December 10, 2011

Comfort & Joy


Hey guys! Well, Christmas has officially begun for me here in London. I know I've said that about 9 times already, but seriously this time. Tonight we have a Christmas party here at the dorm (basically just music and cheap drinks, but what's to complain about there!) and the kitchen staff celebrated by serving up a proper English feast! I bypassed the turkey and cod and went for something called a Wellington which, for the purposes of this post, I'm going to assume translates to "vegetarian goodness." It was basically veggie stuffing wrapped in a croissant. Life doesn't get better than bread wrapped in bread. Then there was this weird ham thing that sort of resembled an aspic and was served with some of the most fantastic chutney I've ever eaten. I loaded up on the vegetables (they do something with cooked carrots and some other root here that I've never seen before, but it's quite nice), grabbed a bit of Christmas pudding and a mince pie (just one!) and happily found, at the end of it all, Christmas crackers!! Which are a lot of fun, if you haven't played with them before. They come with these marvelous goofy crown hats and have little trinkets and jokes inside. For example:

What do you say when you meet a polar bear?
Nothing, you run away as fast as you can.

Oh, Brits.

I have also finished my last essay. I never thought I had it in me to write eight of them -- massing about 20,000 words -- but I guess we all surprise ourselves sometimes. I definitely still have some editing to do, but the worst is over, and I'm already scheming up ways to make my last 10 days here the best of all.

I've already managed to have a couple great adventures! First, the 5th of December in Dutch culture means Sinterklaas celebration. This is where the story of Santa came from, of course, but there's elements that I definitely had missed in my holiday history. For one thing, you get these guys....


who seem completely inappropriate, right? But, as my Dutch friends quickly informed me, their faces get like that from going down the chimney delivering gifts. Even so, you can't help but feel really weird about this after similar minstrel-era monstrosities (sort of like how I always cringe when I get to this part of Holiday Inn), and hence the ones I met on December 5th looked like this:

Do me a favor and forget how absolutely cheesy I look here.



And here. I was excited I found Sir. Cadogan.

On the 4th, one of my good friends from IH arranged for our whole group to watch a Dutch film (essentially their version of Love Actually) and eat pepernoten (essentially gingerbread balls) and this really amazing gingerbread marzipan cake that I can't remember the name of. The next night she got us reservations at a Dutch bar in Soho. We met Sinterklaas and I had some really swell Belgian beer, recommended by my Holland buddies. The smurfish helper guys handed out chocolate coins and these anise-flavoured bread bites which looked sort of like gold chunks. I learned a lot of Dutch holiday pop songs, danced the twist, and had some good fun comparing traditions. These people hands down have the best beer. Here's what I had:




Really weird shot, but I'm totally in love with it.

I hope the next weekend opens up some space for more time with these guys, cause they've been my life source for the past three months! I'm going to miss my International besties when I head out, and I'm so jealous of the ones that get to stay and carry on all our crazy slow-to-be-realized plans:

From R-L, our International Crew: Italy ,Germany, Spain, Spain, Italy, Iceland, Holland, Holland, Holland, The Netherlands, England, Italy, The Netherlands, and Australia (and the USA in there somewhere, o'course.)



 A couple nights later I headed out with the Musical Theatre society to WINTER WONDERLAND, which is essentially the coolest place on earth. It was the second time in one week I felt like a four-year-old, for all my excitement. There's nothing like a whole ton of unnecessary lights to set my childhood heart thumping and put a big fat smile on my face.






This moose sang Christmas carols. He was wonderful.

This guy was just in the wrong holiday.

The ice skating rink was what we came for, and it delivered. The stupid thing was, though, they didn't allow bags, cameras, or phones on the ice, so if you brought a purse you had no choice but to leave it with the shoe rental people, and they charged you a £1 fee to do so. This is just one example of the Catch-22 principle London has employed to keep you from overstaying your welcome in their country (by depriving you of funds.) Anyway, I couldn't take any photos on the ice, which is too bad, cause there were some great images I would love to have caught. It also means I have to show you a stock photo of the rink:

 

"Shine yo shoes, gov'nah?!"

I was actually impressed I didn't fall over. Last December I was invited to the Riverpark Square rink with a friend from elementary school, and the last time I'd gone before that was probably around the time we met (in other words, when I was like 7), so I was pretty nervous. But I guess the 1 or 2 years of lessons I took at that age served well, cause neither that day nor this one did I find balancing on those little blades terribly unsettling. On the contrary, by the end of the session I was absolutely zooming around wishing I could do turns and things, wanting to go faster and faster. It was kind of like when I learned to bike down our old house's quite vertical driveway by telling myself I was Peter Pan, incapable of crash-landing. There's something about the feeling of travel -- be it driving, blading, biking, or dream-flying -- that gives you the impression that you're leaving all your troubles behind. Anxious little me has always been addicted to that feeling.

It was also nice having a chance to goodbye to all the friends I made through The Producers, if not a little sad. These three are essentially the people who kept me sane through it all:





This weekend it's off to Matt Bourne's Nutcracker, and I can't wait. If your name starts with K and ends with "owalski," then you know I've essentially been hoping for this since Freshman year. Any Nutcracker is a good Nutcracker, but Bourne's done some really cool stuff with it (see here). My only regret is that I couldn't see this one too.

Some other things which I hope to accomplish before my adventure's over. 8 days! I can't even believe it!!! Being back on USA soil is going to feel so weird.

Ain't nothing better than Michael Caine and a bunch of Muppets. Except when it's playing at a London cinema.

I have yet to get fish & chips! If anyone has any recommendations, I'm all ears.

Need to go back here, Christmas gift-hunting.
Watching this with dorm friends.

My pub! Last chance to try local ales.

Brave Oxford Street to enjoy holiday lights at night.

Anything having to do with this guy.

 And, of course, I can't avoid the responsibility that I so dearly hate to love.


If there's anything you think I've missed out on, please leave a comment! I want to make sure I tackle London to the best of my ability.

Miss y'all bunches. I can't wait to see every last one of you.

-Rach

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