Friday, February 27, 2009

Make 'Em Laugh

You know the guards that never laugh? Ever? It's a lie. Last week we took a trip to Windsor Castle, home of those Merry Wives and the Queen on weekends -- we just missed her. But we did take a long walk through the State Apartments to see how royal visitors are treated. Good thing I'm emotionally attached to my bunk bed or I might have been a little jealous. We also saw Queen Mary's dollhouse, which was kind of like a super-sized barbie house with fully-functioning plumbing and real silver dining sets. It looked pretty fun to play with. We stopped exploring long enough to watch the Changing of the Guard -- a lot of marching and moving around, with loud soldier-yells that don't really sound like words. Then the band started playing the Austin Powers theme. The best part was after all of that, though, when we went to take a picture with one of those stone-faced guards with the tall funny hats. A few of us hurried and exchanged cameras, then took our turn standing by him. I felt bad for the guy, he was surrounded by tourists just running up to him and standing like a soldier while cameras constantly flashed at him. When it was my turn I ran up beside him and struck some random pose while I stared up at him. He looked down at me from the corner of his eye, and his mouth totally twitched. Once I saw he was actually breakable I was determined to see him laugh. All of us took turns posing with him and being stupid, and before long I heard him snort -- yep, he snorted -- and finally, he was laughing. It's a well-known fact that when someone laughs, you just laugh with them...but for some reason that happens SO much more when it's a big guard who's not even supposed to smile. You can see the smile, which almost gets my point across...but I really wish you could have heard him snort. Donald O'Connor would have been proud.
P.S. Melissa and I are fully aware that we match way too much here. This seems to happen a lot.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


"Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still."
-Dorothea Lange

Friday, February 20, 2009

No Boys Allowed

Valentine's Day was a little unique this year, and definitely one of my favorites. Everyone just embraced the fact that it will probably be the only Valentine's Day we spend with 39 other girls (hopefully), and ran with it. When we toured war tunnels in Dover a few girls picked up a 40s dance music cd, which inspired their brilliant idea of our "Operation V-Day" 1940s party. We all dressed up 40s-style and had a party that never even needed boys for a second. First everyone wrote down an awkward / cute / random / really awkward boy-story and then tried to guess who wrote what. That definitely got a lot of laughs and gave us some good material to make fun of each other with. Our professor and his wife came to that part of the party, and I'm pretty sure they don't look at us the same anymore. They had a good time though, and they gave us each a rose and chocolate which was way sweet. We drew names so that everyone was someone's Valentine (cute) and then our dining room was transformed into a dance floor; the 40s music only lasted about 20 mintues before Beyonce took over with "All the Single Ladies." That song was close to all of our hearts that day. We ended the night watching "The Notebook," which was good for the 40s theme but bad for the effort of making us not miss boys. Jk.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Crossing the Border

"He either said 'Go to the back of the throat' or 'I want a root beer float!'" Dory had it right. The language of Wales is definitely hard to understand. That was probably the first thing I noticed when I got there and saw all of the crazy Welsh signs. They have a major shortage of vowels. That was the first of many differences I had fun noticing during our 3 days in the country. The people, the language, and just the whole feeling of it was such a change from London. Our first stop was a sort of museum of a Celtic Village. It was made to feel the same way it felt hundreds of years ago, and we spent a couple hours just walking around and exploring. There were some huge cows there. And a huge castle. It was a very serene place, I'm still having a hard time processing just how old things are here. After the village we started our drive through Wales. We drove, and drove, and drove. And drove. At least there were hundreds of sheep that look exactly the same to make the drive less boring. Ok, actually they didn't help very much with that, but the scenery definitely did. I saw mountains! Not exactly my Utah mountains, but they deserved to be more than hills and they had snow on them -- beautiful. We stopped at Castle Coch and toured all of the refurnished rooms. I found a room for kids where you could learn how to color a picture like the tiles all over the castle walls. Yes, I colored two of them. Tony finally pulled up to our home for the night in Cardiff -- my first hostel. It was a little weird, I'm not gonna lie. The people were so friendly, though. That was true for every place we stopped at in Wales; I loved talking to cab drivers and shop workers and all the people with great accents that have lived there all their lives.
The next day had just as much driving, maybe more, but sometimes that's my favorite part. We went to the Island of Anglesey in North Wales to tour a castle and spend the night at an old and super interesting hotel. Beaumaris Castle was one of my favorite sites so far -- we found the stone chapel and my professors (both are former members of the tabernacle choir) started leading us in singing hymns. The sound carried all through the castle, and girl after girl started finding us and coming inside. Soon almost everyone was there, singing each girl's favorite hymn. Tourists from other groups stopped to listen, and all of us felt something there that's hard to explain. By the time we had to leave we realized we didn't explore the castle very much at all, but no one regretted it. That night we stayed at a beautiful hotel, with way cute owners. They were so excited to have us there, and took us on a tour of Beaumaris that night (even though everything in that little town closed at 5:30). Definitely a big change from the hostel. Janna and I woke up early to walk along the semi-ocean and see more of the town before leaving. Our next stop was Chester, such a cute town! Definitely the friendliest Europeans so far. One more cathedral, one more abbey, then one more long drive and we were back to the good old London Centre. I loved being able to visit Wales for as long as we did, and I loved touring places where my dad served his mission. I'm already looking forward to the night when he gets out his well-used atlas and traces out my trip with me, and it's safe to say that oreos and milk will be involved :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Signs for Strugglers

I have a new obsession. Lately I've been noticing that the UK is full of funny warnings -- not your typical "watch your head" or "step up" that I'm used to, but a much more... specific kind of help. You can't really go anywhere without having to "mind" something; on the Tube you have to "mind the gap" (the space between the subway train and the platform), in the stores you have to "mind the step," on lifts you have to "mind the closing doors,"... you get the point. That was kind of funny at first, but now I have new love for the more visual kind of warnings. Here's the first one that made me laugh:

After this one I started seeing them all over. Each of them make me stop, laugh, take a picture, then wonder what happened to make that sign necessary. Here's some more, in case you find them as funny as I do!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Castles, Cliffs and Cathedrals

Our last trip down to Dover and Canterbury was definitely a full day. I feel like I saw too much to just tell you about -- so the pictures are going to take this one.
The White Cliffs of Dover

Dover Castle -- built in 1066, then built a little more in 1179.
Underneath is a maze of secret tunnels, expanded by prisoners
in the Napoleonic wars, and then by soldiers in WWII. This
is the command post of the famous evacuation of Dunkirk. I tried
my hardest to imagine all these things actually happening there
as I walked through the tunnels, but it was almost surreal.

Ignore the big red thing and then
it's cooler.

Outside Canterbury Cathedral

The cathedral was beautiful!

"The candle burns where the SHRINE of St. THOMAS of CANTERBURY stood from 1220 to 1538 when it was destroyed by order of King Henry VIII."
This candle is never supposed to stop burning.
Thomas Becket was Henry VIII's best friend growing up, and Henry gave Thomas church authority, thinking that it would allow him to have more rule of the church if his friend was in power. History's common story took its common course -- someone who put their friend in a position of power doesn't exactly get what they planned on. When Henry realized his friend had changed his allegiance from the court to the Church, he exclaimed, "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?" It's unclear what his true meaning was, but some of his followers took it literally and went to Canterbury Cathedral to find Thomas. He knew they were coming but refused to lock the doors, saying that he would never stop anyone from entering the House of the Lord. The men entered, tried to get him to come outside, and Thomas was killed inside the church during the tormenting. It's unclear if it was a murder or accident, or if it was the King's true intent -- the memorial to Thomas will always be there, no matter what the true story is.

This house is "wonky," meaning not straight. This happens when they build the house with new wood, and then it changes shape as it dries out. I love the door!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Life at the London Centre

Here it is, 27 Palace Court -- the BYU London Centre. There are 40 girls living here, so I perfectly understand the girl, whoever she is, that wrote on the bottom of my bed: "Find a fortress of solitude...and use it often." With so many girls packed into one place it's definitely hard to be alone, but it's also hard to get bored. We have class on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Wednesdays are our day trips, and weekends we just play. Actually...we kind of just play everyday. It's a sort of cleansing experience here for all of us -- no jobs, no boys, no phones, no keys (thank goodness for doors with codes, losing my keys is one of the things I definitely haven't missed yet). It's definitely a unique living situation, but we're all loving it. We eat breakfast everyday at 7:30, then meet together each night at 4:45 for Evensong. This is where our professors give us announcements, someone gives a mini-devotional, we pray, and sing our Evensong that Dr. Durham (our Fine Arts professor) wrote for us. I'm loving it here, even with the random mice-sightings (ew) and the overstock of Nutella. Our classroom is right below our dorms, so it's nice to just wake up and go to class. I guess it's the closest I'll ever get to experiencing homeschool. The only downside was the day when London got some crazy snow, so everything shut down, including the schools -- but our professors didn't really agree with us when we felt like we should have a snow day, too. Our 3 professors live in the flat next door to us, which is connected to ours. Downstairs we have a servery, a dining room, a drawing room and a library. I'll let you guess which one is empty the most. There are books in the drawing room with pictures of all the London groups that have come to the centre since it opened, and girls have had fun showing each other friends, siblings and even parents that have studied here at the London Centre at one time or another. There are some days when it feels like we've lived here forever, or days when I wonder what it felt like to live in a room by myself instead of with 13 other girls...but mostly, there are just days when I still can't believe I'm here.