Oh my..SO much has happened since my last entry here-I have covered a lot of ground. I have sat down to write new blogs several times, only to be interrupted by the temptation to get off of my computer and enjoy my surroundings (as most of the places I've been to thus far I have only had a few days to enjoy). I also was an idiot and didn't think about the fact that the UK has a different plug than the rest of Europe, so my computer and my phone were both dead on and off for large periods of time until I got off my arse and went to find an adapter. SO, I'll try to catch you up as briefly as possible on the places I've been, and then discuss the current happenings...:
After leaving Jesi (the little town near Ancona I was in), I went to Ravenna for a couple of days to hang out by the sea and see a concert (indie band called The Pains of Being Pure at Heart). I ended up staying in a very lovely hostel called "Ostello Dante". The staff there were extraordinarily kind and interesting, and they made my stay really enjoyable. They are all also from very diverse backgrounds-one is Kenyan but grew up between Italy/Kenya, one is half German, half Italian and speaks Italian, German, and English, and one is French and speaks French, Italian and English. They are so cool that they even let me friend them on Facebook, and the Kenyan guy named Omar has offered to host me on a trip to Kenya in December (which I am definitely considering). When you travel a lot, you realize just how few languages you know in comparison to the rest of the world, and how much world there is still left to see. It's truly insane.
Ravenna was a nice town; quiet and very ethnically diverse. The beach there, in my opinion, wasn't quite as nice as the one in Senegallia, but it was also a lot more crowded. Just depends on which beach scene you prefer.
After Ravenna, I flew to Paris from Bologna Airport. I was excessively irritated in Bologna, as the airport there was kind of crappy and the information people kept telling me I could log on and pay for internet with my laptop, but that seemed to be a dirty lie. To make matters worse, as I was sitting down with the cash change I'd gotten, a man came and accidentally "tripped" over me, and he said sorry in Italian and touched my head, which I thought was weird, but didn't think much of it. I looked down a minute later and realized he'd gotten my cash. It was only about 15 euro, thank goodness, but still was enough to piss me off. Then, when the internet wouldn't work I went back to the info desk and they just acted like I was insane. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to write down my cousin's cell phone number to put in my new phone, so I needed that info as I was headed to her place. I had pretty bad cell reception there and had to dance around the room while trying to talk my mom through logging onto my Facebook account and getting into my messages to get the info. By the end of that, I was feeling pretty cranky and decided to go for a beer. I noticed a group of English speaking guys across the room who were also drinking beers, and they saw me and invited me to join them. Turns out they were a group of Croatian guys who had just finished a stint on an oil rig, and they were just celebrating their return home. They were really great guys, and by the end of our time together they had all offered their homes and families as hosts to me if I should decide to visit Croatia (which they raved about).
Eventually, I made my way to Paris, to the Bastille area and then to my cousin's little apartment. I was laughing when she greeted me at the top of the stairs, because every time I first see my cousin it seems I am always sweaty and carrying luggage! ;) While it was really good to see a familiar face, I was having a pretty hard time in Paris, feeling shuffled around again. Whenever I move back and forth from place to place so much, I always crave stability. I think this is really normal, but it can be hard to keep things in perspective sometimes when that happens, and my first instinct is always to rush back to familiar places and people. Even with that, I had a really lovely time hanging out for a few days and journaling at the Jardin des Tuileries, one of my favorite spots there.
My next move was to England, where I am currently. I arrived in London at City Airport, and found the transport system really easy-I was able to get to my destination at Eden Park really quickly, without much of a struggle.
My first impressions of Oakfield House, where I was staying (in Beckenham, Kent, Southeast London) were like something out of a Jane Austen novel. As I walked out of the train station, the vegetation was what immediately struck me; the trees were of a large Oak variety that have distinct, heavy leaves and twisty trunks that only English trees can have. My friend Caroline came to meet me out of the gate, and she led me to a beautiful little room inside of the mansion where we were staying. This had apparently been the conductor's house, and the side facing the station (even though it was the back of the house) was much more ornately done than the front side, so as to keep up appearances.
Caroline's family are all from this area, so she was my tour guide. She took me to an area near Bromley called Crystal Palace, to a Pub she liked, which also quickly became one of my favorites. This was called the White Hart Pub, and it's definitely a place I want to go back to. The staff were really friendly and it was just a relaxed and happy place. I even made friends with a bartender named Victor (or Awot, he goes by both)-he was (and is) a really interesting guy. He is the first Eritrean I've ever met (and I will admit, I had never heard of Eritrea...)!
The things I love about traveling always come so clear once I do it-mainly, meeting other people, and learning about other cultures and places. I realize once I am doing it just how ABSOLUTELY necessary it is to understanding other people in the world and other cultures. I personally don't understand how people could not want to learn about other cultures. It is so essential in life to learn that there are other people in the world who think or act differently than you do, and to learn how to be humble and adaptive to other environments. As soon as I start to think I'm "different" from most Americans, that I am more well-traveled, I make some sort of cultural faux-pas and then am forced to learn from it. I know there is so much more to be learned from this world and the people in it...so I have to keep going. I think that, no matter what, I will always want to travel and learn.
Most importantly, this is such good research for helping other Americans to be able to learn about other cultures. I don't pretend to be an expert on any culture I have visited, but it certainly helps to dispell certain myths or preconceived notions many Americans may have about certain cultures.
So-now I am in Oxford, England, UK, at St. Hilda's University. I am teaching at a summer camp called Bucksmore Summer Programmes, a reputable company accredited by the British Council. The first few days I came in were really rough, because I had to do airport transfers right off the bat and I hadn't even got my bearings yet in Oxford. To make matters worse, I couldn't find the bus stop and the bus was late to go to the airport, and when I tried to call my manager on the company cell phone I found out it hadn't been topped up. All I could envision was some poor 13-year-old running around the airport, helplessly looking for me, and I wouldn't be there. Luckily, I managed to be there on time and met the kid, who looks more like he's 16 than 13, and he just happened to be with his dad. It was slightly awkward because of course I was exhausted and super stressed from running around and had to put on a happy face and pretend like I knew exactly where I was going. The father also kept asking me all of these questions about Oxford and London, and of course I had no idea what to tell him, so I ended up sort of half bullshitting, "oh yes, I think so" and then just telling him that I was "still getting to know the area myself" and that I would be "happy to ask a manager and find out for him", which we all know is basically code for "I have no f*cking clue, and please stop asking me thank you very much".
Thankfully, I made it back in one piece, and soon all of the other kids started to appear. Now at the camp there are kids from Russia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, and Lebanon. The kids are aged 13-17 and are low-level beginners to advanced-level English speakers. They are all really happy to tell you about their respective countries, and it really gives them a good reason to speak English. In the beginning, they were really sticking to their own cultural groups, but they seem to be comfortable enough now with each other that they are trying to speak to each other in English. I am learning so much from them all! It's really nice because they are old enough that they can discuss things like political systems and current events, and they are so smart and passionate about the world.
The camp has been much better since the transfer days, and I have had the opportunity to go on excursions with the kids so far to Bath and to Stratford and Warwick Castle. It was amazing to go inside a castle that truly looks like a typical castle! :) It offered a gorgeous view of the town as well. The people I work with have been an interesting mix-two directors, both English nationals but one who grew up in Australia and lives in Greece, and then an English Centre Manager who is also English but lives in Italy now. The other teachers range from being my age to twice my age, with two guys, one who has taught in Sardinia and Taiwan and one who has taught in Canada and China. Then there are two girls, one who is Kenyan (caucasian tho, 4th generation Kenyan) and has been teaching in Oxford the last month already, and one who is Serbian, Lebanese and Turkish but who lives in Edinborough, Scotland (and loves salsa dancing).
I really love England's climate and vegetation (English roses...GORGEOUS!). I love the feeling of quiet calm that comes along with being in Oxford, but I definitely feel I'm more of a London person. I think I would really like being in a place such as south London, where there are more suburb like areas that aren't far from the city. Oxford is nice but is a bit too conservative feeling for me I think to be here full-time. I have definitely decided that if I can do it, I am going to stay in England when I finish my job here. I am going to do my best to get a job in London! :)
Anyway, I have so much more I could write about, but this blog is ridiculously long. I apologize to anyone whom I haven't been able to have a coherent conversation with for the last month and a half...it truly has been a crazy experience, but a really great one as well. I also apologize that this blog isn't as detailed as I'd like it to be for each one experience, mainly because I've had so many these last few weeks. In any case, I am really glad that I am feeling better about things now, even though I do still miss friends and family (and always will, wherever I am!).
Glad I got a chance to fill everyone in! Hope you are all doing fabulously well.
Much love, XOXO,
Anna banana :D