Sunday, February 28, 2010

I promise it's not a novella.

I know, I know. It’s been forever and I fail at life. I got behind again, too bad.

Let me recap, though.

The long-anticipated VIKING FESTIVAL in York has come and gone. Last Saturday, Casey and I got ourselves up obnoxiously early. (I may or may not have just decided not to sleep after my homework was finished around 4:30a in order to watch three episodes of The Vampire Diaries. May or may not, you decide.) We had Megabus tickets from London to York - they have Megabus here, but only kind of. Arriving at St. Pancras Station with ample time, neither Casey nor myself can stand being late, we were free to enjoy an apricot tart from the mean people that work at Paul making the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.

We sit with a view of the doorway that our bus is excepted to arrive at - we both checked things out online, map and all. About 15 minutes before our bus is supposed to leave, we decide we had better ask someone because we haven’t seen it yet. We search for a ticket counter (and a trash can), we finally find the Megabus ticket counter upstairs in front of train platforms, with a sign that says “MegaBus passengers you’re train departs from these platforms”? MegaBUS . . . TRAIN PLATFORMS . . . uhhhhhhh . . . we now have 10 minutes (still haven’t found a trash can, by the way). After speaking to the polite lady behind the desk we learn the truth: in order to take Megabus from St. Pancras, at least in order to take it to York, you have to take a train from St. Pancras to the East-Mid Highlands and get on the bus there. 5 minutes before we’re supposed to leave, thanks for telling us So, needless to say, we get on the train.

After much laughter, and a few strange look since it took us 10 minutes to figure out we had jumped onto the quiet coach, our train is speeding through greater England headed towards York, and apparently going through the tundra because - 30 minutes outside of London - it was snowing. East-Mid Higlands (or whatever the place is called) finally arrives, we exit the bus under two smoke stacks that look like nuclear reactors and see 4 buses lined up beside a field.

Our 4 minute layover, or transfer rather, permits us to use the rest room and jump on the bus. We’re stuck in the front seat. Oh well, we’re pretty sure we’re on the right bus to York. More time passes, I sleep mostly, and eventually we’re dropped off in the parking lot of a 24-hour Tesco in York. (Please note that the aspect of this moment that generated the largest response was not that we were in a parking lot in a distant town, but that is was a 24-hour Tesco. Priorities.) Navigating the local bus proves easier than expected, and before we know it, we are in our hotel room. Travel, a success.

Our first Viking activity of the weekend was titled “Boat Burial & Vale Hoard.” We naturally assumed, even after skimming event descriptions, that we had bought tickets to watch a boat be sunk, or something . . . hopefully with flames and then see lots of cool, old treasure. WRONG. Our tickets were to two of the nerdiest lectures I’ve ever attended. “Boat Burial,” concerning an anthropological dig in the Orkney Islands. They discovered a boat with remains of a man, an elderly woman, and a child. The geeky lady was interesting. “Vale Hoard” spotlighted a British Museum employee reading his notes about the cups and saucers they’ve gathered WORD-FOR-WORD (Please, if any one reading this ever speaks in public, even to a room of viking dorks, don’t do it. Just don’t.) I would go into more detail, but I feel asleep.

In the midst of my sleeping, however, I did not miss the best moment of the two or so hours we sat listening. Upon the first slide of the boat popping up, a man in the front with lots of facial piercings exclaiming “AHHHHHHH” in the most sensual voice possible. I had to repeatativly conjure images of Richard Nixon to control my laughter. Sharing with Casey that this was my go-to image when wanted to regain composure, however, generated more laughter. I have to find a new image. I also managed to get a glimpse of a man who was the twin of the dwarf from Lord of the Rings.

I don’t know his name. (Casey does. She also knows the titles and basic melodies to tracks on the soundtrack, which appropriately or not was also the soundtrack chosen by those that run to Jorvick center to provide background music for the weekend’s events.)

Lectures complete. We grabbed pasties (never accidentally call them pastries to a York man, he will glower at you) and strolled through the town - York is adorable, GO! - before our last scheduled event of the evening, a town tour with a viking!

Our viking tour guide was about as far from Eric Northman as you can get. The grungy old man, a self-proclaimed writer shared that when he was giving tours at another festival at another town, he had never been there until he got off the train 2 hours before his premier tour. Sparing unnecessary details, the tour was dull and he was strange. (Though those on it with us were a mixture of even duller and stranger, one boy wearing multiple wounds in true viking festival fashion would appear in random places throughout the rest of the weekend.)

Tour done. We found tables in York’s famous, and supposedly haunted, Golden Fleece pub and ate dinner. Casey made friends with mead.

Dinner done, we were tired and needed snacks. Sainbury’s provided not only Fox’s biscuits, but also a texting buddy for Casey. His name is Tom, he’s very good-looking, and until we learned his last name I seriously suspected it to be Sainbury, for he must obviously be the son of the store’s CEO or CFO, making him Casey’s new, fabulously wealthy England love. (Sad confession, this is false. His last name is Gardner, or something generic like that.)

The second day of the viking festival yielded even more pleasure. We entered the tent to get fake battle wounds, but chickened out and got braids instead.

After the strings were tied, however, we looked at each other, regained our gusto and got battle wounds instead.

More wandering ensued, though we looked a little odd when we got out of the immediate viking areas. Apparently York is a popular shopping destination, and a town full of beautiful men. There were people there not for the festival, imagine that.
(See my Facebook Profile Picture if you desperately need an image of this.)

We watched the vikings prepare to march to the battle field. A lovely site in the nice English sun.

We then went to check out the beard competition and were terribly disappointed. An ice cream come, chips, and Strongbow, however, managed to fill our time as we awaited the final battle of the weekend: a recreation of battle at the York racetrack fields (horses nor cars) completely with boat burning! Our only worry was that we wouldn’t be able to catch it all before we had to jump onto our train.

More Lord of the Rings music and a weakly narrated video, and the first staged battle was done. It was a smaller scirmish really, but it was all right. Fire jugglers performed next. However, time quickly passed - and York quickly became a frozen tundra as we stood still in an open field - and it was time for us to board our train. (Just a train this time, not a MegaBus-train-to-bus.)

The train to London meant sleeping for me, homework/Sookie Stackhouse for Casey. Don’t get us wrong, we have lots of work here and really attempted to be productive while traveling. I can’t help it that most moving vehicles lull me to sleep. Casey can’t help it that tales of Sookie and Bill are inherently more interesting that those of an Irish boy and Buddhist priest roaming through India (No offense Javeed, we still love you.).

We arrived safely back at Nido, spent some time recounting our tales to Erica, and then slept. Traveling for the weekend was not over, because we had the NYU trip to Oxford the next day. Buses were leaving at 8:45am on the dot.

I woke up at 8:40a, though I hadn’t managed to shower the night before, I had luckily managed to wash the fake blood off my face. My reading came with me, but I fell asleep on the bus and woke up in the center of academia - OXFORD.

I had no idea what to think of Oxford before going. I had heard about it, but never seen it. The images in my head were, therefore, rough sketches of buildings with columns, at best. After spending the day there, my only comment was, why do I go to NYU?

The cost of an Oxford education is the same, normally less, than that of NYU. Something is inherently wrong with the world. . . . Good thing I haven’t ruled out getting a PhD yet . . .

With the week resuming, and travels finally over for the weekend. I then proceeded to lock myself up to my books until now - aside from seeing a spectacular production of Measure for Measure and a pretty interesting play called Off the Endz, they were both class performances I had to attend. Now I am on a train, again, headed to Shrewsbury to spend the weekend with strangers through a program called HOST. A freshman, Cindy, and I have been paired with a couple, the Brown’s, to spend the weekend at their home, encouraging culture exchange. I’m excited and nervous. But their town is small, their house is also the town post office, and they have 2 cats, and it’s a real bed and not the tiny Nido dorm, so I think I’ll be okay until Sunday evening.

I apologize for the obnoxious length both of time since my last real post and of this particular novella I’ve spat out on the train. Rest assured my abroad program is not academic BS. I had to papers due this week, one next week, one the next, a week off, and one more before spring break. I have a large stack of books to read too. Though I am caught up on everything right now, rest assured I will be chained again.


And now I’m on another train, headed back to London from Shrewsbury. I am stuffed full on homemade bread, cakes, lamb roast, veg, and enough tea to fill the Great Lakes. Cindy and I stayed with the Brown’s. They run the post office and town shop and have two cats.

Saturday we toured the town of Shrewsbury.

It’s a picturesque mid-evil town, with lots of history. Charles Darwin was born there, attending primary school in what is now the public library. Boys have carved their initials into the wood siding, some of the carvings date back to the 1770s. Funny how little boys don’t seem to change.

Today we went to the town of Craven Arms. Don’t let the cool name fool you, though. It’s basically a main street and a tourist/discovery center. The center has a lot of interesting information, though. There are lots legends concerning the hills that make up Shropshire.

Apparently I giant had a bunch of rocks he wanted to throw at the town in his belt and they fell out, creating neat piles. That’s one story at least. Another is that it really is the devil’s chair, and he sits there at night, once a year calling all the local witches together to choose a leader. He always watches people during cloudy days when he’s out of view. I prefer the first story.

Shropshire country side is lovely. It’s Bronte England, with moors and looming hills and clouds that could bring together the likes of Catherine and Heathcliff.

Back to London, though. A paper due Tuesday and one to draft on Wednesday. Ballet on Tuesday, a play on Wednesday, and Advanced Jazz on Thursday. A weekend devoted to Indian literature, Shakespeare, and paragraph structure. 3 weekends until spring break & only 1 more super productive weekend until two friends from the states arrive. Listing it all like that makes it seem regimented. It’s either dutiful school work, a time allotted activity, or playing host. It’s not. There’s time to ramble the streets and just be in there. There always is, otherwise I’d need more than one mid-semester weekend with 2 cats and a large comfy bed to keep my sanity . . . the new Lady Antebellum album certainly helps.

xoxo & cheers,

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