Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for Jane Austen and Jews

Location: Jane Austen's House
Activity: I'm making the shape of a "J" and Katie an "A"

Feelings: I am determined, more than ever, that Jane and I would be great friends if we met each other.

Thanksgiving Activities
  • Visit a synagogue

I thoroughly enjoyed our tour. Everything was a review but it was interesting none the less. I did discover my elementary Hebrew skills have slipped! I could not remember all the sounds of the letters or how to write the alphabet in script!

  • Have tea at Kensington Palace

We had the best looking server at tea! I think he was Spanish or something...I gave him my best smile. We had cucumber sandwiches -which reminded me of The Importance of Being Earnest- peppermint tea, clotted cream with a scone and a slice of cake. It does not sound like much but those dense scones with the heavy clotted cream can kill you!

  • Make and eat Thanksgiving meal

Pumpkin pie is difficult to come by in this country, but luckily we found some!

We did not go around and say what we were thankful for and I missed that.
I am thankful for:
My family

Hearing the call to prayer everyday in Jerusalem at dusk


Religious Freedom

Royal Shakespeare Company

Markets (The suk, Portabello, Burrows, Pike Place etc)

Brilliant football matches

Andrew's Earth Wind and Fire impersonation

Kinder Bonous

My ward in London and the members that inspire me every Sunday

Art Galleries

Attractive British men on the tube

Opportunity to celebrating Shabbat at the Western Wall

Enthralling books


Bart (Our dishwasher here in London)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Haircut

Things it reminds people of:
Romona (Beverly Cleary)

An Egyptian

A character in a Fitzgerald novel

A Flapper

Tyson & Andrew: I do not want to hear anything negative...or I will remind you of the mohawks and mullets of the past few years.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Puppet Show that Changed My Life

I went to a puppet show tonight…now do not judge until you have the whole story. It’s about the friendship between a little boy and horse (you know how I love a good horse story). The horses in the show are puppets…but sophisticated puppets?! It’s brilliant; the horse’s mannerisms are so real that you actually forget that three people are behind it. Well, I got rather attached to the main horse puppet: Joey. There were quite a few touching moments (which is to be expected in a sentimental story about a boy and his horse…Black Beauty, National Velvet etc.) My connection to this puppet (aka three men) brought me nearly to tears at the climax of the play. We all know it does not take much to make me cry, but even the British (who show no emotion) were choked up. Seriously though, it was incredible. Any production which gets an audience to become more emotionally attached to a puppet rather than actors must be doing something fantastic. So parents do not worry and think I’m wasting my money going to London; sleep well at night and know that your daughter is attending life altering puppet shows in London.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Artwork of Paris

At galleries unexpected pieces of art touch you and stimulate your thoughts. Here are a few of the art pieces that I felt a connection to during my week in Paris. (It was difficult to only choose a few).

Van Gough
L'eglise d'Auvers-sur-Oise, vue du chevet

Constantin Brancusi
Le Coq (The Rooster)

Amedeo Modigliani
Le Jeune Apprenti

Maruice Denis
Les Arbes Verts ou Les Hetres de Kerduel

Antoine Pevsner
Construction Dynamique
Marc Chagall
Le Marchand de Jornaux

Gustave Caillebotte
Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor-Scrapers)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The City of Light

My Week in Paris
Day One
Chartres Cathedral
Chartres's unique original stained glass and its congruent style make it an anomaly among Gothic cathedrals. Our tour guide studied Chartres for over fifty years and continues to be intellectually stimulated by this brilliant church. Our guide presented a brief glimpse into the importance of stain glass windows; medieval cathedrals use elegant symbolism in a colorful and pictorial manner that all people understand.
Eiffel Tower
I'm assuming that this European Union flag decor is temporary; I hope it is. The Eiffel Tower never excited me or entered my romantic daydreams... but it's stunning in person. Skyscrapers at ninety degree angle shooting upwards destroys your perspective; the Eiffel Towers slow slopping angles allow the eye to understand its towering height.

Day Two
“I have seen enough mansions and gardens to last me a baroque lifetime”
- Lauren Call

My Versailles experience suffered from a modern art exhibit that displayed artwork in every room of Jeff Koons. If you have never heard of him…you’re lucky. Jeff Koons envisioned the porcelain statue of Michael Jackson and subsequently Michael Jackson is one of the largest statues of porcelain in the world. Not only did it disturb us, but it covered up the Bernini statue behind it.

Rodin Museum

Strolling down the wide sidewalks of the Champs-Elysees you pass world renowned designers.

Arc d'Triomphe
Traffic roars around the Arc d’Triomphe as the major roads of Paris break siege on the monument. We climbed to the top to look out on the city of Paris at dusk and waited until night fell and the Eiffel Tower sparkled on the hour. Above the city you see the organized streets of Paris which differs with the mangled streets of London. Paris is magical from the sky!
Day Three: Museum Day

I found the Louvre too overwhelming; you have to sift through mediocre work to find the masterpieces. If you spent thirty minutes at every piece of art at the Louvre it would take you three months to view everything; twelve miles of artwork!

Mona Lisa Smile
We patiently stood in line waiting for the Louvre to open. The flood gates opened and we ran past the Asian tourists to visit the secretive lady: the Mona Lisa. If you Google the image of the Mona Lisa you will have a more personal connection with her than I did (a three inch thick glass case protects the lady, three security guards armed and willing to take you out if you breath to closely and a barrier about twenty feet away). Everyone prepared me for her small size, but with the distance it was impossible to even see if she was frowning or smiling.

Musee d’Orsay
Most likely my favorite museum in Paris is the Musee d’Orsay. The renovated railway stations houses a fantastic collection of impressionist paintings.

Musee d'Orangerie
While going blind, Monet accomplished a magnificent feat by painting large canvases to be housed in a museum: Musee d’Orangerie. You sit in a stark white circular room enclosed by Monet’s famous water lilies; the perfect environment.

Day Four

Notre Dame
Notre Dome sits on an island (no one ever told me)! We peered at the top to see the famous gargoyle who cradles his face in his hands but we did not see the hunchback!

Shakespeare and Co.

My favorite bookstore in the whole world! I walked in the charming store to hear Beirut playing softly in the background! Could it be anymore perfect? This bookstore started as a library by an English women who loaned out English books to the Lost Generation writers: Gertrude Stein, Hemingway and James Joyce. Today it continues to lend out beautiful old books and house budding young authors. When you walk upstairs you see the makeshift beds of these young authors and one of them even shaved while we browsed the shelves. Also, they sell new and used books! It's a brilliant and wonderful place!

It’s a bit random; most people do not imagine bones when they think of Paris. We decided walking beneath Paris surrounded by dead bones sounded adventurous and different. Ironically Becky freaked out the first few minutes before the bones began; we offered to hold her hand but Becky declined.

Chopin's Grave
We hopped on city bus and took a free tour of the main sites of the city and the city took shape as we connected all the different sites. We jumped off at a large cemetery with famous people buried there (Gertrude Stein, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde etc.) Lauren lost her camera on the bus and with tears beginning to well up in her eyes she dashed off after it. Miraculously she managed to chase down the bus and retrieve her camera! The size of the cemetery caused some problems and we could only find Chopin's grave. We placed a flower on his grave and we listened to my favorite Nocturne on my i-pod.
We purchased wonderful ice cream at a local store and then bought two baguettes and treats at a local patisserie. We transported these baguettes on the metro and ate them by the Eiffel Tower. After finishing our carb dinner we floated on the Seine on a tour boat.

Final Day in Paris
We began the day with a trek to Sacre Coeur, byzantine style Cathedral built in attempt to atone for the sins of an evil Paris. We walked from Sacre Coeur around the more peaceful and bohemian side of Paris. We walked to the studios of several impressionist painters and began to piece together the Paris that inspired them. Our walk ended at the Moulin Rouge...we did the cancan have no fear! We visited the two famous opera houses in Paris and went to the mecca of malls. I never thought a mall could rival Harrods...

After a week of carbs we were craving salt and meat and our answer was McDonald's. My meal at McDonald's was the most expensive meal of my whole entire study abroad!
We walked around the fashionable part of Paris and witnessed the expensive boutiques. Most importantly we walked through the Jewish section of town! It was on the eve of Shabbat so things were closing down, but we grabbed some Challah bread and I wished the baker Shabbat Shalom! I was ecstatic after this and grinned the rest of the day. We finished our day visiting the Pompidou for a second time...
Au revoir Paris!
Paris & London Awards
A quick glance at the city of Paris compared with the city of London

Most Attractive Men: London
Whoever tells you otherwise is crazy!

Fashion: London
The general public in London dresses with greater style than the French. Walking through the local trendy districts of Paris I began to see that the upper classes dress extremely well. However, I enjoy the crazy local fashion of London better!

Friendly and Helpful Locals: Paris and London
Some Parisians are extremely helpful while others are straight up rude. Londoners may not have the warmth of some Parisians but they are just as respectful by honoring your personal space.

Pickpocket and Beggars: Paris
It surprised me the number of beggars in Paris! Several women forced themselves on us and persistently asked for money. I was almost pick pocketed in Paris but I had the good sense to feel the hand trying to grab into my purse behind me. Have no fear, I gave him a Hillary glare (which are quite unnerving) and he tried to play it off like he ran into me. Nice try!

Pastries: Paris
No surprises there!

Cleanest River: Paris
The Thames only stands a chance against the Nile…which tells you how gross the water is in the Thames.

Art: Paris

Architecture: London
I prefer the subtle elegant style of London buildings opposed to the Baroque frilly show of Parisian architecture!

Football: Premier League (England)
Henry or Rooney? ROONEY!

There is no denying that Paris is a wonderful, beautiful city with thousands of things to see…but London still holds my undying devotion and love!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Broom War

I broke code; I laughed on the tube.
I could not help it; it was so unexpected!
The cause for my laughter: a “broom war”.

The londonpaper
I love the free, sleazy “londonpaper” handed outside the tube stops. They give major political events, fashion trends, celebrity gossip and most importantly football updates. By the time you conclude your reading you have reached your destination and avoided another boring trip on the tube. You step off the tube more informed and with helpful knowledge (like Lindsey Lohan and her British DJ girlfriend are on the rocks). My taboo laughter began with an article in the londonpaper.


While in Jerusalem a guest speaker who worked for the government spoke about maintaining peace and good will among all Christian denominations in Jerusalem. Contrary to what many believe, devout Christians in Jerusalem do not always agree. While visiting holy sites Professor Seeley told us “it’s not the time to be Christian”. You need to maintain this mentality with pious pilgrims and clergy pushing and shoving to view a site. You cannot turn the other cheek, you need to throw an elbow!
Matters among Christians are especially heated when it involves the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There are several denominations who share the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and each priest knows to the centimeter where their turf ends and the appropriate times for each denomination’s worship. Due to the tense situation mindless sweeping on another denominations stone floor in the church can lead to a “broom war”. Something very similar happened the other day and a brawl between an Armenian clergy and Greek Orthodox ensued and Israeli authorities had to pacify the flying fists. When I read this I chuckled, then I laughed hard when I saw the accompanying picture of the clergymen with their fists up.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

In Memoriam

A few weeks ago small red flowers appeared on lapels throughout London; on the bomber jackets of young trendy youth, suit jackets of business men, tweed jackets of old men and even on the stained and tattered clothes of the less fortunate. What did these flowers represent? These poppies are a sign of respect for the Great War.
Growing up any veteran or war holiday translated into one thing: a day off from school. Over the past few weeks I gained a greater understanding of the devastation of sacrifice of European countries during the world wars.

Imperial War Museum
I visited the Imperial War Museum and took a refresher course on the history of these wars and crept through a recreation of the trenches.

God Save the Queen
In church we participated in a nation wide two minutes of silence. After our meeting we concluded by singing “God Save the Queen”. The song feels different when your voices merge with those who consider Elizabeth as their sovereign.

War Requiem
After World War II the demolished Coventry Cathedral was rededicated. The talented British composer, Wilfred Owen, wrote a War Requiem for the ceremony. On Sunday I went to the Royal Albert Hall for a somber performance of this piece. The music began with ghostly ringing reminiscent of church bells swinging to alarm of an attack or to mourn. The horns rich tones attempted to play a military commanding tune but were lost in dissonant chords. The dissonance conveyed the loss of control and faith in humanity.

Surviving the Blitz
At church the current holiday reminded our favorite member of her memory of grasping tightly to the cloak of a nun to escape the Blitz. The next day we had a brilliant man speak to us about his experience during the Blitz in London. He was young at the time but the emotional circumstances branded those pictures in his mind.

In Flanders Fields
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A London Weekend

Royal Mayor Parade
Who is the Royal Mayor? I have no clue, but he throws a wicked parade! (Wicked in the British sense and not the Biblical) A group of us stood in the rain in front of Saint Paul’s. Now there are a few differences between American and English parades.

1. Pomp & Court
Several gilded carriages worthy of Disney princesses and extremely ridiculous hats (but silly hats are standard British wardrobe)
2. Hundreds of horses and they were not associated with 4H
3. Ridiculous Outfits
Most of these outlandish outfits do not seem ridiculous because old British men are wearing them. Most of them are similar to graduation robes with huge medallions and Martin Luther Wittenberg styled hats.

Six Characters in Search of an Author
Six characters abandoned by their author demand someone to finish their story. Now I cannot relate more of the plot or you will be lost and my head will hurt. In short its metafiction dealing with reader and author relationship. I must be honest that I had little exposure to this type of prose. Luckily the girl I went with did extensive research on it. After the mind boggling existential ending we walked on the Thames and attempted to figure it all out. I have not read the play, but from what I gather it as an extremely provocative modern interpretation. All the actors were excellent. One of the main actors is the Emperor from the new Star Wars…and he also played a creepy role in the play. I’m glad I went because I would never have another opportunity to see a play like this performed so well!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Singing through Southern Wales

The Life of a Welsh Coal Miner

We began our descent three hundred feet below the ground in a rickety caged elevator pressed tightly against one another. Our headlamps were our only source of light; without them you cannot see the hand in front of your face (not even my albino white shinning hands). No cell phones, camera or watches were allowed for fear of igniting a flame that would kill us. Yet, under the morbid circumstance our Welsh coalminer guide’s humor kept us smiling.
There were some awkward moments when his jokes about his drink problem hit a little to close to home. The fact that we were Mormon stimulated the conversation. He asked if we drank, did drug etc. He confessed he did drink but he did not do drugs. However, there was this one time in Amsterdam…and he went on to tell his experience (problem was he could not remember much).
Our tour guide wanted us to sing for him. So we sang like canaries the hymn How Great Thou Art. He loved it so much he made us sing it on our way up in the elevator shaft. All of our lights were off and the palpable darkness left us in liminal space. Our voices echoed in the chasm with the elevator's rolling thunder above our heads as we sang “I hear the rolling thunder.” After we finished we saw the streams of light; we resurfaced.

Tintern Abbey

I’ll never forget stepping of the bus and at being transported into the world of Tintern Abbey. The early morning fog still loosely shrouded the ruins, while white birds fluttered from gothic arch to gothic arch. The warm colors of fall framed the building; though the leaves were warm tones, they symbolized the coming of winter and ultimate death to flowers and trees. I could not have dreamed of a better day to visit Tintern Abbey.
Of course we read Wordsworth’s poem. Afterwards our group gathered together in the middle of the Abbey and sang hymns. I do not know how long it has been those stones have heard a song…but it’s romantic to think we were the first after a few hundred years.

Church History Tour

Our church history tour was led by Peter Fag. Do not judge him for his unfortunate name. He’s a top rate tour guide bursting full of information. This tour focused on Wilford Woodruff’s missionary work in Herefordshire. The pond belongs to the Bembo Farm where the first baptisms in the area took place.

Katie pointed out that I look like Explorer Barbie and I think Becky looks like Willow.

Malvern Hill

Peter Fag told us that he had ninety year olds make this climb so we should not worry. It had me panting. I have not shame in saying this. Wilford Woodruff came here for solitude during discouraging times. In honor of him we sang (imagine that) We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet and the “dark clouds that hung or us” literally dissipated and streams of sunlight covered our group.

Who needs tribal dances to the rain and sun gods when all you need to do is sing a hymn?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Straddling the World & Other Activities

Greenwich is the meridian of the world. At this moment in the picture I'm straddling the eastern and western hemisphere. All I could think about was the horrible movie A Walk to Remember where Landon takes her to a state boarder so she can fulfill a dream of being in two places at once. Yes...I am really that uncultured.

Chartwell: the home of Winston Churchill.

Winter threatens our beautiful brisk mornings as we begin to see our breath vaporize in the air. Though the bitter cold begins to set in, these beautiful fall colors keep me content.
Oh, Winston! You're so charming. Your brilliant rhetoric almost made me forget about the Syke Piccot Agreement and all the other horrible British politics in the Middle East during your term as Prime Minister. (Almost...)
"A cat looks down upon a man, and a dog looks up to a man, but a pig will look a man in the eye and see his equal."
- Winston Churchill