Saturday, July 21, 2012

Woke Up in London Yesterday

Up until last fall, I never thought I'd actually be able to say I woke up in London yesterday, but I DID. On Thursday I arrived at Heathrow airport, and Shannon came to find me in my terminal. We're staying with her mom's friend's daughter in East London, and we're walking distance from Tower Bridge where the Olympic rings are hanging!

The first thing we did was get on the underground trains (like the NYC subways) to make our way all the way across London to where we would be staying. I was lugging three suit cases, so it was hard, and it took almost two hours. I did get to talk with an English businessman with a cool accent, however. He travels the world for business consulting and looked like he stepped out of a business magazine of some kind.

Shannon and I had our Olympic worker passes on, so this one lady asked me about it. When I told her we were from the United States, she asked if we were freelancers. Well, yes, we kind of are, and it sounds a lot cooler when we put it that way.

When I stepped outside of the train station for the first time, I was amazed. It was so beautiful, and the air even smelled different. I was exhausted, hungry, tired, sweaty, and thirsty, but it was still so amazing to be here. I'd gotten only about two hours of sleep on the plane, and even though it was only 6:00 p.m., it felt a lot later than that to me!

The next day (yesterday, Friday), we managed to get up bright and early to see to walk across Tower Bridge.


We walked to the Tower of London. We had to pay to get in, but it was really neat, and we had a super funny tour guide.

We got to hear about the interesting history, walk through the different buildings associated with the tower including this neat chapel where some famous people were buried. And then we saw the crown jewels, which were so amazing we weren't even allowed to take pictures of them. I'll bet all the stuff in there is worth millions of dollars. It was incredible!

So, on the first day we experienced torrential rain, which I guess is part of the London experience. Good thing I brought my umbrella! My shoes and the bottom two feet of my pants got soaked anyway though, and I kinda wish I'd brought my rain boots. 

In London, people drive on the left side of the street, and the steering wheel is in the right side of the car. Although it was a little strange to see that, at least I was aware of it before I got here. What I didn't know was that pretty much everyone just seems to want to run you over. Most people are in a hurry here, so running you over would just be a nuisance because later they'd have to scrape your remains from their tire tracks.

Later we went to see St. Paul's Cathedral, which Shannon really liked. Then we went to The Anchor, which is a really old restaurant where Shakespeare supposedly hung out in his day. Pretty cool, huh?

We ate fish and chips, which is another London necessity I've been told. And let me tell you, it was some GOOD fish. Like, REALLY good fish.

There are a lot of random street performers here, just like there were in San Francisco. I've seen them play violins, guitars, drums, sing... and there was even one dude playing the xylophone. For real.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll write about what we did today. I've got some writing to do. I mean other writing. My book. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day One: Destination London

Some adventures are experienced with others, and some are experienced alone. I didn’t feel that adventurous going to the airport with my family, but as soon as I hugged them goodbye and walked around the corner to security check, I might as well have been in Narnia looking at the lamppost. The girl behind me only spoke Spanish, so I had to help her understand the English instructions for what to take out of our bags. I ran into her again as we boarded the plane, and I told her when it was her turn to board, and then finally I saw her again after we’d landed.

I sat next to a lady who was on her way to Africa. She didn’t want to chat much since she had a second long flight in her future, and she needed to sleep. The weirdest part of the whole flight was that they served dinner at 1 a.m. Now, I’m fairly used to midnight snacks. Since I’m usually up until 2 or 3 in the morning, I gotta eat late. But this was the whole shabang: salad, bread, chicken casserole, and a piece of pie from the Cheesecake Factory. It was delicious.

The plane was so big that it hardly felt like I was even in a plane. When they finally collected the food plates, I drifted off to sleep around 3 a.m., only to be awakened again around 5. No, I don’t want coffee. I just want more than two hours of sleep! Oh, well.

I somehow managed to navigate the ginormous airport and get my luggage back, so after brushing my teeth right there in the airport bathroom, I just sat down in the lobby to wait for my friends. Every time I send a text message, I practically have to chop one of my fingers off and donate it to science. So I wasn’t really sure when they were going to get there.

In the meantime, I was amusing myself by imagining all the incredible things these people passing me in the airport are here to do. If I saw a guy with a sports jacket, I imagined he’s competing in an Olympic event, and I tried to guess which one, knowing that it may very well be true. I saw a group of tall girls with Bahamas shirts on and matching luggage—volleyball players, perhaps?

Then there were tons and tons of people there in uniforms with nametags similar to mine. As I passed them, we exchanged glances or small smiles of acknowledgement. Will I be working with these people in just a few short days? Again, it’s entirely possible.

When Shannon showed up in the airport, I was really happy to see her. And then phase two of the London adventure began.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Melissa Goes to London

Tomorrow I'm leaving for London.


I never thought I'd be able to say that. Why am I going? Well, I have an internship. I'm not allowed to say much about it, so let's just suffice it to say I'm training to be a CIA agent. Just kidding about that part.

But anyway, I've never been overseas or flown alone. I'm directionally challenged, but hey, at least they speak English over there. I was expressing my concerns about navigation, transportation, times, working, not knowing what to expect, etc., and my aunt said, "Melissa, it's called an ADVENTURE."

After raising an eyebrow and considering that statement for a moment, I realized that she's right.

Adventure: n. 1. an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. 2. daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm.

That about sums it up.

I'll be over there for a month, and with any luck, I'll get to eat a lot of fish and chips, meet some awesome people, learn a ton about communications, experience the city, and maybe even pick up a bit of an accent.

Goodbye USA! It's been legit. I'll be back, but not for a while.

Prayers for safety are appreciated. :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Five Woes of a Writer

In case I haven't talked about it enough, I'll just say it again: I'm writing a book.

It's over 200 pages, and the rough draft was supposed to be completed by now. But I'm running into a few problems, most of which are rooted in perfectionism. The following are five problems I generally encounter and am specifically encountering in this book venture.

1. I know my characters too well. It's so weird. It's like I'm not making them up, but they already exist. I'm not telling them how they are; that IS how they are, and it's my job to portray them correctly. It's like trying to describe your best friend to a stranger in five minutes. It's impossible! I just want to spend pages and pages describing the appearance, history, opinions, thoughts, and ideas of each and every character, and I just know this isn't that sort of book. But maybe it should be.

2. Too many plot lines. Sure, I've got one general plot line. But then there are all these little branches here and there, and I'm kind of obsessed with them. I sit up in bed suddenly with another idea for a subplot, and I can't sleep until I write it down. It's like the subplot is already there, and it would just be a lie not to add it in. Too many subplots make for a confusing, poorly constructed story if you're not careful. It's like trying to eat a five-inch thick sandwich without spilling it everywhere.

3. Originality paranoia. I spend a great deal of time contemplating originality. What is originality? What makes something really original? The fact alone that I'm writing in English at times makes me feel unoriginal. I've written about an old man. THERE ARE OLD PEOPLE IN OTHER STORIES! I AM A PLAGIARIZING FOOL! If any part of my plot is even related to another story I've heard of, sometimes I just freak out. I'm obsessed with originality. I admit it.

4. Endings. The end of the book is like a misbehaving child. You really want to be proud of it, but it's just so unpredictable and usually not at all what you planned. Even if I have the entire ending planned out, those last few pages often spit their lollipop wrappers everywhere and leave gum under the couch for me to find. I've determined that the end of this book is going to be so epic that the reader will turn the page again and again, unable to accept the fact that it's the end. They'll cry after the fourth or fifth time and probably have to be locked alone in their room for at least a week. Then they'll probably need therapy until the next book comes out. Totally kidding. But not.

5. My best. I have this mindset sometimes that I'm not good enough or talented enough for whatever writing project I'm working on. My vocabulary isn't good enough; the pacing of the book isn't good enough; I don't know enough about writing. I always seem to return to my finished or unfinished projects several years later and think to myself how terrible it is and how I would rewrite it or do it better. I guess that's good because it means I'm always improving, but just once I want to write something so good that I won't want to change anything about it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Free Indeed

Your annoying neighbor with that stupid dog that won't stop barking.
Your favorite teacher who challenges you to learn more.
That lady at the bank who never smiles.
The mailman who always forgets to put your boxes in the shade, even when you've asked more than once.
Your grandma who lives across the country.
A stranger you pass on the street every Tuesday morning on your way to the market.

What do they all have in common?
They're all Americans.

We all love America, and that's one of the many things that unites us. United? Yes. That's why we're the United States of America. I'm proud to be an American, and I am so blessed to live here.

Over spring break I visited Ground Zero. It had been over a decade since that fateful day in September, and I'd had several other opportunities to visit the site, but I didn't want to. This time everyone I was with decided to go, so I didn't really have a choice.

I thought it would be depressing, thought it would remind me too much of the horrors of that day. The experience, however, was different from what I thought. Seeing the yawning expanses in the ground that were larger than I imagined them to be did strike my heart with a sense of awe and doleful nostalgia for what used to be there and for the many lives that were lost that day. But they managed to turn the wreckage of something so awful into a site of American memory, honor, and respect. What happened on that day was awful, no two ways about it, but where they tried to destroy the spirit of Americans, I think the disaster made people come together.

United. Yes, we are. We're free, and that's why we celebrate with fireworks, barbecues, family gatherings, and much more. God bless America, and may we continue to be blessings to the world around us as well.