A walk in the park with Sherlock

We have been incredibly blessed with beautiful weather here in Cheltenham. Almost every day this week, we have had temperatures around 70 F, with lots of lovely sun. Because of this gorgeous weather, Dr. Calhoun decided (with student encouragement) that our class would meet in a park this morning. We were quite excited!

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The setting was beautiful, and it was nice not to be cooped up in a stuffy classroom. However, traditional English weather decided to play some tricks on us. Instead of the sunny 70s, and the temperature dipped down into the high 50s, with an intermittent breeze and a thick layer of rain-heavy clouds. We still had class outside, but because many of us had dressed for considerably warmer weather, we were released for the day considerably earlier than usual.

The highlight of my day came not when class got out early, but as we were walking to class. Our route takes us directly past Spencer’s Café, where some of us ate lunch on Sunday. We had heard rumors that the film crew from the BBC show Sherlock had filmed at the café several weeks ago, but we had no confirmation. This morning, however, we received our proof.


Our usual path was blocked by several people in fluorescent vests, lots of equipment, and some camera men. That’s right – the Sherlock film crew was back. As soon as we realized what was going on, we stopped dead in our tracks with looks of awe and amazement on our faces. (And yes, we girls fell into fits of excited giggles. It was pretty silly.) One of the men standing near the camera with a look of authority on his face (I think he may have been the director) saw our looks of wonderment and chuckled at us. I sort of wanted to stick around to see if Benedict Cumberbatch or Martin Freeman were on the set anywhere, but we had to get to class. Regardless, it was still super exciting!


For lunch, I had a chicken tikka ‘toastie’. Toasties are essentially what Americans would call paninis. However, the English also have their paninis. Here, paninis tend to be made on baguettes, whereas toasties are made on traditional “square” bread. Chicken tikka is available in almost every cafe you visit. This variant of British Indian food was my first exposure to the cuisine. It resembled chicken salad, except it was made with curry and a tomato cream sauce; the curry added a rich, complex flavor to the dish. I definitely want to find a recipe for this, so I can make it upon coming home. :)

Tomorrow, our Cedarville group will take our first field trip! We shall travel to Stratford-upon-Avon, to see Hamlet performed in Shakespeare’s hometown! Since Shakespeare is fabulous, and Hamlet is one of my favorite plays, I’m super duper stoked.

That’s about all I have for the night. Cheers!


PS – In England, the term “cheers” does not always refer to drinking. (I haven’t participated in any drinking in this country, so I don’t actually know if they say it in that context…) Instead, “cheers” is a term one says instead of “see you later” or “have a good day”. Clerks and cashiers in shops frequently use the term.

She blinded me with science!

We are fortunate enough to be in town during the annual Cheltenham Science Festival. Each year, this festival brings in dozens of excellent speakers and puts on exhibitions that appeal to people with all levels of science knowledge. This year, some of the big-name speakers include James Watson (one of the co-discoverers of the helical structure of DNA) and Peter Higgs (one of the namesakes of the Higgs-Boson particle).

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Today after class, Steven and I decided to explore the wonders of the festival. Of the group of Cedarville students, Steven and I are the sole science majors, and thus the only ones interested in attending. Even so, we had a great time. We were privileged to listen to a lecture held by Jenifer Glynn, the sister of Rosalind Franklin.

IMG_1457Rosalind Franklin was a prominent scientist in the mid-20th century who studied the structure of carbon and analyzed the composition of the tobacco mosaic virus. She is most famous, however, for her contribution to the discovery of DNA’s helical structure. James Watson and Francis Crick used her discoveries (largely without her knowledge), and published their treatise on DNA’s structure before anyone else in the world. Franklin would have received the Nobel Prize for this discovery along with them, but died of ovarian cancer at the age of 37, five years before the prize was awarded. Although the story has a sad ending, Franklin accomplished significant works within her short life. It was neat to hear from Ms. Glynn, and to get a perspective of Franklin’s life outside of the lab.

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Incidentally, Gustav Holst, a Cheltenham native who wrote a series of pieces called The Planets, was Rosalind and Jenifer Franklin’s music instructor when they were children. A statue of him is installed in a fountain at the center of the park where the science festival is held.

This afternoon has been filled with the menial tasks associated with living on one’s own…doing laundry, buying groceries, making dinner, etc.

It was my first time using a laundromat!

It was my first time using a laundromat!

A group of the Cedarville students in my set of flats have joined with those living in the adjacent flats to form a sort of dinner club. One person makes (or buys) dinner for the group, on a rotation schedule. It saves a bit of money in the long run, and is a good way to build friendships. Tonight, we had pizza and vegetables. It was probably one of the more nutritious meals of late, and we had a lot of fun :)

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That’s all for this evening. Time to review for class tomorrow!



Monday, monday

‘Ello, lovelies! Today was our first day of classes. Our professors have been kind enough to ensure that classes on Mondays don’t begin until the afternoon, to allow some recovery (and homework) time for people who travel on the weekends. It was nice to be able to relax a bit this morning, and get some extra reading in. :)

The class I’m taking (Introduction to Literature), will focus on five different works: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling; and The Hobbit and Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien. In studying each of these works, we will also discuss the lives of each of the authors, in addition to how each work incorporates elements of faith. (In summary: it’s going to be a great class. ;) )

After class, Regan and I knocked around the town centre for a while before stopping for dinner at Bon Appetit. This place is excellent for university students on a budget: everything they sell costs only 99 pence! (That’s roughly equal to $1.64.) They don’t have a large selection of items, but that’s a non-issue. When you’re getting food for that cheap, you don’t complain about selection.

IMG_1445They even give you fairly large portions for the price. I had sausage and mashed potatoes (known to some as bangers and mash). This meal has been on my British bucket list ever since we first learned about English customs in British Literature class in high school. The verdict: a simple, filling, tasty meal. It doesn’t score too high on the nutrition scale, but I still enjoyed eating it.

Looks unappetizing, but tastes delicious.

Looks unappetizing, but tastes great.

Oh! Exciting news! Yesterday, 2 June 2013, marked the 60th Anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Last year, the country of England celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – the 60th anniversary of her reign — by adding an extra bank holiday to the traditional schedule, in addition to various royal tours and ceremonies. (When Her Majesty first became ruler, they held back her coronation a full 16 months to allow proper mourning for the death of her father, King George IV.) This year’s celebration is to be a bit more low-key, but surely will encompass the same grandeur of any celebration of royalty.

Well, folks, that’s all for today. I hope you have a wonderful evening, afternoon…whatever time of day it is that you’re reading this. ;)




Our first Sunday in Cheltenham! How exciting! This is the first time I’ve been outside of the US and have been able to choose my own Sunday activities, so I was excited to join a group of Cedarville students and walk down to a local church. We visited Trinity Cheltenham, which meets in a beautiful restored church building. Listening to the message, and looking at the website, I’m still a bit fuzzy on where they stand theologically, but was obvious that the people attending the service loved Jesus.  I was really encouraged to see that the church had a lot of outreach programs.


It seemed like a juxtaposition, to have the drums and band set up where the altar usually stands.

Worship consisted of a contemporary band (like at Cedarville), but some of the songs were a little different. My favorite was a kids song, which the congregation sang just before the little ones were released to children’s church. One of the verses went something like this: “God is big and God is great,/ He’s so fab and He’s my mate.” I love hearing all these British terms, especially when we get to use them to worship our awesome God. :D

After church, our group had lunch at Spencer’s Café. For all of you fans of the BBC drama Sherlock, keep an eye open for Spencer’s when you watch the upcoming the third season – apparently a crew was filming some scenes here just a couple of weeks ago.

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The food was delicious. I had a brie and cranberry baguette panini. Oh man. I think it was the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten. (But that also has something to do with the fact that brie is my favorite cheese….)

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We relaxed for a while after lunch, and then took an outing to Sandford Park. This part of Cheltenham was especially beautiful, full of lovely trees and well-kept lawns.

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We chose this spot to spend about two hours, reading and writing and doing some preparatory homework.

We chose this spot to spend about two hours, reading and writing and doing some preparatory homework.

The locals were also enjoying the gorgeous weather. We saw lots of people on bicycles, as well as a group of guys playing cricket.

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We took the scenic route home, and had the chance to interact with some locals…

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Overall, it was a lovely, relaxing Sunday.




Frolics in Bath

For our first Saturday in England, Regan and I went on an outing to the city of Bath. Located about an hour from Cheltenham, Bath was established by the Romans in the first century AD. The Romans were so enthralled by the natural hot springs in the area that they built canals from the springs to feed public bathing houses, as well as to feed a temple to the goddess Minerva. As time passed, people groups continued to marvel at the hot springs, and began claiming the sulfuric waters possessed healing powers. In 1687, the barren Queen Mary bathed in these waters and miraculously bore a male child the following year. Other members of royalty, like Queen Anne, highly valued the waters, thus boosting the town’s popularity.

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In the mid-1700’s, Bath gradually became the resort center of English society. People of means would come to the city and stay for “the season”, idling away their time while engaging in dances at the Pump Rooms and going visiting to all of their rich friends in town. The Pump Rooms were also a place where people could easily become acquainted with strangers – and sometimes fall in love. (Such is the fate of Catherine Morland, in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.) But, I digress – enough with the history lesson. (If you want more history, read this article. It’s fantastic.)

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Upon entering the city, Regan and I walked down to the city center, marveling at the gorgeous Romanesque architecture.  We were lucky enough to arrive before most other tourists, and thus were able to more fully enjoy the sights, as well as the shops.

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My main motivation for wanting to visit Bath was a recent interest in Jane Austen. This past semester, I had the opportunity to take Romanticsm with Professor Belliveau, in which we had an amazing time learning about Gothic and Romantic literature. (It was one of the best, most enjoyable classes I’ve ever taken in my life!) One of the first novels we read was Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which is partially set in Bath. Later in the semester, I was priviledged to write my final paper on the influences of Austen’s works.

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All of this to say – our second stop in Bath was the Jane Austen Centre. This site offers information on the now-legendary author’s life, and also has a small exhibition about life in Georgian Bath. Jane lived in Bath for a few years, around the time that her father died. Two of her works, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, are also set in Bath, and describe the frivolities of the upper classes during the early 1800′s.

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Regan and I enjoyed playing dress-up at the end of the tour ;)

After visiting the Jane Austen Centre, Regan and I continued browsing about town. The best part about our day was not having a plan. Though there were specific places we wanted to visit, we had no specific time schedule, allowing us to browse shops and explore side streets to our hearts’ content. At one point, Regan and I visited the most wonderful bookshop in the world. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful, and even gave us free tea! It was delightful :)

The little sugar jar even held sugar cubes! It was a fantastic surprise.

The little sugar jar even held sugar cubes! It was a fantastic surprise.

Late in the morning, we discovered a large courtyard in the middle of town, edged by quite a few tourists. In the center stood a group of men (and a few women), dressed in some rather funny clothing. These people – a troupe of Morris dancers  — were dancing around to the music of a small buttonbox accordion, waving blue and yellow handkerchiefs in the air. Soon, they began their next song. One of the men called out to the audience of tourists: “For this next dance, we can ask anyone we want from the audience. Young or old, tall or short…” At these words, Regan and I began hightailing it to the next street. We wanted to see the dance, but by no means did we want embarrassed. However, as we were about to cross, I stopped. Why not dance with them? After all, it wasn’t like I knew anyone in town, and plenty of other people were participating, too. And we’re in England, for goodness sakes! Why not embrace the traditions? Although Regan decided not to join me, she graciously offered to take some photos whilst I volunteered and joined the dance. It was so much fun, and definitely an experience to remember!

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For lunch, Regan and I grabbed some Cornish pasties (yes, they’re good enough to eat two days in a row!) and found a spot enjoy them near the river Avon. 

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After lunch, we took a tour of the interior of Bath Abbey. Gorgeous stained glass windows lined the walls, and carvings covered the 75-foot-high ceiling. The floor and lower portions of the walls were covered in graves and memorials of former parishoners and their families. It was touching to see the kind words people had written in memory of their deceased loved ones. Construction on the Abbey began in 1499; although the building has undergone some renovation (especially after bomb damage during World War II), the stones commemorating people from times long-past still remain.

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After visiting the Abbey, Regan and I trekked up to the Circus. The buildings lining this roundabout were constructed in the mid-1700′s in a then-revolutionary circular pattern. Each building houses several mansions, which serve as vacation homes for incredibly wealthy. A current famous (sometimes) resident of the area is Nicolas Cage, who owns a house (complete with a heated indoor swimming pool) on the Circus.

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Just down the road is the Royal Crescent. This architectural marvel holds only 30 houses, each of them taking up approximately 6,000 square feet. Like the circus, the mansions on the crescent have always been meant to be vacation homes, and have housed the wealthy for over 200 years. A super-informative guide informed us that one of these houses is currently on sale. The asking price? £4.6 million, or about $7.4 million.

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Fun fact: The designer of the Royal Crescent and the Circus was obsessed with Stonehenge, and built the two marvels so that they were perfectly in line with the ancient site. The three are so perfectly aligned, in fact, that on the summer solstice, the line of the sun follows the road between the Crescent and the Circus. In addition, the shapes of the two sets of buildings held significance: the Crescent was meant to represent the moon, and the Circus to represent the sun

As we continued our walk, Regan and I frequently stopped to explore other bookshops, side streets, and any interesting-looking locales. We kept a constant eye out for a tea room; though the Regency Tea Room at the Jane Austen Center was completely booked that day, we still wanted to have our first “true” English tea (with scones!). Soon, we came upon a church door advertising “cream tea for two” for a fairly cheap price. Taking our chances, we entered the building – only  to find ourselves in an absolutely gorgeous church with a small café at the back.

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We ordered our tea, sat down, and relished in our surroundings. Regan and I could hardly believe our luck. We kept saying to one another, “Can you believe this? We are in England. We are in a beautiful church. We are having cream tea!” We felt incredibly blessed. Soon, the server brought over our tea (with milk and sugar, of course), and then our scones with jam and clotted cream. It. Was. Amazing. The scones were sweet, with a few raisins and a biscuit-y texture. The clotted cream was like butter, except not quite as firm. It added a soft, fatty, delicious richness to the scone that made you close your eyes in revel in the flavor. Mmmm. It was so good. (It’s possible that our tiredness added to our deep appreciation for the sweets…but still! We greatly enjoyed it.)

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After tea, we continued to amble for the rest of the day, finally taking an evening train back to Cheltenham. Though rather tiring, our day was absolutely incredible, which I wouldn’t trade for the world. This entire trip to England is a huge blessing, and I am so thankful to have this opportunity!





Day 4

‘Ello, all! Today, our first full day in Cheltenham, has been our most relaxed day of the trip thus far. Although we still were able to get out and do some exploring, there were fewer items on our “to-do” list.

This morning we had an orientation meeting with our two wonderful resident directors, who gave us quite a bit of helpful information on adjusting to English life, as well as general information on how to get around Cheltenham. We are staying near the center of this town of about 100,000 people, and we are blessed with many public transportation options.

A street near our flats.

A street near our flats.

An interesting facet of this trip, which we discussed this morning, is the variety of minute, distinct differences between British and American English. For instance, what Americans call pants, Britons call trousers. What Britons call pants, Americans know as underwear. (Not a pair of words you want to mix up!) There also many, more benign differences, like how silverware is called “cockery”, a sidewalk is called “pavement”, chips are called “crisps”, cookies are “biscuits”, and English muffins are “crumpets”. (I got some crumpets from Tesco yesterday, and the English version of English muffins is equally delicious, though slightly more flexible and doughy than the American equivalent.)

One of the street flower merchants.

One of the street flower merchants.

After orientation, a couple of us went downtown to run some errands and generally explore. Cheltenham is well-known for being a center of excellent shopping, and it was neat to see the wide variety of shops lining the center of town. Laura Ashley, Dwell, Lush, Hotel Chocolat, and many other high-class brands have a presence here, as do an abundance of more affordable places, like Marks & Spencers. If I had more fashion sense, I would excitedly tell you about all of the new trends developing on this side of the Atlantic, so that y’all back in America could be ahead of the game…but alas, I’m not a shopper, and am currently unaware of the trends even in the States! Oh well. I guess you just have to come visit, to see the trends for yourself ;)

A street near the town center.

A street near the town center.

For lunch, Regan and I visited a small shop and ate traditional Cornish pasties. These “hand-pies” are warm, flaky turnovers filled with meat, potatoes, onions, and turnips. The first pasties were made in Cornwall, the furthest west region in England, which happens to contain many tin and coal mines. In the 17th century, miners’ wives would make these pasties for their husbands to take deep into the earth for lunch. Miners could easily re-warm the pasties by heating them on a shovel. Although today, people eat the entire pasty, the miners would discard the crimped portion of the crust because it served as more of a handle for the turnover, as the miners didn’t have time to wash their hands before eating.



I first heard about pasties a few years ago, and was quite excited to discover that a pasty shop was both close by and super affordable. A single traditional pasty costs only about £2.50 (about $4), and makes a delicious and extremely filling meal. I think we will be visiting this shop several more times in the coming weeks :)

Tonight, we have absolutely nothing on the schedule, which is a nice change of pace. However, tomorrow, Regan and I are leaving bright and early for an adventure! I promise to provide pictures and an update when we return :)





PS – I was super duper excited to find that Tesco (our local grocery) has a POLISH section!! An entire 3-foot wide section of an aisle was entirely dedicated to many wonderful delicacies, the likes of which I’d naught seen in nigh three years. The very best part: they had black currant juice! I drank this stuff nearly every day back in Poland! Though this is a different brand, it’s still tasty, and full of memories :)

They didn't have Prince Polo bars, but this was the next best thing ;)

They didn’t have Prince Polo bars, but this was the next best thing ;)

Our third day

Wednesday was our final day in London. However, before we Cedarvillians left the hostel at noon, a few of us decided to squeeze in just a tad bit more sightseeing. Four of us girls took the tube up to Baker Street, where we visited 221b – the address of the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. We hoped to tour the museum, but quickly realized we wouldn’t have time, so instead we took full advantage of the gift shop.

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"Who needs a mystery? Yeah, we need a mystery..." Oh wait, that's the Mary Kate and Ashley detectives song. Just kidding...

“Who needs a mystery — yeah, we need a mystery…”
Oh wait, that’s the Mary Kate and Ashley detectives song. Just kidding…

Even this portion of the building seemed historical. A few of the workers were dressed in period costumes, and the gorgeous hardwood floor creaked wherever you stepped. One of the rooms even featured an enormous, domed skylight (which perhaps serves as evidence that the sun actually shines in London sometimes?).

Another exciting part of our adventure was the opportunity to travel through Baker Street tube station. This section of the tube was much older than any others I had previously visited. In fact, this station was one of the very first on the tube, and is one of the founding stations of the world’s first underground rail service, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.


This station held a great deal of character. The walls were made of brick, and modestly decorated with vintage signs. The ticket hall featured a great deal of adornments that appeared original as well. The walls near the platform displayed maps of the original underground, allowing even the causal tourist to see how much the system has grown over its lifetime. This station, like so much of London, was packed full of wonderful historic value.


It looks like something out of an old movie. I love it.

It looks like something out of an old movie. I love it.

Precisely at noon, our group departed the hostel on a private bus for Cheltenham. Our driver was quite funny, and extremely informative, making sure we knew the history of some of the more famous buildings and locations we passed. For instance, he pointed out a statue in a park near our hostel, and told us that it is on a list of the ten worst statues in London. It is a figure of one William Hosskinson, a member of Parliament during the 1830’s. However, he is most famous not for his political actions, but for being the first person ever killed by a locomotive. The train was traveling at approximately four miles per hour.

After about an hour and a half on the bus, we began to enter the Cotswold region of England. This portion of the country is known for its rolling hillsides, gorgeous vistas, and quaint towns. From the Middle Ages through the early nineteenth century, this region was renowned for producing some of the best wool in Europe. Sheep farming was one of the most lucrative occupations at that time, as a person could easily earn a great deal of money. However, when the Industrial Revolution occurred, and the production of cotton became much cheaper, the bottom fell out of the Cotswold wool market, leaving many people extremely poor. According to Rick Steeves, this major depression of old accounts for the quaintness of the region.

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The yellow fields were incredibly vibrant to behold. Our resident directors informed us that these fields grew rapeseed, from which Canola oil originates.

Finally, we arrived at our destination. Here in Cheltenham, we are staying not in quaint cottages, but in a lovely building in which each of us get our own room! Although the hostel was an unforgettable experience, we all appreciate not having to share a room with nine other people.

My room, pre-unpacking.

My room, pre-unpacking.

Last night, our two Resident Directors gave us a brief orientation to the town, and showed us how to get to the downtown area. They also took our group out to dinner. We ate a most delicious meal at Toby Carvery, a restaurant just outside of Cheltenham.

On the way back to town, a few of us struck up a conversation with one of the locals, who was also returning to Cheltenham.

“Oh, you’re all from America, eh?” he grinned. “One o’ your lot just won the cheese rolling competition, just last week. You see that break in the trees back there?” He pointed behind us, to a hill about half a mile from the Carvery. “That’s where they do it.” I was quite excited to learn this little tidbit. For years, I’ve seen highlights (although they’re more like lowlights, since most people look like they’re getting hurt…) of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake, in which hundreds of people chase a wheel of Gloucester cheese down an incredibly steep hill. It looks like a very painful sport, but it was neat to see where the event actually occurs.

After returning to town, a few us us got some breakfast fixings from Tesco (yes! Crumpets!) before finishing our day. Cheltenham is a beautiful town, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know it better.



Our second day

(Written on the evening of 29 May 2013)

Hello, lovelies! Today has been swell. Most of us had largely recovered from our jet lag by this morning, which was a huge blessing. (It helps that many of us were able to get around 8 or 9 hours of sleep ;) )

Today was our first outing as a group – a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It was amazing. When we first arrived, we had a tour of the theatre, and learned fascinating background information from our ever-so-kind tour guide. The original Globe Theatre stood from 1599 to 1613, and though it was the same size as the current theatre, the audience held about 3,000 people. The original Globe burnt down in 1613, after an unfortunate accident involving a cannon and the thatched roof during a performance. This more modernized Globe was built in 1997, closer to the Thames River, and holds only about 1,110 audience members. The new Globe, however, lacks nothing in historical value and sheer amazingness. A large portion of the audience (the Groundlings) still stands directly in front of the stage like an Elizabethan mosh pit. The theatre is still built in the round, with seats available even from almost behind the stage. This unique perspective (and excellent acoustics) allows for some unique acting methods – the actors are able to face any direction on the stage, and still be heard as well as seen by much of the audience. The location of the Groundlings also gives the actors a chance to interact with the audience – something rarely seen in modern productions.

Outside the globe

Outside the globe

Inside the Globe

Inside the Globe

We were privileged to watch the Globe’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was an absolutely fantastic rendition. The director stayed true to Elizabethan style, and the play was still completely understandable, relatable, and hilarious. Many elements (including the fairies’ lullaby to Titania, and the introduction of Bottom’s troupe of actors) included musical and rhythmic sequences which were delightfully unexpected. Overall, the show was excellent. If you’re going to London this summer, you most definitely should check it out!

After the Globe, my friend Regan and I swung by the Tower Bridge to take some photos. Though the Tower of London itself was closed, we also stopped by and got our picture with one of the Yeoman guards (affectionately referred to as “beefeaters”). He was very kind, and asked us some about our trip. We learned that he was originally from Cheltenham, and we got some nice advice about places to go. Huzzah for wonderful British people!

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The Tower Bridge

The Tower of London

The Tower of London, where lots of people (including Mary Queen of Scots) were held prisoner and later beheaded, and where lots of other people (like Queen Elizabeth I) were only held prisoner, and not beheaded. This building is no longer a prison, and now holds the crown jewels.

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After visiting the Tower, Regan and I had some fish & chips for dinner. Then, we hopped on the tube and traveled to Earl’s Court Station to find the only Police Box in London. (For the unfamiliar – on the TV show Doctor Who, the Doctor travels in a time machine called the TARDIS, which looks like a Police Box.) After taking our photos, we headed back to the hostel for some much-needed rest.

Yes, it's total tourist food. But it was crazy delicious!!

Yes, it’s total tourist food. But it was crazy delicious!!

The TARDIS! (Unfortunately, I don't think this one was bigger on the inside...)

The TARDIS! (Unfortunately, I don’t think this one was bigger on the inside…)

Overall, day two was quite wonderful. God is awesome! We have yet to get ourselves completely lost, and friendships continue to develop between people on the trip.

Thank you so much for your prayers!



‘Ello mates!

Hello, all! As you might be aware, I am currently studying abroad in England, for a brief three weeks, taking a literature class through Cedarville. There are about twenty of us students, plus two professors, making for a lovely experience :) I have been out of the range of Internet for the past couple of days, so I shall now provide these tardy updates…


‘Ello mates!

Our first day in England has been busy, busy, busy! We landed in Heathrow around 8:30 am and met our representative from Brethren Colleges Abroad, who will be assisting us when we arrive in Cheltenham. She helped us make our way to our hostel, which is close to the Thames river. (Remember, that’s pronounced “tems”, not “thayms”…don’t want you walking around London, looking like silly Americans, now do we?)

Our hostel

Having never stayed in a hostel before, some of us are experiencing a wee bit of culture shock. The rooms are fairly small, full of many beds, and the stairwells are fairly narrow, and our room is on the third floor. However, we are very fortunate not to have to share our room with any strangers. The main floor of the hostel is super-cute, complete with couches and a restaurant. It feels very adventurous, staying here! I like it J There are bright colors everywhere, and the staff here are very helpful.

For lunch, a group of us went to a local pub called the Grosvenor. The interior of the pub was exactly how I pictured an English pub – a bar at the center, with tables and comfy couches and chairs throughout the rest of the establishment. The floor was covered in posh red carpet, and the walls were covered in retro posters. Seeing that it was only 11:30 am, the only other customer was an elderly man who appeared to be a regular. The man who ran the pub was incredibly kind and tolerant of our ignorant, jet-lagged, tourist ways. I got some vegetable soup with “crusty bread”, as the menu said, and it was especially delicious!


As today was our only free day in London, it was my goal to traverse to the British Museum to see their extensive collection of Ancient Egyptian antiquities, including the Rosetta Stone. Although it was raining, a group of 6 of us students decided we didn’t want to take public transit to the museum (which was on the opposite side of Central London)– no, we would walk to the British Museum. I had printed out directions before leaving home, and was confident that I could lead us there with ease.


The directions from Google gave incorrect road names, so we got turned around. Several times. In pouring rain. But it was an adventure! We ended up inadvertently walking past Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben – a major highlight for our day. Even though our walk took a full hour longer than we expected, and we looked like drowned rats upon arriving at the Museum, we did finally arrive! And it was worth the effort. Rick Steeves was right when he called their collection “the greatest collection of civilization, anywhere”. Dozens of mummies, Assyrian sculptures, Babylonian engravings, statues from the Parthenon, and tons, tons, tons of beautiful old books. And, of course, the Rosetta Stone. It was amazing!!!

The Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Big Ben, with the London Eye peeking up behind

Big Ben, with the London Eye peeking up behind

The exterior of the British Museum

Museum interior.

Museum interior.

Pillars taken from a Babylonian temple

Pillars taken from a Babylonian temple

A tiny fragment of the Egypt collection. This section of the museum also appeared to be a library, housing hundreds and hundreds of beautiful old books.

A tiny fragment of the Egypt collection. This section of the museum also appeared to be a library, housing hundreds and hundreds of beautiful old books.

The Elgin Marbles. These were taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin. Due to some sort of restoration, they cannot be returned to the Parthenon itself, so they remain in the British Museum.

The Elgin Marbles. These were taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin. Due to some sort of restoration, they cannot be returned to the Parthenon itself, so they remain in the British Museum.

The Rosetta Stone! This stone presents a decree, written three separate times in three different languages -- Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs at the top, Demotic script in the middle, and Ancient Greek at the bottom. When this stone was discovered, Egyptian hieroglyphs were untranslated. This stone allowed researchers to first translate and understand Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The Rosetta Stone! This stone presents a decree, written three separate times — Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs at the top, Demotic script in the middle, and Ancient Greek at the bottom. When this stone was discovered, Egyptian hieroglyphs were untranslated. This stone allowed researchers to begin understanding hieroglyphs, and thus has proved priceless in the realm of Egyptology.

To avoid getting lost again (and killing our feet), we took the Tube back to the hostel. It was a much more historic/rugged experience than taking the Metro in Washington DC, and very enjoyable. (Plus, everyone here has British accents, making almost all experiences much more fantastic ;) )


Our trip this far is a little bit like summer camp. Our room in the hostel contains five bunk beds, which offers a good chance to chat with the other students – many of whom I don’t know very well. It also has involved lots of adventures that wear you out (i.e. walking all over London), and very little sleep (we had an overnight flight into London, so we are all still jet-lagged). And, like summer camp, it has been lots of fun!


Thank you so much to everyone for your prayers! I will do my best to provide more updates in the coming days and weeks





Soli Deo Gloria

Coming home

On July 5th, 2010, at about 4:00 in the morning Poland time, we said goodbye to our Polish host siblings and made our way to the Krakow airport.

Our Krakow to Munich flight left at 6:50 am, but we arrived at the airport more than two hours before to make sure we would have ample time to check our bags, go through security, etc.

I just realized that our flight isn't actually on this board...oops

Goodbye, Poland...

Our first flight went very well. Once we arrived in Munich we had our passports stamped, got some breakfast, and relaxed for a while (our layover lasted about four hours).

We were all pretty sleepy from having awoke at 3:30 am, but most of us took naps either on the plane, in the airport or both, so we were okay. :)

Before boarding our flight to the US, we had to go through a passport check and another security checkpoint. I appreciate that United Airlines wants to keep terrorists from hurting America/Americans, and going through security’s not that bad…but at the same time, going through the same checks multiple times in one day can get a bit tiring.

We boarded our next flight around 11:30 am. Unlike the last flight, which was only two hours and over land, this flight would last 9 hours and 20 minutes and take us all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, back to the land of our families.

Because this flight was in the middle of the day and because of the drastic time change (-7 hours), I thought that trying to stay awake for most of the flight would be a good idea. After all, when we came to Poland, the flight was at night and I slept the whole time, and my body was (for the most part) already on Poland time when we arrived. This was my philosophy for this trip. However, staying awake as well as entertained on a 9 hour and 20 minute flight is not necessarily as simple as it seems. This flight definitely seemed much longer than the flight coming to Europe — but the main reason for that is I slept for at least four hours of the flight to Europe, not to mention that the other flight was actually two hours shorter. (I’m not sure why that is…something about a tailwind? Or a headwind? I’m not a pilot, so I’m not really sure.)

The difficulty of my endeavor was significantly lightened, however, because of the type of plane we were flying. We were fortunate to be flying on a 777 on this leg of the journey. Although not as large as a 747, the 777 boasts a feature that seems to be very well-accepted by the under-20 crowd: television screens in the back of every seat. :)

There were about ten channels that showed films in continuous loops throughout the flight, as well as one channel that played a couple of television shows, and one channel which showed a map of our progress. I think I might have actually enjoyed the map channel the most, if only because it was different every time you turned it on. I watched us fly over Germany, a teeny tiny bit of Denmark, the UK, Iceland, Greenland, very cold parts of the Atlantic, and finally Canada and the USA. I got pretty excited as we were nearing the US, because Iowa gradually made it’s way onto the map. “We’re almost home! We’re almost home!” I kept saying to Gretchen, who was sitting beside me.

We landed in Chicago around 3:00 pm Central Standard Time. Although it might seem as though only four hours had passed, don’t be fooled – remember the 7 hour time difference. In Chicago, we went through another passport check (and stamp! Yes!) and security screening. We also had to retrieve our checked bags to take them through customs. This was a new experience for me, as we had virtually no customs check to go through when we arrived in Frankfurt or Warsaw at the beginning of our trip. Here, we had to declare what items we brought into the United States, how much they were worth, whether or not we came in contact with any livestock while overseas, the purpose of our trip, etc. We all passed the test of the customs people and made it to our next departure gate with about 30 minutes to spare.

I really enjoyed turning my phone on in the Chicago airport and recieveing many “Welcome Home!” messages from friends and family. For the past month, I had only turned my phone on to take a few pictures — my phone is not equipped with a SIM card slot, and there was no service in Europe, rendering my phone useless as a means of communication. Thus, receiving messages of welcome as well as talking to my parents again was a very nice change.

Our flight back to Cedar Rapids ended up being delayed for close to an hour because they were having trouble collecting all of the luggage from the international flight and bringing it to the plane.  I kind of felt like apologizing to the other people on the plane who were only flying domestically, since it was our luggage that was causing the delay. The pilot handled the situation extremely well. He came on over the intercom and you could tell by his voice that he was very, very sorry about the whole situation. I didn’t mind waiting around so much, but I was a little bit impatient to be home. However, we did eventually take off. I had a window seat on this flight (my first that day), and it was very comforting to see the gravel roads and enormous fields of Iowa once again. Before you could say “I’m coming home to Iowa and I’m very happy even though I’ve been having a wonderful time in Poland for the past month” three times fast, we were beginning our decent into Cedar Rapids.

I think we were all glad to see our parents again, and they to see us.

The past two weeks have been very…uneventful. And nice. I’ve been able to reconnect with almost all of my Iowa family and friends again. My time-change-adjustment tactic worked pretty well, although I did take multiple naps the first few days after coming home. I’ve been reading quite a bit, as well as relaxing in the pond and hanging out with friends. Bonfires have become at least a bi-weekly occurrence.

As nice as it is to be home, I do miss quite a few things about Poland.Here’s just a few of the main things:

  • My host family. I really enjoyed getting to know the Długozewki family and I miss being able to talk with them on  a daily basis. If you’re reading this — thank you again, so very much, for opening your home to me!!
  • Hearing people speak Polish (or simply any language that isn’t English). Even though I understood almost no Polish (or German, for that matter), it was nice hearing bilingual people speak. It was also pretty fun to try to figure out what people’s conversations were about, and trying to pick up new vocabulary words here and there.
  • The food. Although I love knowing the names and ingredients of everything I eat here at home, I do miss the types of foods we ate in Poland. I think part of that is because there are many Polish foods (like pierogi, żurek, nalesńiki and black currant juice, just to name a few) that aren’t widely available here in America. To help with this withdrawal, I’ve been eating black currant jam at least once a day, and I attempted to make sweet pierogis with strawberry sauce the other day. It’s not quite the same, but it’s similar.
  • City living. I love how quiet it is here on the farm, but I do miss living in large cities. It was so nice being able to walk wherever we went, not having to drive long distances to get anywhere.

Well, that’s about it for today. I want to thank you all for all of the prayers and encouragement on this trip, as well as for simply supporting me by reading this blog! It’s been fun to be able to share my travels with you. Maybe I’ll write some more soon…who knows!