Back Home Again

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A weekend full of family was exactly what the doctor ordered for my transition back to the United States. Last weekend, most of the Reveals converged in beautiful Wilmington, Delaware to attend the equally beautiful wedding of Brother #3.

My dad and I made it stateside with just enough time to recover from jet-lag before taking another plane back east for the wedding. Surrounding myself with my silly niece and nephew, three-fifths of the Reveal brothers, my parents, aunt & uncle, and sisters-in-law was a wonderful way to be welcomed back.

I was still having bittersweet feelings about leaving London, but a morning in the pool with Mermaid/Puppy Niece and Sharkboy/Karate Kid Nephew took my mind off all the questions about my future and allowed me to really enjoy being home. It’s easy to live in the present when the room is full of so much love. Break dancing Sharkboy also really helped.

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Going Away

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It’s amazing to look back on this post from over a year ago when I was doing my “soul-preparations” to move to the UK for a year. I had no idea what to expect, was nervous about staring a masters program, and was, of course, worried I wouldn’t have any friends. Tomorrow at this time I’ll be on US soil.

Perhaps in a few weeks I’ll be better equipped to reflect on the past year, but as I move on to my next adventure (albeit yet to be determined) I’m so thankful for the experiences I’ve had in London. I’ve grown in absolutely innumerable ways. While I’ve developed into a more confident researcher, I’m also more comfortable asking for help. While my ‘savvy traveler’ skills have increased exponentially and my desire to see the world is stronger than ever, I’ve also recognised the importance of having family close-by.

It’s difficult leaving London and the people who lived this journey with me, but I’ll be back soon without a doubt. I’ll close with lyrics from one of my favourite songs by Innocence Mission, “Going Away”:

Sixty miles or six hundred,

The shadow of the pines

or the sunny station wagon,

We’re looking at the map

and we’re laughing as we’re going.

I’m ready for whatever map I’m handed next.

From the first day in London…

June 6, 1944

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The final week in London continued with Daddy arriving from Kansas on Saturday morning. I simultaneously moved out of my flat, took my luggage to a friend’s for storage, and made sure Dad’s taxi took him to the right place. Having submitted my thesis the day before, I was certainly ready for a bit of a break.

Because Dad’s time in London was short, we hit the highlights by doing a bus tour and finishing off the day with sausages at Katzenjammers. The next day, we met friends at the Churchill War Rooms to kick off our WWII themed trip. The War Rooms are extremely well organised and incredibly interactive. I learned so much about Churchill (Did you know he won a Nobel Prize for literature?) and brushed up on my WWII knowledge, which would prove extremely useful for the rest of our trip.

We woke up the next morning after a nice dinner and some almost-tearful goodbyes to take a train to Dover. Mom and I spent a few days in Dover when she visited in March, and I knew Dad would be interested to see the Secret Wartime Tunnels. These tunnels were built during the Napoleonic era and then utilised again during WWII for Operation Dynamo in 1940.

Our short stay in Dover finished with a beautiful ferry ride across the English Channel to Calais, where we proceeded to rent a car, get incredibly lost, and finally collapse in our hotel room in Caen what seemed like days later.

Traveling on the ferry in style

Recovering from our inadvertent tour of Northern France wasn’t easy, but we rallied the following morning for a highlight of our trip, Omaha Beach and the American Military Cemetery.

Since we had learned about Operation Dynamo, which took place early on in the German occupation of France, our experience in Normandy proved an incredible continuation of the story. We learned about the 24-hour postponement of D-Day necessitated by the inclement weather and Eisenhower’s difficult decision to proceed with the operation. We read stories of the French citizens who supported the invasion despite knowing some innocent lives would be lost. We marveled at the cliffs and the dense foliage through which the soldiers had to fight. We finally stood transfixed by the straight, even, unending markers for those who lost their lives during those days and weeks and months of battle.

Stories of D-Day have always been in the background of family gatherings, but to actually witness the location where such tragedies and triumphs took place was entirely different. What a blessing to take this trip with Daddy, who could relay to me the experiences of my great uncles, my grandfathers, and his friends’ parents in WWII.

With fewer and fewer WWII veterans, it’s easy to forget or take these stories for granted, so I’m incredibly thankful to have this trip as a reminder.

As is quoted on the chapel in the Normandy American Cemetery:

Their graves are the permanent and visible symbol of their heroic devotion and their sacrifice in the common cause of humanity.

I’ll not budge an inch!

Monday, September 10, 2012

I like eating food way too much to distinguish any particular type as my favourite, but I’d say dim sum comes pretty close. My ever-indulging German and ever-resourceful Singaporean had been trying to plan a dim sum lunch at the Royal China near Baker Street for ages, so of course we finally got around to it in the last week.

The only thing I could think while eating these delicious buns and dumplings and egg tarts was, “Why did I not know about this place sooner???” Hence my forgetting to take any photos during lunch.

Unfortunately, this delicious lunch marked the first of many hard goodbyes last week. Luckily I had another trip to the Shakespeare’s Globe to take my mind off things.

After some small plates (of which I also took no photos) at The Real Greek, we walked along the Thames to the Globe to wait in line to see The Taming of the Shrew. As groundlings, we could bring in food (surprise tiramisu during the interval!), come and go as we pleased, and feel right in the middle of the action.

While watching Shakespeare as it was meant to be seen, standing up listening to incredible actors interpret and improvise his words is so fun and engaging, I really had a hard time clapping at the end after Kate (the shrew) gives her final speech.

Throughout the play, Kate has been a wild, untameable women basically forced into marriage with Petruchio who really only wants her for her dowry. He ‘tames’ her by starving her and depriving her of sleep. So, that’s one thing. But, at the end Kate gives the longest speech of the play, excerpted here:

…I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace;
Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toil and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?…

– Taming of the Shrew, Act 5, Scene 2

My heart sank. Now, this speech has been pretty controversial among readers and critics of Shakespeare. Some claim Kate has been brainwashed and believes every word she says, while others maintain that she’s developed a new skill of ‘role-playing’ to survive in the marriage.

Part of the magic of live performance is that the interpretation of the end can change with every performance. The sentiment would have changed dramatically had our Kate chosen the ‘ironic, resourceful’ shrew rendition.

Regardless, the acting was impeccable, I had a perfect Shakespeare companion, and I’m so thankful to have spent a second night enjoying Shakespeare’s words in the recreation of his London theatre. If you come to London during the summer months, don’t miss it.

Fakesgiving and Wine

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A week ago today we celebrated our annual “Fakesgiving” as an end to our time in London. Last year we celebrated Thanksgiving halfway between Canadian and American Thanksgivings, so we wanted to have a celebration before we left because we won’t be together for ‘real’ Thanksgiving this year.

I never really understand how potlucks always work out, even with my hands-off planning strategy. We had a delicious meal with wonderful company, and it was a nice way to round out the year kind of how it began. Only instead of giving thanks for new friends as we had last year, we gave thanks for the relationships we’ve built.

This year’s Fakesgiving spread

Then Monday we went back to Gordon’s Wine Bar for a bit of wine drinking in the cellar. Again, it was a nice cyclical way to say goodbye to one of my favourite spots with my favourite people. Plus there was cheese.

Come back soon for tales of dim sum and Shakespeare!

Put those letters behind my name

 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

To say the least, this week has been emotional. Finishing up my thesis, presenting my results to the MMBs and to the group who procured funding for my project, packing my whole life back into those four bags, but most of all saying, “See you soon” to way too many people. Not. Pleasant.

Although we have big plans of an American road trip (we pinky promised, remember!), a trip to Morocco, and holidays in everyone’s respective countries, it doesn’t change the fact that everything’s changing. Everything’s changing.

We attempted to jam as much London into this week as humanly possible, which really means late nights in our favourite pubs, so over the next few days I’ll recap.

We’ll start, however, with the Music, Mind, and Brain poster presentations last Friday. Now, these are no 6th grade science fair tri-folds. These are seriously regimented, big ‘ol posters that are supposed to present our research with as few words and as many pictures as possible.

I made one of these posters for my neuroscience thesis in college and presented it at the Southeastern Psychological Association conference (We even won an award! Skillz.).

Chimp Poster for SEPA in 2011

It was a great day of listening to each other’s research and results. The field of music psychology is so vast, it was amazing to hear just a sampling of the research going on in the field from my own coursemates!

MMB Poster Presentations-August 31, 2012

Looking at these two poster session photos taken over a year apart, it’s amazing to think how much I’ve grown and learned. I guess I’m still pretty into brains, though.

If you’re interested in what’s next for me, we’re in the same boat. I’m taking suggestions.

Right now I’m just looking forward to Daddy arriving in London in a few short hours for a WWII themed trip through Dover, Calais, Caen, the D-Day beaches, and Paris. Then, it’s back to the USA to pet my puppy.

Check back later this week for the recap of my last week in Londontown.