English Rain: Close-up

Will and I stayed up all night so that we could head out to the lake at 4:30 this morning to catch the sunrise. It ended up being extremely overcast and rainy, but that didn’t stop us from discovering the hidden potential of my cheap camera. (The moody $70 camera I bought right before I left for England is being held together by tape at this point in the year, but it’s still done fairly well so far.) It took both of us, very steady hands, and an extra flashlight, but we managed to capture what I think are some pretty cool photos of the raindrop formations on the plants.

Love, Elizabeth

What the hail, England?

English weather is pretty mild. The summers aren’t too hot and the winters aren’t too cold (we only had one day of snow this year). Even though it’s cloudy a lot of the time, it hasn’t really rained too much—and when it does rain, it isn’t anything like the torrential downpour that I’m used to during an Ohio spring or that I encountered in many other countries during my Eurotrip. And I haven’t experienced a thunderstorm since I arrived.

Weather here does have a tendency to change pretty rapidly from a mild sunny day to a mild cloudy day and then back again, but nothing prepared me for yesterday’s swift transition from sunny when I woke up, cloudy when I left my flat an hour later, rainy as I walked to breakfast with friends, sunny again as I left breakfast and walked around the corner to meet another friend for a coffee, and then HAIL two minutes later when my friend arrived at the cafe. While we talked, the sun came out for a few minutes before it started to rain again, and then we waited for the rain to stop before leaving. As I walked home, the sun was again covered by clouds, this time more ominous than ever, and I was caught in an intense hailstorm complete with the first thunder I’ve heard since being here.

While everyone was running for cover, I continued walking, taking photos of the weather anomaly on my way. By the time I got home, the sun was shining and most of the sky was blue, except for the cloud right above me that was still spitting pellets of hail. It was the craziest weather we’ve had all year, and I loved it!

Love, Elizabeth

Sunshine and Politics

Today I got to wear a skimpy sundress. No sweater or coat or scarf or anything! It was incredibly sunny and it got up to about 65 degrees. And when I got out of my class at 5:30, it wasn’t completely dark. We’ve barely had a winter here, but I’m already feeling so excited for summer right now!

Also, I just got my latest fix of American politics by watching the Republican debate from last night. I’m missing a very interesting time for American right now with the election coming up in November, but I do like hearing the opinions of everyone over here who pays attention to America’s politics (which a lot of people do, as British politics can be pretty boring, but American’s politics can be pretty amusing).

Most people Everyone that I’ve talked to over here disagrees wholehearted with all of the Republican candidates. Issues in the States that are controversial, such as gun control, universal healthcare, birth control, and gay rights are complete non-issues over here. There are about three parties here in England (and four in Scotland, I think), and they all are pretty close to the American Democratic Party. So that is why a lot of British people (and I think a lot of other Europeans) can be so skeptical of America when it has a Republican leader. 

So there’s your daily dose of politics. I hope I haven’t offended anyone too severely; none of these opinions are my own. Well, okay, maybe I agree with some of the opinions, but I’m just passing on what has been said to me about our political system. Do with that what you will!

Love, Elizabeth

This week, I wandered into the city centre a lot. I needed to go to the Post Office every day, and while I was there, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore. I thought I knew most of the city centre, but I discovered a lot by walking down the side streets that led to other shopping arcades, malls, plazas, and parks. I finally went inside the city library; I actually have to walk through the library building to get to the city centre, but I’d never been inside the library part. It’s just an ugly concrete building, but the book selection was great. They have books in pretty much every language and on every subject imaginable. I think I’ve found my new study place!

The building with all of the circles on it is the Selfridges store, which is part of the Bullring Mall. I’ve been there before, but I don’t think I’ve shared any pictures of it before. That’s the iconic building that’s in pretty much any brochure or website about Birmingham. I’ve heard it’s supposed to look like a handbag, but I don’t see it. I think it looks like someone let Salvador Dali design a building. People seem to either love or hate the architecture in the city centre. It’s very modern, because everything was refurbished just a few years ago to get rid of all the ugly old concrete buildings from the 70s. Personally, I love the crazy architecture, but I guess it’s not very elegant so I can see how someone might now like it.

It’s been really warm, and I haven’t needed a coat all week. Yesterday, I wore a sweater when I was out, and I ended up taking that off and walking around in my tank top—three days before Christmas, and I was dressed for summer! It’s raining now, but it’s still about 55 degrees outside.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be volunteering in London at a shelter for the homeless for a few days over Christmas. I’ll try to post while I’m there, if my hostel has internet. I’ll probably be back in Birmingham on the 27 unless I leave for my next adventure straight from London. We’ll see what happens.

Have a very wonderful Christmas, everyone!

Love, Elizabeth

It’s a Rather Blustery Day in the Hundred Acre Wood

I turned in my first essay this morning. It feels so good to have that out of the way. Handing it in was so different from anything I’ve done at UC. I turned it in not to my tutor, but to the actual department, so I spent about fifteen minutes filling out paperwork for it. I had to specify the class it was for, fill out a whole bunch of information about my degree and program, sign a paper saying I didn’t plagiarize, reassure them that my name wasn’t anywhere on the essay (the tutors aren’t supposed to know whose essay they’re grading), and hand in the receipt certifying that I had already submitted it to their online program that checks for plagiarism. I’m glad I didn’t wait until the very last second, otherwise I wouldn’t have made the noon deadline!

I’ve just realized that I have two more classes until my Christmas holiday! Things still don’t feel completely Christmas-y, despite it being already December. I blame the weather. The past few days have been a little chilly (in the 40s) but with sunshine and perfect blue skies. Also, the grass doesn’t die in the winter, so it’s beautifully green—I actually think it’s gotten greener since I arrived. It’s been gorgeous, but when you look from a window, it looks like a perfect summer day. Not like a depressing winter day whose only bright side is the upcoming holiday. Today looks a little more bleak with dark clouds threatening rain and really strong winds. It’s a blustery day that makes me think of Pooh Bear.

Pooh Bear and the Blustery Day

Hold on to your Piglets!

"Can I fly Piglet next?" asked Roo.

Even though it’s insanely windy, it’s really warm today. Supposedly it’s only 50 degrees, but I’m not buying that; I had to strip down to my t-shirt on my way back from campus because I was sweating so much.

I should really stop complaining and just appreciate the weather we’ve been having—I think it’s just that I mentally prepared myself for it always being cold and wet over here, and so far that’s not been the case at all. I’m sure it’ll start to get colder soon, though. And with any luck, we’ll have a white Christmas.

Happy Winds-day, everybody!

Love, Elizabeth

Ways to stay warm in London

London has a reputation of being cold and rainy. In my own experience, these stereotypes have proved false. In fact, I’ve found many ways to ensure that your trip is warm and toasty.

Walk around with a tea in hand. You’ll look ever-so-British, but you may later regret this decision when you need to pay 30p to use the toilet.

Pop into a cozy little cafe. Refuel with a handmade pastry or another tea. Bloggers may be lucky enough to get free WiFi as well.

Take the Tube. If you’re like me, you’ll get hot flashes the second you step on board.

Run. Whether you’re going on a jog through Hyde Park or running to the West End first thing in the morning to get show tickets from the box office, this is a sure way to get very warm, very quickly.

Stay at a hostel. Despite the threadbare sheets and propped-open windows, you’ll wake up sweating at night.

Take advantage of London’s free museums, explore some of the many shops, or stop in at a service in one of the churches or cathedrals.

*Don’t wear twelve layers—when you get warm, do you really want to carry around a jacket, raincoat, two cardigans, and a hoodie? You’ll be fine with a cardigan, a jacket, and a scarf.

Love, Elizabeth

P.S. If all else fails, you can let your tourist shine through by buying an “I <3 London” sweatshirt. 

Weather

Dear England,

This shorts-and-tshirt kind of sunny weather has been nice, but it’s really not what I signed up for when I came over here. I’d like to be able to wear my raincoat every once in a while, and I haven’t touched my umbrella since unpacking it when I moved in a month ago. If you’re not going to rain, at least give me some cloud cover! I mean, what was up with those clear blue skies today?

Love, Sun-burnt Elizabeth

Learning English

"I invite all those who complain about the rain and English weather to relocate to the Kalahari or the Gobi or the Sahara or some other desert, where they can bask in uninterrupted sun for weeks, months, years at a time. But no complaints will be allowed when they have no water to grow food with or to drink or to wash or cook in. Nor will they be allowed to return to live in this green and pleasant land of refreshing sustaining creative rain." ~This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn by Aidan Chambers

My flatmates have decided to give me a proper English education. Our bucket list is a starting point, but they also have been giving me various lessons about the way things are done here. This morning’s lesson was about the weather. It’s cloudy and a little bit drizzly outside, which is exactly the kind of weather I love. However, my flatmate said that people here complain about the weather all the time, and pretty much any small talk that you make will involve remarking on how good or bad the weather is. It’s only rained about twice since I’ve gotten here, but I’ve noticed already that whenever it does rain, most people get very dramatic about how bad their day is because of the rain.

I guess American small talk often involves talking about the weather as well, but I don’t think it’s the same as here. I can see people in Seattle complaining about how rainy the weather is all the time, and people up north maybe complaining about how cold the weather is, but our entire country doesn’t ever have the same exact weather as the rest of the country, so I don’t think we have as much reputation in the states for always talking about the weather.

I hope that wherever you are, the weather is nice!

Love, Elizabeth