Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The One With All The Jokes

"How did the man become Thor? He forgot to thtretch."

I never know how to open blog posts so I cunningly have side-stepped my dilemma with a joke. Hope you laughed as much as I did.

So I haven't blogged in a while. I keep getting into the rut of not blogging for ages and then doing never-ending blog posts that are far too long to read. I'm sorry. 

Before I begin, however, I can't believe I'm saying this, but in four days I will be moving to Durham to study English Literature this October. It still hasn't properly sunk in that I will actually be going to uni, nevertheless Durham, but I'm so excited for the challenges and experiences that it will bring! No doubt there will be many more blog posts to come with Uni stories!

My summer started on the 7th of June, after an intense two day exam period. Whenever I told people that I only had two exams, and that they were on the 6th & 7th, I was met with intense jealousy and stories of millions of exams spread over decades. But there we go. Definitely a pro of taking Arts subjects!

My first big excursion was to Holland, to visit Anne-Mai, an old friend from Nepal. I know I go on about Nepal sometimes, which my Brownies kindly reminded me of on Pack Holiday, but my childhood is a big part of who I am. Some people forget that I have spent more of my life in Nepal than in Wales, and therefore will have a big impact on the way I view things. It was really nice to be able to talk through cultural differences with someone who had a similar childhood to me, who can relate to growing up with shoot-to-kill strikes and bomb drills and fun things like that. 

So anyway, Holland. I absolutely loved experiencing the Dutch culture, which is completely stereotypical; cycling, Stroopwaffels, flatness, cheese, more cycling, canals, double decker trains, etc. Straight after we arrived at Anne-Mai's house from the airport we went on a family cycle trip, which was tiring but foreshadow of how the week would pan out! I must've toned up a bit with all the cycling we did. I definitely think the Dutch are onto something; I didn't see a fat person all week, which is more than I can say for Bridgend!

I also, however, experienced the less savoury side of Dutch culture by visiting Amsterdam. Just to clarify, it is a beautiful city, which I will hopefully demonstrate in my pictures, but the drug culture really puts a damper on the mood in the city (well, not for the people on drugs I suppose!)

The first major culture shock was walking past 'coffeeshops'. To anyone who hasn't heard of this phenomenon, basically cannabis is legal for 18+ in Holland, and they have 'coffeeshops' which don't actually sell coffee, but weed. It was just crazy to walk past them and think that it is perfectly legal, and in Amsterdam, almost celebrated to get high. 

The amount of weed memorabilia was insane; tops with cannabis cartoon characters, cannabis lollypops, literally anything that you can print a logo on. To top it all off, we went in a shop which had a sign on the counter that said 'Do a line, 5 Euros' and had some form of legal cocaine substitute right there in a pepper shaker. Insane.

*Joke Break to lighten up the somber mood* 
Knock Knock!
Who's there?
Hula who?
*End Of Joke Break. Please don't despair, there is a happy ending.*

I also walked through the red light district. Again, for people who don't know, this is some streets in Amsterdam where there are big glass windows with a neon red light above it, and a prostitute stands behind the window, waiting for her next customer. 

I literally could not believe it when I walked past. Although friends had told me about it, to actually walk past it all was absolutely crazy. After passing the first window I was literally gaping and repeatedly gasping 'whaaaaaaaaat?!' and Anne-Mai had to remind me to keep walking and stop staring.

Apart from all this, though Amsterdam was absolutely gorgeous. I loved walking up and down the canals, looking in the quirky little shops and art studios, perusing market stalls (in one I bought vintage Twinings tins!) and chilling in actual coffee shops. It was so rich in culture, and it was so interesting to talk to various people and listen to buskers along the way. 

We also got to walk past Anne Frank's house, which was completely mind-boggling and humbling. Unfortunately the queue was too long to go inside, but to see the house in real life was amazing. 

Whilst we were traipsing around Leidseplein, a guy approached us. He quickly introduced himself as 'Dez' in a strong Scouse accent and proceeded to try and entice us to go on an organised pubcrawl. He was all like 'You'll be partying wi' me' (as if that would be an incentive to sign up!) I was clearly uninterested and made it very clear on my face, as I'm not the best about being subtle with my expressions when I don't like something. 

Anne-Mai, however, being the smily, friendly girl she is, asked him questions about it, which prompted a 10 minute conversation about details and meeting places etc. After he finally moved on to his next victims, I asked Anne-Mai if she actually wanted to go, to which she replied 'Noooo! Of course not!' Evidently we have different ways of dealing with people that we want to go away.

Apart from our Amsterdam day, the rest of my trip was quite uneventful but lovely. We talked a lot, cooked pancakes, had a painting day, listened to hipster music, visited her school in Utrecht, played boardgames and cycled. 

I won't bore you with a detailed explanation of the rest of my summer, so instead, here is the last 3 and a half months in a nutshell.

Prom. Spray tan. Plane. Holland. Waffles. Plane. Painting fences. Back-to-back episodes of The Renovation Game/Motorway Cops. Tea. Painting dining room chairs. Tea. Painting Lydia's wardrobe. Baking. Brownie Pack Holiday. Painting more fences. Heatwave. Camp 3. Bala. Sweet Fellowship. Family camping. Tents. Loud drunken Scousers. Aber. Curry. Sister Mary. Lighthouse. Results day. Crying. Driving test. Jubilation. The Lorax. Uni Paperwork. Reading list. Robinson Crusoe. Parent trap dance. Balloons filled with paint. Paddleboarding. Gloucester. Friends. Minute mysteries. Dunelm Mill. 18th. More friends. Packing. Goodbyes.

So there we go. It'll be sad to leave, but I'm really looking forward to starting a new chapter of my life! Cheeeeeesy. 

I'll leave you with my master plan of How To Make Friends In Uni. 

Step 1: Make them chai tea lattes with my new milk frother.
Step 2: Give them cake.
Step 3: Tell them jokes like: 

Me- Knock Knock!
New Super Cool Uni Friend-Who's there?
Me-Little old lady
Other New Super Cool Uni Friends joining in-Little old lady who?
Me- I didn't know you could yodel!
*New Super Cool Uni Friends hysterically laugh*

I think I'll be just fine.

Story behind this photo: I took a photo of the cheese as I was passing, armed with my Stroopwaffel,  saying loudly 'ooooh cheese!' This guy was like 'have a picture with the cheese!' Typical tourist photo.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Liebster Award aka 11 Things You Probably Don't Want To Know About Me

So today my good friend Jemimah, who can be found on her lovely blog here, nominated me for a 'Liebster Award'. I'm not trying to devalue the award or anything, but it's more a 'Here's an idea for another blog post you can do' kind of thing, rather than 'Wow, your writing is so fantabulous that I just have to award you!'

Basically, the 'award' gets you to write 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions set my your nominator, and then nominate 11 people yourself and give them 11 new questions. As you may know, I did a '10 facts about me' sort of post when I started on the bloggersphere, but I suppose my life has changed a bit since then. So here goes.

11 Facts About Me That You Probably Don't Want To Know

1) I am 17 years old, and the youngest person in my year. I am actually meant to be in the year below, so this fact is cheating a bit.

2) I am 1 of 5 children, 4 of whom are girls. I love being the eldest girl, because being bossy is pretty much expected of me.

3) A llama spat on my face when I was about 12. I know I said this one in my last list of facts, but I think it is worthy enough for a second list.

4) I am currently learning to drive, but I was held up a bit since my last instructor was a criminal and I didn't know it. Long story.

5) Linked to the last point, I have failed my theory test twice. Did you know that was possible? Nope, I didn't either.

5) There are two number 5's in this list. Hahahaha made you look.

7) I drink milk like an alcoholic drinks wine. That's a clumsy way of saying that I drink a lot of milk.

8) I have a growing obsession with One Direction. There, I've said it. Please don't judge me. I know half of you are closeted Directioners really! But T-Swizzle is still my no. 1 :)

9) I like tea. A lot. I can't remember the last time that I didn't have at least one cup in the day. My favourite is Twinings English Breakfast, but my dad only gets that when it's on offer in Tesco, so I have to put up with Yorkshire Tea at the minute. Not complaining though, it's quite nice!

10) I make really good crepes.

11) I don't eat raw cheese. Or seafood (tuna doesn't count).

Okay, now for Jemimah's questions.

1) Where is your favourite place in the whole world? 

Chicago. I went there last summer and absolutely loved it. When I get the chance, I want to go there for a summer, or possibly live there. That would be nice.

2) What's the most annoying idiom/phrase you've ever heard?

Probably 'reem'. Euch.

3) Would you prefer to be absolutely freezing or absolutely boiling all the time?

This has been a dilemma of mine for a while. I think freezing (no change there then, thanks Wales!) because I hate the idea of burning to death, but I'm still wrestling with this one. So yeah, freezing I think, but I may change my mind later.

4) Would you rather be deliriously happy for a short period of your life, or content for your whole life?

Deliriously happy. Absolutely.

5) If you were only allowed to listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Ooh, that's a hard one. I would probably say the song that I posted on my last blog post, which was the O.C theme tune. I don't know why, but I can listen to that again and again (trust me, I had it on repeat a few days ago) and I don't get sick of it.

6) Name three things that make you happy.

Tea. Pretty things. Other people being happy.

7) What is your favourite film of all time?

The Parent Trap.

8) What annoys you more than anything?

Injustice. It sounds really fake and contrived, but it's true. It makes me really angry, like the type of angry where I shake, go really quite and keep muttering how angry I am. Not a pretty sight.

9) Why did you start blogging? 

I've always written in some form to formulate thoughts, in diaries, letters, stories etc. but blogging was a new challenge since it is so public. I suppose I started blogging to express my rambling thoughts and feelings to the world, and kept going because for some reason some people like reading my ramblings!

10) Do you see yourself as more creative, or more practical? 

Creative, definitely. If you asked me to replace a lightbulb I would probably have a mental breakdown and electrocute myself, in no particular order.

11) Would you rather have a house made of cheese or a cheese made of house?

Neither, I don't like cheese.

My 10 Questions

1) What is your most embarrassing memory?
2) Cats or dogs?
3) W0uld you rather freeze to death or be burnt alive?
4) What is your favourite book?
5) What is a fact no-one knows about you?
6) If your last ever meal was a pizza, what toppings would you order?
7) Would you rather be an anxious genius or a carefree 'simple-minded' person?
8) Would you rather be deaf or blind?
9) If you had to speak another language for the rest of your life, what language would you choose to learn?
10) Mac or PC?
11) What is your favourite word?

Sadly, I'm not really in the blogging world, so I don't read that many blogs...but I shall nominate the ones that I read but haven't been nominated for this award (as far as I know). 


So there is is! The 'Liebster Award'. I'll leave you with this jolly (albeit extremely politcally charged) song that my brother found. Happy (belated) Easter!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

"Life Is Like A Camel's Back..."

Okay, so I made that quote up. But it definitely applies to my life right now. Hopefully you'll understand my little analogy by the end of this post!

The past few weeks have been quite exciting. If my life was a newspaper, the headline would be 'DURHAM OFFER!' with a tearful picture of me holding my acceptance letter in a very Bridgend-Gem-esque manner. 

In other words, I could potentially moving up North (and I mean proper up North where they say 'rate' instead of 'right') in 6 months. Writing that has given myself a slap in the face from my good friend Reality. Ouch. Better get revising!

In Durham, you are sorted into a college (where you live) after you have been given a place to study your desired subject (mine being English Lit). I like to think of it in Harry Potter terms, Hogwarts being Durham and the houses (Gryffindor etc) being the colleges.

As I waited for the e-mail telling me which college I had been allocated to, I genuinly felt like Harry when he has the sorting hat on, and is begging it not to put him in Slytherin. Seriously, I had a nightmare the day before I was allocated where I was put into Trevelyan (the equivalent to Hufflepuff in my head) and woke up in a state of panic.

Thankfully, this was not to be. No offence to any Trevelyan people out there, I'm sure your college is lovely really (!)

I was allocated St Hild and St Bede, which I am pretty happy about after researching it about, so I thought I would share a couple of pictures with you. Alternatively you could be even nosier and google it yourself, whatever.

Despite the lovely surroundings, I was quite upset when I found out that St Hild and St Bede is one of the only colleges in Durham not to wear gowns (basically Harry Potter cloaks) to formals. Since I have to buy a gown anyway for matriculation (big word for officially joining the uni) I may as well get some use out of it. 

Maybe I should walk around in it all the time anyway, humming the Harry Potter theme tune as I go. I'll be known as the Crazy Cloak Lady. That has a ring to it, don't you think? 

My other slight concern is that the college is known for its intake of 'rah's' and its sporting prowess. Since I am not a 'rah' and certainly have not been blessed with sporting ability, let alone balance, I wonder if I will be a bit out of my comfort zone.

However, they stressed on their college video that they encourage everyone to take part in sports, no matter their ability. They might want to retract this statement after I join, as I fully intend on joining the rowing team as the 'cox' aka the person that tells everyone else to row whilst they enjoy the ride. Watch out Rio 2016!

This is where my little 'Camel's Back' analogy comes in. Hopefully, you would realise that my Durham offer made me happy. However, as I have experienced in the last few days, disappointment rears its ugly head just when you least expect it to. To make this part slightly less depressing, here's a picture of a camel smiling. You're welcome.

I don't want to go into great detail about my trials of life, as they are completely trivial when you think about people in developing countries, but nevertheless, I will briefly summarise them.

Thursday was results day. I had resat my German AS after being convinced by my teachers that you always improve in a language. I still think this is true, and have definitely seen a big improvement in my attempts to 'spreche Deutsch', but my result certainly did not show this. Somehow, I got 14 marks less than before, which was a bit of a surprise and a knock.

Then, that same day, I had my driving theory test. I went up with two friends from Bridgend, Morgan and Tom, and they passed whilst I failed by one mark. I didn't even think it was possible to fail theory, but apparently so. 

Since I had already foolishly made a deal with the other two, that whoever gets the highest mark gets their meal paid for by the others, I then had to fork out for half of Morgan's meal. When it was time to pay, my card was rejected at first, and I told the waiter that the world was against me. Evidently thinking I was being dramatic, he asked why. Bad move.

After ranting at him whilst he desperately tried to work the card machine, he concluded 'well I haven't passed an exam in my life but the one I have passed was my driving theory!' Ever heard the saying 'rubbing salt in the wound'? There's the definition.

Then, after enduring never-ending mocking on the way home ('Sarah, what does that sign mean?' Hahahahaha.) I realised that the Eisteddfod was the next day, and I was meant to be playing piano, and hadn't practiced my piece in about a week.

So, in short, I came last. Not because I played badly, as despite my lack of practice, I played it quite well. To put things in perspective, someone playing a grade 3 piece beat me playing a grade 8 piece. 

When I asked the judge after why I placed where I did, she responded that she's played the piece, thought I interpreted it wrong, and told me to do a more clinical aka boring one next year. Except there won't be a next year. Thanks a lot, judge-that-shall-remain-nameless.

This is why life is like a camel's back. There are ups and downs, but that's just how life is. If a camel didn't have it's humps it would be like an ugly horse. 

I'll leave you with that strange mental image, and the song I've been listening to one repeat whilst writing this. Whenever I hear it, I immediately think of The O.C. - loved that show! Enjoy.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Giving is in my Blood*

As many of you know due to the need to show everyone my 'scar' and bruise today, I gave blood yesterday. It was a very interesting experience, and although I'm glad I did it, I'm not sure I will do it again. I know it saves a life and all - actually 3 lives, did you know that? - but...it hurt.

This might seem kind of obvious, since a thin tube is stuck in your arm for about 10 minutes, but I was convinced by the nurse that the miniature iron blood test you do before hurts more. It doesn't. So instead of basing your decision to give blood in the future on the nurses with their false promises, dear blog reader, you can get a more unbiased view from cynical old me in the corner. Mwahahaha.

So one of the things they tell you is that you will be in and out in 45 minutes. Lie Number 1.   I was there from 3.30pm til 5.40pm. I may not be a mathematician, but that was 130 minutes. And no, I did not just use a calculator to work that out.

There was a good reason why it took so long, though. There were so many people going to donate that there were longer waiting times, which is great for them, but not so great for the would-be donor sitting in a room with an automatic door leading outside that keeps on opening. Oh, and did I mention that this was when Porthcawl had gone into shut down because we were having a blizzard? Yep.

But 1 hour later-ish, my name was called. I had become pretty nervy by this time, and my poor friend Harvey, who had agreed to go donate with me, was probably more relieved to hear my name that I was. 

I was escorted to the next waiting room. Just to clarify, there were 3 waiting rooms. It was like levels of tension. And so the waiting game began again. 

The next level was The Interrogation. They escort you into this little cornered off section of the room, sit you down, and ask you loads of questions to make sure you aren't infected or something.

Another thing: every time a new nurse talks to you, they ask you to confirm your age, address and date of birth. By the end I had worked a way to say this in the quickest way possible. Not that I'm going to write it on here, I don't know if any of you are stalkers of pedophiles or something (I'm sure you're not. Please don't go.)

So anyway, they asked the usual questions about drugs and stuff, even though I had filled out a questionnaire before hand. There were some very obscure, specific ones, but not for young ears, so I shall leave that to your imagination.

But then it got complicated. I had put down that I was born in Nepal, which has caused me loads of problems in the past, particularly on my UCAS form. I've realised recently that if you say you were born outside the UK, especially in somewhere like Asia, alarm bells ring in people's heads. It's like 'IMMIGRANT ALERT!' or something. So anyway, they clearly were concerned I had malaria or something. I would have thought I would know if I had, or had ever had malaria, but there we go. 

I was finally cleared by the Senior Nurse ("Can you confirm your name, address and date of birth please?") and moved on to do the blood test. This involves them practically stapling your finger with this little device, and then squeezing the blood out of it, and dropping it into solution. The idea is, if your iron levels are right, the blood will sink in 15 seconds. Guess who's blood didn't sink?

She reassured me that a lot of people's blood doesn't sink the first time, so I should try again. Yip-de-doo. Thankfully she didn't have to staple my finger again, as the hole from which the blood was squeezed last time was still oozing blood. Yummy. And, hurrah, the blood sank! Meaning I was put through to the final waiting room. Cue Jaws music.

This was probably the most tense part of the whole experience. By the time they called my name, I was literally shaking. Stupid, but true. I lay down on the bed and waited for my nurse. I think I probably looked pretty pale at this point because random nurses kept smiling at me reassuringly and asking me if I was okay.

Finally, my nurse arrived. He put one of those tourniquet things on my arm so he could see which vein to use. He looked and prodded. Looked more. Prodded a bit more. And then it happened again. He called the Senior Nurse, or the 'Special Nurse' as I had started to call her, to try and find my vein. Turns out I have small veins. The Special Nurse reassured me about my 'small veins' by telling me that it was normal as I have small arms, like I was going to go away with a vein complex or something.

So there they were, both prodding away, trying to find a big one, but their search was in vein. (See what I did there? I'm so punny.) So they tried my other arm, but no such luck. I was starting to get cold feet by this point, so I slightly hopefully asked them if I wouldn't be able to donate but they assured me they would use the best vein I had. And they did. 

Giving blood is completely different to when they take blood in the doctors. My friend Jon thought it was taken through a needle into a tube and that was that, so when I told him your blood is sucked through a tube into a bag he almost spewed. 

Finally, after much prodding and sighing, the needley-tube-thingy was inserted. And it hurt.  They tell you that the iron blood test hurts more than the needle. Lie Number 2. I'm fine with injections, seeing as I had about 10 year growing up in a foreign country, but this is quite a chunky needle. Ouch.

It is quite an odd experience, though, lying there squeezing a roll of dressing to keep your blood pumping, while seeing your blood flow through this tube into a bag which is rocking back and forth in this cradle-esq contraption next to you. The special nurse stayed with me the whole time, asking if I was okay and trying to make conversation. 

The funniest was when she saw my Head Team badge and thought it was some sort of sports team. Just to clarify with anyone out there that doesn't know me, the closest thing I do to sport on a regular basis is 'stew' with my Brownies (which is a strenuous workout, I can assure you!)

Apart from my blood mysteriously slowing down half way through, the actual giving of the blood was quite uneventful. I was a little bit irritated when after the nurse had taken the needle out, she was chatting to another nurse and said 'Well I was going to stop it at 420ml but it was going so well...' 

I was rather disappointed, however, at the final part of the process, which they said involved a 'cup of tea and biscuit'. Lie Number 3. I was offered squash, which is possibly my least favourite drink ever, but I was a good girl and treated it like medicine. No tea though. It was a sad day.

Reading back through this I just realised how negative the whole thing sounds. It was fine, honestly. I would definitely recommend you doing it at least once in your lifetime. And it probably will be different for you because you don't have an awkward birth place or small veins. So whatever you do, don't let this put you off! Hahahaha.

In other news, I haven't blogged in ages (yet again.) Things are happening though. I've had 3 offers for uni (Royal Holloway, Leeds and Exeter) which I'm really happy about. A few months ago I didn't feel ready to go at all but after enduring 2 months of sharing a room with my sister Lydia I am more than ready for a change of scenery. 

People think I'm exaggerating when I say how irritating Lydia can be to share a room with. Don't get me wrong, she's lovely, but singing 'On My Own' for about an hour non stop at the top of your voice (TOP of your voice - I had my headphones full blast and I could still hear her) and then after all this telling me how she wishes she was 'Epony' is  just too much to handle. Eponine, Lyd. Eponine.

But back to uni and all things exciting. Looks like I'm going to be somewhere in the north of England, as if Durham don't give me an offer I'll probably go to Leeds. This is rather exciting as I find northern accents very amusing. 

I was musing over this the other day and said to my dad 'Wouldn't it be funny if I went to Durham and came back with a Yorkshire accent?' to which he dryly replied 'Well yes it would be funny, as Durham's not in Yorkshire!' 

Apparently the whole of the north of England isn't called Yorkshire. Whoops.

*As much as I wish I had made up this clever little pun thingy, I didn't, it's the slogan for Welsh Blood. But still, isn't it clever?! Bud-dum-tshhhh.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Land of the Free

I'm squeezed on a cramped economy seat about to take off on the flight back to sunny Wales as I reminisce about my amazing, whirlwind holiday in America. It's been an absolutely incredible 4 weeks visiting my family in New Jersey and Wisconsin. (I'm half American, if you hadn't gathered from my weird accent. Actually though, hardly anyone can actually place my accent. I've been asked if I'm from countries like Ireland, Scotland, Canada and even Dubai!)

Before I continue with my holiday tales, I need to explain something once and for all. I am English and American, not Nepali, even though I was born in Nepal, as I have dual citizenship of England and America. What I love about having dual citizenship is that I can live in so much of the world easily - pretty much all of the EU and America. Also, because my family is so spread out throughout the world, I can visit loads of places that my family have access to because of their local knowledge, which I love.

Well I was just about to take off, but we’re being delayed as the New Jersey airport (I’m flying from Milwaukee to Newark to Heathrow) has been closed for some mysterious reason that they have failed to disclose to us poor souls. Great.

Anyway, this holiday has probably been my favourite holiday in all my sixteen (almost seventeen – 1 month!) years of life. I’ve done so much and have so much to be thankful for. I have cantered through forests, window shopped in fancy malls, actually shopped in cheaper shops, swum in lakes, met a Native American and found out I'm related to him, paddled in a water fountain in Chicago, got interviewed for a news channel, canoed along rivers, sunbathed on Jersey shore, ambled through Central Park, laughed with my cousins and cried with my Grandma.

It’s been amazing to catch up with my family and see where they are in their lives now. I’ve never had relatives live nearby so any time I spend with them is so precious. In fact, I love my family so much I think you should meet them, so here’s the lovely photo from our family reunion (this is my American side by the way.)

 Okay, so I'm writing the rest of this post a few weeks after I arrived back. I got way too tired on the plane to think straight. 

I have no idea how to put any structure to my crazy holiday, so I guess I'll summarise it chronologically. Here goes.

Firstly, we managed to choose just about the worst possible day to fly to New Jersey. We had to land in a random military base and wait for 2 hours because a runway in Newark airport had been struck by lightening. We flew over the worst thunderstorm New York has seen in a long time. Drama seems to follow me wherever I go!

I find travelling quite a surreal experience, even though I have done so much of it. It's so weird to step in a metal cylinder, watch a few films, try and swallow some chicken that tastes like plastic, watch another film, step out of the metal cylinder and BAM - you're in a new country with new culture, a new language (American is practically a whole different language) and a new time zone to adjust to. I think I would've suited living a century ago much more, where you take a two week voyage to discover foreign lands, as you have plenty of time to process the idea that you're going to a different country. But I digress. 

We experienced a lot of very stereotypically American things whilst in New Jersey; Bill Bryson would've had a field day. We went to a baseball game, shopped in malls, had countless Dunkin Donuts and drank a lot of coffee, due to the tea in America being absolutely revolting. Seriously. Even the Twinings English Breakfast 'British Blend' was different. Twinings, I expected better.

I insisted that we had to go into New York city, as the last few times we've been to New Jersey my mum has been put it off, as people from New Jersey have a pretty negative view of Manhattan. In the end I went twice, which was incredible. Manhattan is such a busy, vibrant city - I'd always heard people saying how full of life it is, but until I visited I never realised how crazy it was. I would probably end up in a mental asylum if I lived there, but it was fun for 2 days. 

On my first visit with my cousins, we went to the Museum of Modern Art (or the MoMA to you arty people out there.) I love art museums. They're always so quiet and peaceful, and I  love the spaciousness of the big, white rooms with the big, white walls decorated with a painting or two, even in the middle of Manhattan where space is so sought after. Some of the art was pretty weird, but most of it was beautiful. 

I saw loads of art that I had analysed last year for my AS exam (yes, you do do writing and thinking in art) - Warhol, Lichtenstein and Wesselmann, as well as other famous artists like Dali, Van Gogh, Monet and Rothko. If you didn't recognise at least 3 of those names, please google them. Then you can feel as cultured as I did, strolling around, saying "Oh look,  The Persistence of Memory! How fabulous, darling!"

My second visit was with the family. I was determined to see the Alice in Wonderland statue, so we traipsed the length of Central Park to find it. On the way, we had lunch at a cute little lakeside cafe. As we were ordering, Beth, like a magnet, was drawn to two chihuahuas sitting with a woman. 

For those of you who don't know Beth, she is animal crazy. She loves all animals, but has an infatuation with dogs. Seriously, she goes on walks with my mum to meet dogs that are out on walks with their owners. That kind of animal crazy. You can imagine her delight when my grandma announced she was going to get a dog in January. The dog, Molly, was not as excited as Beth was, however, as every waking moment was spent poking, preening and picking up Molly. (Exhibit A, our family photo at the top of this post.)

Being the responsible older sister that I am, I went along with Beth to meet the chihuahuas. Inevitably, I ended up making polite conversation with the woman while Beth cooed at the dogs. 

As most of you know, I don't like dogs. The only dog I will ever love is my grandma's dog. This woman obviously lived for her dogs (she was breaking off bits of her bagel and giving it to the dogs. Ew.) To tell her I didn't actually like dogs would've probably deeply offended her, so I obligingly patted the dog on the head when she insisted, thinking I was too shy to ask. 

As we filled the awkward silence, however, she told me how her dogs visit children in hospital, and how the bigger dog had found the littler dog in a bin. Cute stuff. People in Manhattan fascinate me.

We also ventured into Times Square, which is amazing. I looked like the typical tourist; neck craned looking at all the massive buildings and screens and taking pictures of anything and everything, which is why Hello Kitty targeted me, I guess. 

I was taking pictures of Beth with Elmo and a Smurf, not realising you were meant to tip these people, when Hello Kitty barged up to me, grabbed Beth, and in a chinese accent shouted 'Picture, Picture!' I obliged, even though I don't like Hello Kitty, and then took Beth's hand and carried on walking. 

I suddenly felt an urgent tap on my arm, and the same voice in broken English demanding a tip from me. If you have never had a giant Hello Kitty demanding money from you, you cannot being to realise how scary this is. 

I've never been good at saying things under pressure, and had no idea what to say to this terrifying cat with a square head, and so blurted out 'no-money-ah-blueasdfhjasdhgf' and ran off with Beth in tow. 

Sorry, whoever was underneath that awful costume. I'm sure you were just trying to put your kid through college or something. 

Then we ventured into Wisconsin to visit my Aunty, Uncle and cousin. We did loads of great things, including many fishing trips where I caught my first fish, stayed on my Aunty's parents' horse ranch, went to a beautiful hipster coffee shop called Mama D's, had countless McDonalds 50 cent cones, and toured Chicago. 

I definitely felt a connection with Chicago - I loved everything about it. The old buildings mixed with the new buildings, the Starbucks at every corner, all the art and music schools and the beach at the edge of the city (not the sea, as I originally thought, but Lake Michigan.)

One of the surreal parts of my visit to Chicago was this wall in Chicago. I'm not sure if it has an official name, so I'm going to call it the Wall of all Walls. It had bits of famous walls and buildings from all over the world stuck in it, as you can see below (my cousin is such a poser!)

The wall stretched for ages with stones from the Great Pyramids, the dome of St Peters Cathedral, etc. As I was looking along the wall I suddenly came across this stone. 

It was so odd so see something from Wales stuck next to something so famous. I felt rather patriotic and proud as I saw it though - the strong Welsh spirit must be getting to me.

I confess, I bought far too many edible and drinkable things (okay, mostly Starbucks) whilst I was walking about 500 miles around Chicago. I always find it funny ordering things in restaurants or cafes in America, because you can see people around you pricking their ears to try and inconspicuously listen to your accent as you order.

Whenever I ordered anything, I would always play up my English accent, as my theory is that they enjoy serving British people, and sometimes give you free food. I once got a free Starbucks in America after the Barista complimented me on my top (it has a marshmallow roasting over a fire, with the caption 'Working on my tan' - I found it hysterical.)  I doubt that he gave it to me because of the shirt, though, I reckon it was my accent.

So there I was, in one of the million Starbucks in Chicago, buying a coffee for my cousin. I'm so kind. I asked in my poshest accent "Can I have an Americano, please?" 

The barista chuckled and loudly exclaimed "I'm an Americano, you can have me!" 

I politely laughed, wishing I hadn't promised to buy my cousin a coffee. 

As I took the coffee, he asked me where I was from in England. I explained that I was actually from a little country called Wales in the UK (not technically true but I'm wasn't going to tell this guy my life story!) 

He told me that he lived in Wigan for a year, which apparently is near the Welsh border (I nodded politely, not knowing where the heck Wigan was, but not wanting to show how bad my geography of Britain is), and, leaning on the counter, drawled in his american accent 'schlan-vayre-push-gwin-gish-gogely-schluwen-droberth-lanty-sillio-go-go-gogh' with a look of triumph. Grabbing the americano, I corrected his 'll' sound, said bye and hurried off, not wanting to seem to desperate to get away. Bless. At least he tried.

On that note, I conclude my whistlestop tour of my holiday, not that you probably cared to know any of that, but hey, you're reading this, which means you either read it all word for word (pah!) or you skipped to the end after you glanced at each photo, wondering how I would awkwardly conclude another blog post (this is the hardest part, bar starting the post.) And so, I conclude with my cousin's little film project that he did around Chicago with us - it was a lot of fun, as you will soon see. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A Month of Madness

I can't believe it's been a month since I last wrote, so much has happened in my life! I did my AS exams (which by the way I have decided not to tell anyone my results as I don't like the whole system of everyone asking each other what they got) and had almost 3 weeks of holiday which were filled with many, many adventures! 

Since it was my second day back in school today, which was day 2 of our UCAS induction (which was incredibly interesting, especially Debs' talk yesterday in which she used a consistent sporting lexical set throughout to link UCAS applications to the olympics) I thought it would be good to sum up the last 3 weeks. I had a number of things in mind for my 3 weeks of madness...

1. Camping with Tash (and Dad)

I have been persuading Tash to go camping with me for the last 4 years, so I was delighted when she finally broke and agreed to come on the condition that I bring her tea in bed in the morning. Being the organising freak I am, I planned out in great length where we could camp that was also in walking distance of a horseriding centre. 

I finally found Llangorse Lake in the Brecon Beacons, and so we were all packed and ready to go when I thought we should check we would be allowed to camp by ourselves. Turns out we weren't (even though we are probably 'sensible and responsible' they couldn't risk it) so in the end my lovely Dad came with us. We had wonderful weather as shown in the next few photos, and so the afternoon we got there we decided to hire a rowing boat and go out in the lake. 

Being the good dad he is, my dad rowed us out into the lake so we didn't kill any of the swans swimming around (or the hoards of kids in kayaks) and then let Tash and I take turns rowing the boat. I think it's safe to say I got the gist of the whole pulling-two-oars-together-at-the-same-time business a little bit quicker than Tash, who, despite her continuous mocking at my lack of balance and general awareness of gravity, was actually the less co-ordinated of us (exhibit A).

Tash's concentration face
That night we had just settled down to go to sleep (on a side note, I absolutely hate sleeping in sleeping bags. It's horribly constrictive) when we heard this scuffling, nibbling noise. We both dismissed it at first, but it carried on and we could hear the sound moving around to right outside where our heads were, like a horror movie in surround sound. 

I should have probably said that Tash hates mice and rats to the extent that I hate bugs, so when we heard this sound she sat bolt upright, eyes round and dramatic (what a diva) and started crying. We first tried scaring the creature away with various loud 'scary' noises, but to no avail.

Oh, and by this time we were both desperate for the toilet. Not good.

Being the brave person I am, armed with a flashlight I ventured outside, much to the chagrin of Tash who thought the creature was going to come in through the zip as I opened it. 

I never saw the creature, but what met me when I crept out of our bedroom was a pot of honey. Turns out Tash didn't realise that sticky sweet food would attract unwelcome visitors, so her personal pot of honey that she brought around with her while we were camping (weird, I know) turned out to bring creatures instead of comfort!

The next day, after packing everything up and Dad giving me my first driving lesson around the field (such fun!) we went to the riding centre. When we were offered the choice of having 1 hour for £20 or 2 hours for £30. Being the savvy money saving girl I am, I thought 2 hours was a good deal, so off we trotted (literally), but not before we were assigned horses. This is how the conversation went:

Horse Lady: Have you got riding experience? 
Tash: Yeah I rode when I was younger...
Horse Lady: Okay, you can have Whitney. 

Although Tash was telling the truth, I think Horse Lady may have thought Tash was a little more experienced than she actually was, as once Tash was on Whitney she realised she had been given the fiesty little pony that wasn't well trained yet, hence why only "experienced riders" can ride her. I was perfectly happy on my slow, ploddy horse Dante, and felt quite smug when I was ambling through the countryside whilst Tash was constantly having to grip the reigns so Whitney would walk and not constantly try and graze. 

I blame Tash's "experience" for the series of events that happened next. Horse Lady said we would have a go trotting (which is absolutely horrible and does not do favours for the backside) and so off we bounced.

Whitney doesn't just trot though. Whitney isn't trained enough to trot with all the other horses in a nice line. Oh no, Whitney likes cantering freely. So off she canters, and Dante was suddenly not the slow ploddy horse I thought he was, but a wannabe Whitney, so off he canters too. Before when we were trotting, I thought I was about to fall off in a very ungraceful manner every 2 seconds, so needless to say I thought I was going to die when Dante bolted and started dashing across the field, ignoring my feeble effort at pulling the reigns. 

Apart from me waving at someone who I thought was my dad but was actually just a butch woman (she was far away, okay?) the rest of the horseride was pretty normal, although if you are ever offered the choice of a 1 hour ride or a 2 hour ride, always choose the 1 hour. 2 hours sufficiently bruised our backsides to the point that once we got off our horses we could barely walk.

And so our fun packed 2 days had come to an end. I think this next photo sums up how much fun it was (Tash'll love me for including this beauty of a photo).

I was planning to write about my other adventures, but seeing how long that one took to write about, I'll finish this blog post another time - ooh the suspense! 

Also, I have brownie camp this weekend (as an leader (Eagle Owl, nice to meet you), not a brownie, before you ask) and then the week after I have my D of E practice expedition (oh the joys!) so I'm sure I will have plenty to write about in the next few weeks! 

When I told Mr Blanche a while back I wanted to be a journalist, he asked me what I wanted to write about, to which I replied my life. He laughed and said sarcastically "Today I had beans on toast for breakfast..." but the amount of weird situations I frequently get myself into prove that I could probably write about my life and might possibly be able to get away with it. We shall see. 

I'll leave you with a piano piece that I have almost finished learning, it's absolutely beautiful. I play it a bit differently to this recording, but you can get the gist.