Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My 21st

Before dinner. My hurr & makeup & dress from River Island
The week of my birthday was one of my favorite weeks in London so far. In addition to turning 21 (how am I 21 already?!), I just had an overall awesome week. I had turned in the last of my written work the week before and just had classes Monday and Tuesday. Then on the 23rd (the day before my birthday) I had my birthday dinner at Busaba Eathai on Store Street. The planning of the dinner was a bit hectic as they don't take reservations, but the night was overall a hit. We had to wait quite awhile for a table, but the service was prompt and my dinner was delicious. I ordered spring rolls, Pad Thai (naturally), and a guava bellini. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and I thought the portion sizes were nice and not too heavy like some Thai food places are. For dessert I brought along the mini cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery in Spitalfields that I had delivered earlier that morning. There was red velvet, carrot cake, vanilla, and chocolate. They were all delicious although they got a bit smashed in the journey from home to the restaurant. After dinner, that night I stayed in and my friends got me a surprise cake and gave me their gifts. It was really sweet and I didn't know they were doing a cake at all!

My care package from home and bday gift! Mini MAC Minkoff & Tory Burch coinpurse
My cards from home and friends, cake and my eyemakeup (top and bottom lashes!)
After blowing out candles
Mini Red Velvet from Hummingbird Bakery
Me and Zim at dinner
My dinner - so good!
Bri, Brittany and Rosie
Lisa, me and Julia
In queue waiting for a table
Bri, Teasara & Lisa before my dinner!
Before dinner
Before dinner again
At Busaba!

Caribbean food at Brixton
The next day (the day of my actual birthday, the 24th) I went to Brixton with Zim and her two friends who are visiting from San Diego. Brixton has a large Caribbean and African population and they have this large market on during the weekends. I got some Dudu Osun African black soap that I had wanted to try for ages. We had lunch at this small Caribbean restaurant called Bickles. The owner was seriously the sweetest lady ever and was so kind. We had a really nice time. It was my first time having proper Caribbean food (I think?). I ordered a vegetable curry made with chickpeas with white rice and fried plantains. I've decided that I only like plantains in moderation as they're really sweet, but my curry and rice was actually delicious- and this is coming from someone who isn't a major curry fan. Look at me being all adventurous with my food choices! Admittedly, I think it'd be a bit difficult to live in London and never eating curry, it's pretty much everywhere. After lunch I got a vegan red velvet cupcake from a bakery called Ms. Cupcake (I think that's the name). It was a bit dry but good. At home all my baking is vegan and my sweets never come out dry, so I think it was just an issue with the batter. The buttercream/cream cheese type frosting on top was flawless though. After eating we walked around and went into Morley's (a department store). Zim needed a new foundation and the cosmetic section here had a line called Black Up, which is a European line for women of color. I had never heard of it but it was cool to see an unfamiliar line. She ended up repurchasing her normal color from Iman Cosmetics, but we had a nice time browsing. After Brixton, we stopped by one of my favorites, Gordon's Wine Bar and had a cheese plate with bread and a glass of wine.

Zim ordering food
I tried a pineapple soda - not bad!
Vegan cupcake!

Brick Lane Market
Then on Sunday I went (on a whim) to Brick Lane with Tammy. We walked a ton all day and perused the market (I think Brick Lane might be my new favorite market in London now) and we also went to Shoreditch and to the Columbia Road Flower Market. I had one of the best Sundays, the kind of Sunday that really makes you appreciate London, the non-touristy true London. The weather was beautiful, I wore a skirt and a light jacket with my new Minkoff neon blue mini MAC, the food was amazing, the crowds were vibrant. It's the kind of day that I will miss once I leave London. Being in East London in the springtime browsing the markets, Indian shops and fresh flowers. We decided to get some henna to play around with once we got back to campus and Tammy is now battling an addiction to henna-ing her entire body. I did my left hand and arm and my lower right leg. Anyway, this week was one of the best weeks ever and I'm becoming pretty anxious and sad about my time here in London shifting quickly to an end.
Street art
Uber fancy restaurant mentioned in a Bloc Party song
Tammy and her fresh spring rolls
Detroittt in LDN
Fresh juices for £1
My henna design
Then yesterday Tammy and I made a lifetime supply of kale and cabbage chips and I am getting her hooked onto Nip/Tuck. My other flatmates tried our chips and everyone loved our spicy, cheesy, salty recipe. Score! As it's now Tuesday, I'm officially done with classes and just have exams in May. I leave for Edinburgh tomorrow and will be back in London for just one day after my Scottish excursion before I leave for the rest of continental Europe. The next few weeks are going to be insane! Can't wait. Well, that's all for now- cheers!

Demolished cuppycakes
Make a wish!

Monday, March 26, 2012

It Had Become the Center of My World

"I came to London. It had become the center of my world and I had worked hard to come to it. And I was lost."
-V. S. Naipaul

Monday, March 19, 2012

Where the Travelodge at?

#St. Patty's Day don't curr
This past week has been one of the most busiest weeks ever. I had three papers to finish all before Friday the 16th so I basically was up til wee hours of the night each day finishing the assignments. Two of the papers were due on Monday (today) but because I was gone all weekend I had to finish them faster than anticipated. Thankfully, I finished everything and Saturday morning (after not sleeping..) we all headed to the airport and went to Dublin, Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. We arrived the morning of the holiday and I ended up meeting Julie, Serra and Paige at the airport when their plane from Edinburgh came in. The airport was decked out in balloons and had a band playing Irish music and tons of people dressed in green.
Green beer

At Guinness factory
Once everyone was in Dublin, we went to our hotel, the infamous Travelodge in Swords. We booked our reservation and flight to Dublin back in January but even then practically every hostel in Dublin was booked on the night of St. Patrick's Day. So we stayed at the Travelodge out in Swords near the airport. Thankfully, the place was actually not half bad! There was a double sized bed, a couch bed, and a trundle bed. The four of us were each able to sleep comfortably and it was not nearly as cramped as we thought it would be! After dropping our bags off we headed to the City Centre on an extremely packed bus that costs 2.65 euros and and doesn't make change (if you give them 3 euros you just lose the difference). After we got to central Dublin, we walked off the bus and all of a sudden it started pouring rain. Literally, the moment our feet got onto the pavement from the bus it rained. Perfect timing at its finest! We walked towards the parade with our coats and scarves over our heads like baboushkas and saw the parade floats and performers for a bit. Thankfully it stopped raining after like 15 minutes so none of our photos are of us looking miserable and wet.

On the plane!
Before heading to the airport in the wee hours of the night!
In front of the bridge in Dublin
In the streets
Matching designs
Who knew Guinness was so deep?
At 'da Travelodge
At this awesome brewery pub place- strawberry/raspberry beers!
This gentlemen was quite the character

I'm Possible
We walked around the city for a bit (seriously, the crowds were massive; you could barely walk on the streets) and decided to stop at a pub. We got festive green colored beer and ended up hanging out there for awhile as we were all really tired. After that place we walked around the city and ventured a bit and basically pub-hopped. We saw a lot of live Irish music bands (typically older men were in these bands) and so many of the pubs were full and not admitting any more people -- and there are pubs on basically every corner of Dublin. We met up with some of my friends from London and Brighton briefly and then ate dinner. Embarrassing story #1: Julie and I were so tired after eating our fish and chips that we fell asleep in the booth as Paige and Serra chatted. I had no choice; my eyes were not staying open. I was tired when I landed in Dublin and after hours of walking in massive crowds of green I was even more exhausted.
Lol. We had to.

So we decided to go back to the hotel and take a nap.. or so we thought. We ended up at the hotel and sleeping for like 3+ hours. We woke up groggy but well-rested and in less cranky moods. I knew some friends who were going out in the Swords/airport area for the night but we couldn't muster up that much energy to do that, so we ended up ordering in Domino's pizza, garlic bread, chicken bites (for Serra & Julie), and cookies and watching Dreamgirls on TV. So in short, a night known for infamous partying and liveliness (especially in Dublin- apparently 60,000 people celebrate St. Patty's in Dublin each year) was spent crashing in a hotel room with pizza and Beyoncé (#idonthateit).

The following day we were chipper and wide awake and ready to explore a bit of the touristy sites. So we woke up, got brunch at a little place called Mes Amis on Lower Abbey Street and headed to the Guinness Storehouse. The Guinness Storehouse is basically the factory for the Irish stout beer. It's a really cool place, sort of like an amusement park in essence. They have cool demonstrations and interactive facts about hops, yeast, barley and water so that was cool. At the end of the tour everyone heads up to the bar at the very top of the Storehouse and is given a free pint of Guinness. The views of the city from up there is supposed to be one of the best views of Dublin - so that was another added bonus.

Ketchup at Gourmet Burger Kitchen
After that we hung out at some other pubs and met some people who were from East London which was awesome and we went to dinner at Gourmet Burger Kitchen. The Puy Lentil burger with avocado and cheese that I ordered was fantastic. Probably one of the best veggie burgers I've ever had. I will definitely be going back, as there's GBK in London also.

K bye yeee!
Later that night we saw a live ska/reggae band and had a fun time people watching as the crowd was very entertaining. One of the musicians had the largest grin I've ever seen and looked like he was on some sort of what I can only assume to be drugs. We enjoyed observing his everlasting grin. After they finished performing we hopped on the bus to go back home (or so we thought). Eventually we make it to the last stop on the last bus out of City Centre and it's not at the Travelodge. When the bus stopped and we realized it was the last stop, we realized that we made a bit of a mistake. We asked the bus driver how to get to our hotel and he pointed to the bus that was parked a few hundred feet ahead of where our bus was stopped. We literally sprinted towards the bus we needed.. and it before we caught up to it. We missed our bus. In the middle -of-nowhere Dublin. On a dark country looking highway. So we quickly flagged down our original bus driver and he kindly gave us a ride to the Travelodge, which ended up being a solid 15 minutes from where we were before. How that mishap happened? No one knows, but at least the bus driver in Dublin was kind enough not to say "f*** off" a la the driver in Bath. But I digress. We made it back, called it a night after that and woke up at around 3 AM to get ready to head back to the airport and then back to our current homes (Edinburgh and London!).

The band
Overall Dublin was way bigger than I thought it was and was a really cool place with a nice vibe. It was better, calmer and less stressful to see the city once a lot of tourists left, as it was nice to not be entirely smashed next to strangers in the street, but overall I'd definitely do it again!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

American Privilege

I came across this post by a blogger named Mira on American privilege (privilege used in the sociological context, similar to white privilege) wanted to share it with those who follow my blog or who are contemplating studying abroad from the US to elsewhere. I think it's really important for people to be aware of the privileges awarded to them (oftentimes unjustly and due to past and ongoing discriminatory behavior) in society. Once you're aware of these sorts of privileges it makes you more aware of your actions and interactions with others especially while traveling. It also helps you improve your relationship with new people, surroundings, and culture. I have posted some of the bullet points the writer listed about privileges awarded to Westerners and Americans.

Here are some common ways of displaying American privilege (note that some of these apply to Western privilege in general):
  • Seeing your nation as “default” – it is normal, everybody else is “different”.
  • Assuming your cultural norms are universal.
  • Not knowing what is like to have war in your homeland.
  • Expecting people in other countries to speak your language when you travel abroad.
  • Assuming everybody knows, or should know, your culture (even things like the “American Idol” contestants).
  • Assuming nobody else has any of the technological advantages you have – like not knowing how to use a computer or even an oven.
  • Believing everything you see on the news, even though it is told from the American point of view and is not a universal truth.
  • Assuming everybody wants to live in America, since it is the best place to live (even without universal health care).
  • Seeing people from other countries as inferior to you, even if they are highly educated and successful.
  • Having plenty of movies and TV shows in your language, full of people from your country, showing your culture and way of life.
  • Becoming famous or successful much more easily even if you suck at what you do.
  • Assuming everyone on the Internet is American.
  • Believing everybody else wants to adopt the American way of life. If they do not, there is something wrong with them. If they do not, America is going make them.
  • You can take the liberty of shortening or changing people’s names if they are hard for you to pronounce.
  • Believing America is fair and free. Everybody else lives in a mess.
  • Assuming everybody wants the USA to help them.
  • Seeing the USA as the best nation there is and being confused when others feel the same about their own countries.
  • Being confused about people who do not like the USA or those who think it is not perfect. They must be jealous!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Confirmed Travel Plans for April! *Untz untz untz*

Let the excitement ensue!

Things I Must Do

A note from class of places I want to go in LDN!

The British Museum

I think this was of Venus?
So I somehow forgot to mention that awhile ago I went to the British Museum which is basically a museum with artifacts from anywhere *but* Britain (well, not exactly.. it's just the name of the museum is a bit misleading as there are rooms dedicated to every corner of the Earth basically). I saw the Rosetta Stone in person which was pretty awesome and a few mummies in the Egyptian room. There are also parts of the Parthenon structure there as well, which is apparently controversial because it was just sort of brought to London a long time ago and now The Parthenon people want it back *dun dun dun*. It was a beautiful museum and I enjoyed it quite a lot as I quite like historical/anthropological museums with artifacts and natural science museums most.

Egyptian hieroglyphics
Architectural remnants
Cool exhibit about prescription dependence
An actual mummy!
THE Rosetta Stone
Olympic medal designs for 2012 Olympics
Dinner I prepared tonight: Ceasar salad w/ spicy chili lime salmon & rice