Nothing has happened lately other than getting ahead on my homework. (I’ve already finished my reading for this week and now I’m halfway through my work for next week!) I’m also in the process of planning my trip to Scotland in just a few weeks, so I have a big incentive to get a lot of my reading done before then. In other news, the weather has been really warm. After about three days of 30 degree weather last week, it’s back up to the 40s and 50s. I can’t really complain about that!
I’m looking at having a day trip this Saturday, so hopefully I’ll have an adventure to write about soon!
It’s been a really hard week. I’ve been working nonstop on essays, and then I found out that my grandpa died on Tuesday. All of the bad things are happening at once, and I just wanted to give up. But then I thought about my Papa, and I know I need to keep going, for his sake, and things will be better soon. I’m okay. But I’m going to take a break from blogging until the worst of my homework is over. I still need to finish posting about the rest of my adventures with Molly, but that can wait until next week. I did take a break from my homework to write this little bit:
For as long as I can remember, Papa has called me E. My earliest memory of him is of me sitting on his lap and playing with his hands. He had an interesting black and gold ring that I loved to run my fingers over. When I was younger, one of my favorite things was for him to push me in the horse tire swing that he had in the backyard. Having a full cookie jar was always a priority for him when he knew we were coming to his house. To this day, I don’t think there is a better cookie jar in the world than the one he had.
One time, when I was in kindergarten or first grade, he came to visit us. I don’t know where Mom and Dad and my sister were, but it was just me and him; he decided that he wanted to see my school, so he put me in his car and I tried to direct him there as best as I could. I thought I knew how to get there, but we never did find it. And Papa was bad with directions, so it took us forever to find our way back to the house. Last year, I finally got the chance to show him my school when he came to visit me in Cincinnati and I gave him a tour around campus. He was so proud of my straight As in school that he always asked, “Do you even know what a B is?” Whenever he saw me without a book, he asked me why I wasn’t reading. And whenever I did have a book, he would grin and say, “That’s my E!”
Papa was usually pretty mellow, but he could also be very witty. When I was making a leaf collection for my biology class a few years ago, he was trying to remember the name of one of their trees. He couldn’t think of it, so he asked Grandma and she told us it was a beech tree. He promptly replied, “Well, son of a beech, it is!”
One time I spent the weekend with him and Grandma when I was in Van Wert to take my ACT. He made me Velveeta shells and cheese for dinner, since he knew how much I like mac and cheese. When my tire went flat on my way to the test, he rescued me and got me there on time. By the time I finished taking the ACT, he had replaced my tire. We have such a big family that I didn’t often get to spend much time on my own with Papa and Grandma, so that stands out as one of my favorite times with them. And I still think of that weekend when I eat Velveeta shells and cheese.
I once told Papa that his watch was loud. “I’m not wearing a watch,” he replied. “That’s my heart.” My sister described his heart as making “a special ticking sound.” And it truly was special. It reminded us of how lucky we were to still have him, that he had overcome such serious illness in the past. Every moment we had with our Papa was special. Though his heart made funny noises, there was nothing wrong with it; he had one of the kindest hearts imaginable. Papa was so supportive and positive. “E,” he would start authoritatively and then follow it with a compliment like, “I don’t know anyone who can read as well as you do.” When I applied to study at the university here in England, he had no doubt that I would be accepted. He believed in me.
The last time I saw Papa was in August of 2011, just before I moved to England. “E,” he said, “You’re gonna go far, and don’t ever let anyone ever tell you otherwise.” The last time I spoke to him was a phone call on January 3, 2012. He told me how much he loved me, and in that moment, I knew how truly proud he was of me. It’s really hard being so far away from home right now. But I know he was proud at my opportunity to have such a wonderful adventure. And I know I want to continue to live my life in a way that would make my Papa proud.
Dan got back to Birmingham yesterday, which was really nice. I had worked on my essay all afternoon, and by the time he got here, I was feeling a little run down. He could tell I needed to get out, so he suggested that we go see a movie or have a coffee at Starbucks or whatever I wanted. It was already dark outside, and I decided that it would be nice to see the stars.
So we took the train to Longbridge, on the outskirts of Birmingham. From there we took a bus a little bit farther to Lickey Hills, which is eleven miles away from Birmingham’s city centre. Although it was dark, the clouds were reflecting enough of the city’s light that we could see well enough to find a path to climb up the hill. The path was very winding, so it took us about fifteen minutes to get to the top of the hill. When we finally did, we had a beautiful view of all of Birmingham. We also had a view of the hill just next to us, which was taller than the one we were on. We decided that we should definitely go climb the taller hill.
We found a path down the first hill and discovered that we needed to walk across a golf course in order to get to the other hill. As we walked through the golf course, we saw someone with a flashlight in the distance. For some reason, we thought that it was a police officer or something (it was only about 6pm, but I think we were paranoid because it was so dark out, and it felt like we were breaking all sorts of rules being there), so we ran and hid behind some trees until the person had passed, and then we sneakily made our way to the base of the hill. We got there, but then we couldn’t find a good path to climb it, because so many of the trees and plants were overgrown.
All of a sudden, we saw the person with the flashlight just behind us, so we charged through the bushes and sprinted up the hill. Afraid that the policeman was right behind us, we kept running until we were about halfway up the hill. We slowed down for the rest of the way, and when we found a bench near the top of the hill, we sat down for a few minutes to catch our breath. Then we moved on to a clearing, where we saw a small castle thing, which looks like this during the day (photo courtesy of Wikipedia):
We climbed into it and looked across all of Birmingham. The expanse of glittering lights was beautiful, and we could just barely see the city centre in the distance. It was pretty warm out, and I had worked up a sweat running up the hill, so it almost felt like that nice temperature of existence, where you don’t notice that it’s hot or cold. The night was cloudy, so I didn’t get to see the stars, but every once in a while, the full moon would pop out from behind the clouds. It was so beautiful, and I think Dan and I each had a spiritual moment from the view. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect night.
There were other people on the hill, and we realized that the person we had seen with the flashlight was probably not a policeman but just a park-goer who had been practical enough to bring a torch to see in the dark. But I think we’re still pretending it was a vicious police officer with a lust for blood; we just barely escaped his wrath.
This particular hill was called Beacon Hill, because at one point it was part of the countrywide network of beacons. There were men keeping watch day and night, and if they saw a threat of invasion (or if they saw a beacon from one of the surrounding hills), they would send out a beacon to warn others. I love that so much of England has some form of history attached to it. In the States, a hill is usually just a hill, but at the same time, I don’t think I paid as much attention; when I do get back home, I’d like to make it my goal to keep my eyes open for things like that.
P.S. I’m making pretty good progress on my essays, but I probably won’t make another post until after I turn in the essay that’s due on Wednesday. Until then, I love you all!
My plan was to finish blogging about my time up north. But I picked up a fellow Cincinnati student from the airport this morning, and I’ve been helping him around all day. He’s here for the semester studying engineering. It was exciting to be talking to another American, because I got to see a lot of Birmingham all over again with fresh eyes. The same thing happened when my dad visited too. Some of the things he asked are things that I also asked when I first got here, but other questions were things that I didn’t have the answer to because I had never thought to ask.
It was nice having something to be occupied with all day, and I’m hoping that my semi-productivity today will prepare me for getting back to school mode in just a few days. My time until classes start again on Monday will be full of essay-writing and reading some of my assignments for the first week, but I’m sure I’ll find time to post soon.
Yesterday, I went to York and then I celebrated New Year at a céilidh. My internet isn’t working well at the moment, so I will probably wait until I get home in a few days to write anymore, but I’ve had such an amazing time so far!