm usually pretty good at detecting when someone is lying, but they were so SUBTLE about it, I just hadn't the foggiest clue.  And I didn't expect my flatmates would be able to get ahold of any of my other friends, cause the two groups really never interract.  I didn't reckon on Faustine, who contacted Attila, (The Hungarian.  Yes, laugh, go ahead.  Everyone does.  Yes, that's really his name, and yes, he is really Hungarian.) who contacted EVERYONE else.  What a group!

It's funny, because I've reached the point where I really just want to come /home/, now, please, but I can't imagine not seeing my crew at least once a week.  Even when I don't see them, I know they're there.  And I can't believe that one day in June we're going to have one last gathering and then all go our seperate ways, and it won't ever be the same again.  It makes me want to spend every second I can with them.  Unfortunately we've all just been slammed with homework so I haven't seen them lately, but I'm setting something up this week, if I have to further deprive myself of sleep to do so.  What's a little sleep lost when it's taken up by time with friends?

But, my waxing sentimental aside, it is indeed 12:30AM, and I'm sleep deprived (I really, really am.).  So I should probably be making some attempt to get to bed!  I'll fill you in on the other holidays (I had Thanksgiving twice.  Yep.)  including Guy Fawkes Day later on!  Hopefully with more pictures, but it's all gone completely INSANE these last few weeks of semester, so this may be the last you hear of me til about Christmas.

As always, much love to you all!  I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

So, about those updates...

I instituted this new rule about updating my blog here.  I can't do it until I've updated my paper blog.  So THAT is what took me so long.  As a result, a lot has happened since the last time I updated.  But I'm going to start updating the paper journal regularly, so I can update this too.  Sorry for the wait!

I'll just pick an arbitrary starting point somewhere near my last update: Castleton.  Castleton is a wee town a bit from here through the Peaks (The Peak District) and it's very nice.  We went there to explore the area around, and climbed some hills and had ourselves a great time, and took some pictures.  Actually, I took a ton of photos.  But I always do.

This is Castleton from the top of one of the hills we climbed.  The castle is there at the top of that darker green field in the upper center of the picture.  It's not that big of a castle, but it's still cool!

This is the castle!  Pretty cool.  We don't have /these/ at home!

We're all resting because this hill nearly killed us.  Well, that may be a little melodramatic, but it was a pretty serious hill.  I am not fond of all the hills, but eh.  The scenery was pretty!

One of my friends and I decided that we'd split off from the group to avoid further hill climbage, and ended up walking through this neat little mini-forest.  It had some flowers, even this late in the summer!  I whipped out my camera and took some macro pictures which I'm quite fond of- this is one of them.  Aren't they pretty flowers?

This is the forest!  It was so pretty- so much of the Peaks is that I really feel I may have wandered inadvertently into a fairy tale or a movie.

We also found the bones of a dead sheep.  I immediately took photos, and while I quite like them, I reckon not everyone might feel that way, so I'll spare you.  I do, however, have all the Castleton pictures up on Flickr, which you can get to by clicking on the following link:

We also went and listened to salsa music (I think it was salsa music) at a place in town called Cubana.  I was looking through the menu and found something funny!

This place didn't have just any kind of bourbon.  No, they had /Blanton's/ bourbon!  I wonder if we're related...

Umm, so now I'm going to skip to Halloween because the only things in between this and Halloween are two more family pictures that y'all don't need pictures of, really, since they look like all the other family dinners!

First, my favorite pictures from Halloween.  Note the look of manic glee on my face as I stab the pumpkin.  Boy did I ever have fun carving that pumpkin, and now we have seeds to eat!  And the pumpkin looked pretty cool.  Probably the best bit of carving I've ever done, anyway.

I'm not a psycho, honest!  I was taking off my jewelry in preparation for ripping the guts of the pumpkin out.  Anneleen and Alex and Anna were all helping!  But the only one in this photo is Anneleen.

I am ridiculously proud of the result, which is lit by the flashlight (called a torch here) which Pop gave me.  Don't worry, I wrapped it in a plastic baggie first so it wouldn't get all icky!  I worked a charm!

So, all my friends were zombies or... whatever Nerea and Carmen are.  I was a cowboy.  I wore my bright rainbow shirt, jeans, and my belt from Philmont.  I stuck out like a sore thumb, but we all found it really amusing.  I also really feel like I ought to account for that pear cider I'm holding- I had a few sips, and Julie (the girl on my right) had most of it.  Clearly, haha.

Today we had a family dinner!  Anna made a whole Sunday Roast pretty much with no help.  Okay, we chopped vegetables, and cleaned up afterwards.  But she did all the hard work.  I contrived to cut my finger.  Take a corner off my totin' chip!

I love this picture because we're all looking at Anna, who is doling out the food.  Vultures much?  I THINK SO!  The food was fantastic, I don't think I'm eating the rest of the day.  Unless someone left a Yorkshire pudding, but I bet they didn't.  On that note, I don't know why it's called a Yorkshire pudding.  It's a pastry.  And it's delicious.

This is the roast.  Most of it y'all'd know.  The only things I can think you wouldn't is the Yorkshire Pudding (that's that hollow cup looking pastry in the bottom of the plate) and the french fry looking thing, which is in fact parsnip.  They were chopped up and then fried in sunflower oil.  I think they were my favorite thing of the whole whole meal.

 Also, since I know maybe some of you were wondering if I was over my blasted sickness yet, the answer is yes and no.  My asthma is better, pretty much.  I have an inhaler I use every day that works, unlike the last one which was not working.  I was in the doctor's office two or three times the past week- once to get the new asthma medication, once to see a nurse and be told, "It's a virus, come back if it gets worse" (even though there were white spots on my tonsils and it was so clearly not a virus) and to go back to the same (brilliant) nurse only to have her say, "Oh, you probably got a bacterial infection on top of the virus."  Honey, it hadn't been viral since before I came to see you.  But thanks for that.

Anyway, long (frustrating, annoying) story short, I'm on antibiotics now and already feel loads better.  I'm almost back to normal!  After a month and a half of this nonsense, all I have to say is "About dang time!"  Thank goodness!

And there you have it!  An update!  For anyone who'd like to start following my Flickr pictures, (where I post a lot of the pictures that don't have my friends from Facebook in) I can be found heeeere:

I was also thinking it would be nice to update this thing with maybe stuff y'all really want to know, so if there's anything you're just dying to know about England or my life in general, let me know!  And I'll try to remember to answer questions either as I get them or in updates.

Have a good day!  (The "day" is already gone here, it being after 5:30.  Yeah, that's right, the sun sets that early.  And it will get earlier!)