The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Mexico City and Berlin

I think it's about time I explained to you lovely people what's going on with my little countdown timer at the side of the screen. I may or may not (I genuinely can't remember) have mentioned that I study languages at university, German and Spanish to be precise, and due to this I am required to go abroad for my third year of study, before returning back to London to finish my degree. I am currently in the midst of completing my second year exams, meaning that my year abroad is fast approaching. I'll be spending my first term at UNAM in Mexico City and my second term at the Humboldt in Berlin, which is all very exciting.

However being the keen bean traveller that I am I don't fancy wasting any time of this almost entirely university funded year away, so I've booked a flight to Las Vegas on the 25th May (two days after my final exam) along with my lovely friend Greg. We decided on Vegas since it's much cheaper to fly there than most places in Central America, so the plan is to cover some of the major South West tourist sights and cities in the USA - Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles - before heading down into Mexico, perhaps looping through Guatemala and Belize before ending up in Canc├║n where Greg is due to fly home from. After that I haven't really planned the details but I have a few friends called Edgar and Adriana who live in Mexico City and San Cristobal, respectively, who I will definitely be popping in to see before term starts in early August.

That awkward moment when you both buy the same travel guide, which doesn't contain any information about the entire north of Mexico. Skills.

Here's a rough plan of the route we're thinking of taking (click on it to enlarge!)

That's about all I've got semi-set in stone for now, but I do have two friends studying their first terms in Martinique, which is a Caribbean Island and another in Rio, Brazil so we're intending on doing some visits and travelling once our terms finish in December. Then we're all moving to Berlin to join up with some of our other course mates and I'm considering flying out to Estonia and travelling down from there before my term starts in late March/early April... We'll see anyway!

*For those with USA travel know-how*

Greg and I would really appreciate any tips any of you might have for cheap ways of getting around in the US. We're on a pretty tight budget and it turns out that because of my age car hire is just out of the question. We're going to be using Greyhound and Megabus for the long stints, but we'd love to be able to visit either Death Valley or the Grand Canyon (or any other major outdoorsy spots) without having to pay extortionate day-trip fees. So any pointers on car shares, cheap car hire sites or even cheaper bus companies would be much appreciated! Also cheap campsites would be nice too :)

Friday, 18 April 2014

Reasons why English is HARD

Dear my non-native English speaking friends,

I have probably asked most of you at one point or another how you're so good at English and whether or not you find it difficult. Mainly due to the fact that the majority of people in England can't speak more than just English and bang on and on about how 'it's just too hard' to learn another language, so I'm always baffled when I meet people who can speak at least one other language fluently - I am close with German and Spanish, but like the good little English lass that I am, I'm complaining about it A LOT.

This morning I found this article posted on my Facebook wall about the difficulties of the English language because it perfectly sums up the utter lunacy of the language I thought I'd share it on here, so you non-native speakers can see why it's not an insult, but a compliment when I find it difficult to fathom how on earth you got so good at our bonkers language. (I don't think this site I've linked is the official composer, as I've seen parts of this dotted around the tinterweb in the past, but if I find the original I shall add it here.)

So here it is...

You think English is easy?
1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture..
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert..
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear..
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

Now do you understand why I'm so impressed by your mastery of English? I hope so. Now back to writing something that counts towards my degree and isn't entirely for procrastination purposes.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Grandad comes to London!

Last week my Grandaddy came to visit me in London, all the way from Liverpool. He is pretty bad at making decisions and adamantly stood by his suggestion, 'Whatever you want to do Em' regardless of my objection that, seeing as I live in London, I can do whatever I want whenever I want, so it'd probably be best for him to choose and eventually we came to a bit of a stalemate and decided to just wing it a bit, which makes for a nice post full of advice for those tourists who are a little more disorganised.

We started off with a  lunch of scrummy fish and chips at the Shakespeare's Head, a Wetherspoon pub on Kingsway near Holborn station, which I often frequent with the German lot from uni and would highly recommend. Next, we decided to wander down to Aldwych to visit my uni, walk along Waterloo Bridge (which in my opinion, is the best view of London you can get, day or night) and over to South Bank, as my Grandad loves his shows and it's always a safe bet for street performers. Sure enough we came across a group of Jamaican dancers/acrobats/contortionists who were really quite good. Seriously, the ways in which they could twist their bodies were pretty crazy! It also made a nice change from street magicians, not that they aren't talented, it's just that they are everywhere in London and as a resident it's nice to see something a little different from time to time.

This little girl was the cutest.

Sometimes it's easy to forget how certain times of year are super busy in this city, making a wander down the Thames a little more difficult than I originally anticipated, so we took a bit of a breather for a few touristy pictures.

A sneaky Grandad-being-pensive-in-the-sunshine pic

This looks like I was trying to be arty but in actual fact I literally couldn't fit any more of it in the frame...

Em and Grandad selfie, with a cheeky Big Ben photobomb.

On our eventual escape from the utter madness of South Bank, we hopped on the 453* bus to Oxford Circus. As I was after a game for a birthday party, we decided to have a gander in Hamley's toy store. As far as I can remember, it was my first visit and both Grandad and I got a little too excited by everything that was going on. My broody levels literally sky-rocketed. Of all the cool toys to buy however, I ended up buying ID twister (please don't judge me). They literally put those boys faces on EVERYTHING these days.

Clearly I love my friends very much to go through with buying this.

The rest of the afternoon was spent bumbling around Oxford Street for various things before heading back home for some home cooked sausage and mash. However, not before stopping off at Paul to grab some scrummy cream cakes for desert (FYI, their chocolate ├ęclair is to die for). By 6.30pm we were all done and dusted and ready to accompany Grandad back to the train station; it just goes to show how much you can fit into a day when visiting London and still successfully have a lovely time. I even had time in the evening to head to The Barbican Cinema (which is always £5 on tuesdays for students, worth checking out!) with Gordon and Joe to watch Noah. 

*When travelling around London, though the tube seems the obvious choice, I can't recommend buses enough. They literally go everywhere and most of them are 24 hour AND they're much cheaper than the tube. It's honestly no more difficult then getting a grasp of the tube system.*

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Snaps from Lewes and Brighton

I finally got my cameras developed and I think they turned out pretty well... :)

Brief visit to Manchester

Although I've visited Manchester just about a bazillion times, I've never actually written anything about it. So despite last weeks trip not being too eventful, I thought it might be good to start somewhere.

Manchester and Liverpool are the two biggest cities near to where I live and considering Preston is so teeny tiny, they're also the most popular shopping destinations for all of us who are from there. Last week I headed home for a few days to visit the fam, enjoy some homely northern cuisine and celebrate my little brother's birthday. However with most of my friends living away from home now and my family having lives that don't solely revolve around me visiting (an outrage, I know), I decided to go do the friend-seeing tour of the north.

I started in Manchester, visiting these wonderful human beings who have put up with me for longer than anyone should have to. 

Richard, me, Dan and Will, high school/youth group friends.

I've known this lot from my early teen years and they now all study various complicated sciencey- technological things that I don't understand (smarty pantses). Anyway, I don't see them half as much as I would like any more so it was lovely to have a couple of hours catch up and wander round the more studenty bit of Manc.

As we are all massive nerds, it seemed only right to visit the newly refurbished Manchester Central Library, which had just had it's grand re-opening. I just love love LOVE books and history and the like. Whilst on the outside it looked like your classic oldly worldy Roman style pillars and fancy looking arches, inside they've managed to successfully blend in the modern in a pretty seamless fashion. Although the cinema booths and countless interactive exhibits they've installed clearly contrast from it's almost 100 year old exterior, somehow is doesn't feel disjointed or out of place. We didn't get to stay too long but I'd highly recommend a visit if you're looking for something free to do on a day out in the area.

For lunch Dan took us to a pub called the Garratt, hidden away down a road leading off from the old BBC Studio car park and across the road from 5th Avenue (a nightclub which I would also recommend for a night out!). If you're after somewhere cheap and cheerful to eat when visiting Manchester, I literally cannot recommend this place enough. Perhaps this is some of my londonisation shining through, but when a menu says £2.50 a meal with student discount on top of that, I feel you'd have to be completely stupid to turn it down. And the food wasn't half bad! Nothing special, but what more do you want than a sizeable helping of your classic English Breakfast of Sausage, Egg, Bacon, Toast, Tomato and Beans? The price is genuinely as good as it seems.

Apart from lots of catching up and general banter, we didn't really get around much more of Manchester. There are lots of places that I have previously visited, which I will supply linkage for at the bottom of this post. However, I know for a fact it won't be long until my next visit anyway, so I can share a lot more info with you then.

My Manchester Highlights:
Afflecks Palace (Alternative/Indie Shopping)
Canal Street (LGBT Clubbing)
Christmas Markets (Seasonal)
Manchester Academy (Small gigs)
Museum of Science and Industry (Interactive Museum)
Palace Theatre (Musicals and Plays)
Trafford Centre (High Street Shopping)

Monday, 7 April 2014

East Side Gallery

Final instalment of the KCL German Soc trip EXTRAVAGANZA. And never has the phrase 'the morning after the night before' ever been such an understatement (honestly, it's nearly two months later and I'm still waiting for the hangover to end).

Greg looks here how we all felt on that Sunday morning.

Unfortunately I think my ankle came off the worst that night. I'm not quite sure what happened, but I know it involved me and some stairs in a club at silly o'clock in the morning. The sad thing is, I doubt there is much more to the story than that to make me sound even the least bit graceful - I was wearing Doc Martens and everything.

Since everyone was pretty knackered we decided to take it easy for the day and head out for a nice wander/hobble along the East Side Gallery, a long stretch of the old Berlin Wall which has been turned into an international memorial for freedom. Artists from all over the world have been invited to the paint the wall, resulting in some incredibly moving reflections. Once a hideous creation which used to divide two nations, it has become a place of powerful beauty.

'The Kiss of Death' by Dmitri Vurbel, the famous Brezhnev and Honecker kiss painting.

The lovely Mathilde and Hannah doing their tourist thang.

As a massive hippy I just love this.

Trying our best to look alive for the group pic.

After spending sometime wandering along the gallery, we decided to all retreat to our natural habitat i.e. McDonald's, in a feeble attempt to eat away our exhaustion. I think it's safe to say that by this point in the trip we were truly partied- and touristed-out from the sheer amount we'd managed to pack into just five days of travel. Some of the guys then headed off to see Check Point Charlie as their last stop of the trip, but unfortunately I was just in too much pain to walk any further, so Greg and I headed back to the hostel to recuperate a little before rounding up the troops. 

Action shot of our power nap in Maccy D's.

That evening we had our final meal all together before setting out on our final venture which would be staying the night on the airport floor. I actually didn't mind it, being so exhausted I pretty much passed out straight away, plus after South America I'm pretty much used to sleeping anywhere.

Hannah loving life on her make-shift airport bed.

The trip ended in a similar vein to how it began. We were up super early and slowly migrated as a team towards the terminal. In true German fashion, Stefan even had his final beer of the trip whilst we were waiting for boarding to start (at 5am...)

The man, the myth, the legend.

Our final camp site outside Burger King, looking as glamorous as always.

It's been a while since the trip came to an end, but I think I speak for everyone when I say it really was super fun! It was so lovely for me to get a chance to really get to know some more of the guys in the German department, both in my year and the year below, and not only that, we managed the entire thing without anything going wrong! Which really, is quite impressive for a group of late teen - early twenty something year olds.