Yet another trip to Cafe Habakuk

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The other night, Sandy invited me over for dinner.  We were going to watch the movie 'Giant' together, so I took the bus over to see her.  But when I walked into her room no later than 8:00, she was sound asleep.  I woke her up, and we went to get a pizza from Reyna and dessert from Cafe Habakuk.  It was there at Cafe Habakuk -- Sandy's favorite place in Salzburg -- where we had an especially funny experience.  I love apfel streudel, so that is what I almost always order if we're eating dessert (which is pretty much after every meal).  Sandy, on the other hand, tends to be more indecisive.  Thus, her exchange between the shop woman went a little something like this: "Can I get the apfel struedel, too?....Wait, no! I want tiramisu....  Wait!  What's that?....No, that thing under that other thing....No, that thing under that tray of things... Yeah!  What is that?... Oh, what kind of cake?....Chocolate cake?  Is there anything side of it?....Hmmm, okay.  I want that.  No wait, I want ice cream.  Actually, I'll just have that cake thing."  Then she turns to me and says, "This is my 5th night in a row to come here and do this exact thing.

On the way back to St. Sebastian, I mentioned to Sandy that I had received various comments from friends on how they love reading things that she says or does via blog entires.  I told her that, between the two of us, she is definitely the funny one.  As I'm telling her this and we are walking up the stairs, she trips and falls, and had she not broken her fall with her hands, she would have face-planted directly into the stone steps.  She looked up at me and said, "This is why people love reading about me."

Quote of the day: "Nein, gracias!" -- Kayla, to an Austrian man on the street handing out flyers

Great Milka Bars Think Alike

Friday, February 27, 2009

Today, I went to St. Sebastian with a little gift for Kayla.  We love Milka Bars and Ritter Sports, so I went to the store on my way to see her and bought a Milka Bar -- a new kind that I had never even seen in stores before (blueberry, if you must know), so I was sure she hadn't tasted it yet.  When I walked into her room, I told her I had a surprise for her.  She answered, "I actually have something for you, too!"  As I handed her the Blueberry Milka Bar, she handed me.... the exact same one.

^^ We love Milka, and we love Mozart.

More updates on life, and class at Uni. Salzburg

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Yesterday was Roman's golden birthday; he turned 24 on the 24th ("una vez in la vida", he told me).  His mom sent Sergio 100 euro and asked him to spend it on a party for him.  Sergi was so excited to go shopping for it, and bought 2 birthday cakes, candles, paper plates, napkins, and flags from all the party-goers' home countries.  He invited Americans, some Spanish students, all the Polish students, a few Austrian students and a couple of the Irish students as well.  Yesterday was also Sergi's name day (for St. Sergio), which he told every guest in attendance; any time someone wished Roman a happy birthday, a "Happy Name Day, Sergi" was sure to follow.

Then today, I attended my first 'Hiter und das Dritte Reich' class, taught all in German.  Our professor is younger than I expected, and so nice.  There are only 6 students in the class so I was afraid it would be really intimidating but I don't think it will be that bad at all.  I am still a little bit shocked every time I realize I can understand the German language, though.  Hopefully I'll get over that soon.

After class, I walked to St. Sebastian and made dinner with Kayla.  And on my way home from dinner, as I walked past Cafe Habakuk (a little pasty cafe), I glanced inside and saw a familiar face leaning over to look at the pastries.  It was Sandy!  I ducked inside the cafe and we shared an apfel streudel.

More updates to come...

^^ A shot of St. Sebastian, and Cafe Habkuk just down the bend.


Quote of the day: "Well, just bought my fourth jar of Nutella for the week." -- Sandy

Our first day of classes at Uni. Salzburg

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Now that our intro. German courses are done, we're officially students at Uni. Salzburg.  Here are the courses we've enrolled in:

Nationalism (Sandy), German (Sandy), Fascism (Sandy and me), Austrian Culture (Sandy and me), WWII (me), Hiter und das dritte Reich (me), Mozart (me).  The last two are taught exclusively in German, which I like, but not as much as the fact that I don't have any class on Fridays!

I had WWII yesterday, and I knew the moment I saw our professor that I was going to like the class.  He walked in wearing straigt-leg, slim-fit jeans, a button-down shirt with a cardi, pointed leather shoes, and thin-rimmed glasses.  I have never seen the HP movies, but he reminds me of a nerdier version of Gilderoy Lockhart.  The best part, though, is that he walked in with his dog, Bianca, on a leash, set a blanket down in front of the class, and began the lecture.  The dog sat their patiently and obediently and I couldn't stop thinking about how well-behaved the dogs are here.  And they're all so beautiful too; most of the owner/dog paris I've seen walking through Salzburg remind me of the opening scene in 101 Dalmations where Pongo and his master are looking for their prospective mates.

After class, I took the bus to St. Sebastian to see Sandy and Kayla.  Sandy wanted to go to a coffee shop and do some reading by herself, so Kayla and i walked to Spar to buy dinner ingredients.  WE bough spinach spätzle and cooked it with zucchini, tomato, carrots, pesto, etc.

And that's how you have a great first day of school!

Classes at Uni. Salzburg are about to begin, but first: a weekend update.

Monday, February 23, 2009

On Friday, we took our German finals, and it wasn't bad at all.  Following our tests, Sandy went to EuroPark (the mall) and I registered with the city of Salzburg as a resident alien.  This involved going to the Rathaus (city hall), handing in a bunch of paperwork, and getting my visa stamped into my passport.  After that, I didn't feel like doing much because it's so cold and, despite my the warmth and utility of my snow boots, it just wasn't worth it to be outside.

Speaking of my boots, the other day, Kayla and I were walking around the Altstadt in the snow.  I stopped and said, "What would I do without these boots?" and she replied, "I don't even want to think about it."  So it's not just me -- the boots mean a lot to everyone, clearly.

Caroline and I lounged around watching TV on her laptop before deciding to go to Merkur.  We spent over an hour there, buying fruit, vegetables, yogurt, muesli, bread, "vegetable shots", and more.  I loaded everything into my backpack (no plastic bags allowed!) and Caroline and I walked back to I.K. to make dinner together.  

Around 9:00, Sandy and Kayla rode the bus over (Sandy's first time!) to attend the going-away party we were throwing for Vaidas.  Caroline and I made the mistake of bringing out a loaf of rosinen brot (raisin bread, but SO MUCH BETTER than any raisin bread you've ever had) and shoko-croissants, and offering both to Kayla and Sandy.  We're not sure how, but between the four of us, we consumed the entire loaf of rosinen brot and all ten shoko-croissants.  That's all I have to say about that.

On Saturday, Caroline left super early to go to Germany for the day.  After I got up and around, I visited Sandy at St. Sebastian and then walked around the city with Kayla and Robert.  We ended up walking all around the Altstadt for awhile, and then eating at Mozart Cafe for lunch.  We walked around the Altstadt more, and then  Kayla and I then picked up a pizza from Reyna Kebap and took it back to St. Sebastian to eat in bed while watching Sound of Music.  Best night ever?  Maybe.

Sunday was relatively uneventful (laundry day with Caroline) and then she and Tim went to a concert while I hung out with Kayla again.  Towards the end of the night, when I was on my way out of the Alstadt and heading towards the bus stop, I looked out across the Salzach as I was crossing the bridge.  It was already dark, and the snow was falling lightly all around me, and I've seen the Salzach 100 times, but there was something so surreal about this particular moment that it actually took my breath away.  I stood at the bust stop, freezing -- all bundled in my new coat and my new hat and my new gloves -- trying not to cry.  I've never had this emotional of a reaction to a place but there is just something so magical about this city... I'm still trying to wrap my head around all of it it.  Just so many feelings!

Speaking of feelings, Vaidas left today to go back to Lithuania, and Sergi had a lot of feelings about that.  He cried, Vaidas cried, it was just a big, emotional, cry-fest amongst the two of them.  We hope he enjoyed the going-away party we threw for him, but no matter how much fun he had at that, no one had as much as the four of us girls did, eating the bread and croissants -- I can tell you that much right now.

More updates to come, and hopefully the next one will have less to do with carbohydrates.  

Post-class afternoons with Kayla (a tribute)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The highlight of my German class (other than, you know, learning German) has been finishing up with class early so that I have my afternoons free to spend with Kayla.  She has quickly become one of my best friends here.  This past Thursday, after class, we watched an episode of 'Samantha Brown: Passport to Europe' on her computer.  It was the episode where she visits Salzburg, and it was very cool to see the episode highlight all the sights we walk past everyday on our way home from class together.

Yesterday was our last day of German class, though, which means my afternoons with Kayla will be no more, as our real semester starts Monday (yikes).  Truth be told, I am very glad the course is over.  They weren't lying when they described the course as an "intensive" German course.  It was very fast-paced, no English was tolerated whatsoever, and if a word came up that one of the six of us did not understand and that one of us asked what it meant, Frau Eva would call on another student and make him/her explain the concept or word using circumlocution.  A good example of circumlocution would be what a person does while playing the game Taboo.  That is to say, if one of our classmates asked what "putzen" means (the verb: to clean), and Frau Eva called on me to circumlocute it, I would explain, in German, "It's what a person does when he mops the floor, washes the windows, tidies up the room, puts his clothes away, etc.")  A few of these exercises a day and your brain will be exhausted.   Basically, you just always had to be on your toes in this class, and with only 6 people in class, it's very obvious if you have not studied or prepared.  Because Kayla and I would meet up after each class and spend the afternoons together exploring, shopping, eating, whatever -- I could get through the intensive German course with that awaiting me each day.  

Looking back on the past few weeks, my best afternoons with Kayla involved food, like the restaurant we visited last week where we ate soup (goulash for her, vegetable for me) for lunch and apfel strudel with ice cream on top for dessert!  Or the afternoon when we made spinach ravioli with sautéed zucchini and a toasted french baguette (courtesy of Rob).  Other fun afternoons involved running seemingly mindless errands, like buying Guthaben from A1 and then loading the minutes onto our phone -- things that suddenly became so much more interesting and rewarding when done in German.

But while I'm sad to say goodbye to my afternoons with Kayla, my brain needs a break.  

Although it won't get that much of a break, because our regular courses start on Monday when Uni. Salzburg opens.

Quote of the day: "I want to crack this Nutella open and lick the jar clean.... and yes this is my 3rd jar this week." -- Sandy

Our first bad day in Salzburg (but spoiler alert: it ended pretty well).

Friday, February 20, 2009

This past Wednesday started out badly.

First off, Sandy fell flat on her back during her morning run.  Salzburg is block of ice right now (but a really pretty block of ice!), so the streets are icy and slick.  That element, combined with the cobblestone streets....let's just say it was a recipe for disaster.

During Sandy's run, I was in German class.  My German teacher likes to spontaneously ask me to say things in Spanish, which is very hard for me to do when my brain is set in 'German' mode, and it sometimes takes me a minute to switch gears.  That morning, Frau Eva asked me a basic question in Spanish and I somehow answered it in French (????).  Mind you, I've taken one French class and hated it.  It's not my language.  But it was embarrassing and Frau Eva wasn't amused.  In fact, she seemed annoyed, as though she thought I hadn't been paying attention, and it made for an all-around awkward exchange.

But if that weren't bad enough, following that experience, I passed Sandy on my way home from class (and on her way to class).  I noticed she was wearing a cardigan, V-neck tee, jeans, and Keen sandals with no socks.  In the below freezing temperature.  With wet hair, and no coat.  I gave her my gloves but it was the best I could do.  And she was already so far from St. Sebastian that going home would have been a lost cause.  "Today is so not our day", I thought to myself as I walked back to St. Sebastian with Kayla.

An hour after Kayla and I had lunch together, I had an appointment in Ingrid's office, where I would enroll in the courses for the upcoming semester (it starts Monday!).  I had only been to Ingrid's office once before and that was last week with the rest of the group.  Being as directionally challenged as I am, I asked Kayla for directions, which she happily gave me.  But my general unawareness of my surroundings combined with the fact that Kayla accidentally told me to take a 'right' instead of a 'left' out of the St. Sebastian side gate, and, well -- let's just say I ended up nowhere near Ingrid's office.  I wondered around for 15 minutes, frustrated and confused.  To make matters worse, during this 15-minute window, Salzburg was hit by what I like to call "Slushfest 2009", which consisted of snowy rain and crazy winds.

I ended up turning around and walking back to St. Sebastian looking like a drowned rat.  Or rather, a drowned and defeated rat.  When I walked into Kayla's room, my hair was soaking wet and you could have wrung out my clothes.  Thankfully, when I emailed Ingrid to apologize for missing my appointment, she responded immediately and told me not to worry about it, but to come the next day instead (which I did, successfully, and got enrolled for the semester!).

The rest of the day was so much better; I sat in the laundry room windowsill at St. Sebastian and did my homework while Kayla washed and dried her clothes.  It sounds mundane but it was, weirdly enough, one of my favorite afternoons yet.  At that point, the slush had turned to powdery snow and as I watched it fall, I thought for the 1,000th time how crazy it is that we get to live here.  The coziness of that moment along with Kayla's company made for a very pleasant turn of events.  Plus, I  got to assist Kayla with the translation of all the washing machine/dryer settings, which added an educational element to the day, so that's always nice.

I stayed there until 5:00, when Sandy came home from class and we realized that we were wearing the same headband yet again.  We celebrated this happy coincidence by taking the following photo and then breaking into the jar of Nutella she'd just brought back from the store.

And that's how you turn a bad day into a good one.

A trip to the Alpine Hut in Filzmoos, Austria

Thursday, February 19, 2009

This past Monday, we didn't have class (very happy about that).  Instead, we went to Filzmoos -- about an hour north of Salzburg.  Our group took a bus there, then split into groups of 8 for a horse-drawn sleigh right to the top of the mountain.  The temperature was in the single digits (Fahrenheit) for the ride but it was so, so fun.  Sandy I sat together, naturally, and we were snuggled up the whole time in attempt to keep warm, but even that didn't help.  The ride itself was 30 minutes, so they gave each of us a wool blanket.  It was easily the coldest I've ever been, but the ride so so beautiful that it truly didn't matter.  We saw skiers off in the distance and it made me so excited to go skiing.  Hopefully Roman and Sergi can get a group together and we can go up to the mountain to ski one weekend in the near future.  I would hate to be living in the Alps and not ski at all this winter.  

Anyway, once we finally reached the top of the mountain (at which point we couldn't feel our fingers or toes), we came upon a traditional alpine hut, where we'd have lunch.  Inside, the atmosphere was authentically Alpen; men dressed in lederhosen and women dressed in dirndls.  

Not to overuse the phrase "best meal of the trip" but this really may have been the best meal of the trip.  It. was. amazing.  We had bread and soup (goulash for Sandy, garlic for me) and then for dessert was had traditional Kaiser-Schmarrn, which was incredible.  It's sort of like shredded French toast served in a giant skillet sprinkled with powder sugar and then garnished with a side of apple sauce or plum sauce.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of everyone's faces when they set the skillet down on our table; we were in heaven.

While we were inside the hut, Sandy and Kayla took a trip to the bathroom.  Sandy thought it was just the 2 of them in the walls and she asked Kayla if she could serenade her (stall-to-stall) with a Pi Phi song.  After Sandy finished the song, she and Kayla emerged from their respective stalls and were received by a group of Austrian women, all clapping for Sandy's song.

We could only spend one hour eating, as it's not safe to leave the horses outside in such extreme temperatures.  So just as we'd warmed up inside the hut, we had to brave the cold yet again and head back down the mountain.  None of us could get over how tiring it was.  We weren't doing any work at all, but the by the time we reached the mountain top we were all extremely famished.  And then by the time we reached the bottom, we were exhausted.  I slept the entire bus ride home to Salzburg.

Exhaustion aside, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  So magical.

Quote of the day: "I am so full that I am angry." -- Sandy, after eating the Kaiser-Schmarrn

Austrian twins

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Yesterday, as Kayla and I were walking home from class, I passed Sandy in the street and noticed we were wearing the same headband.  I spent the rest of the day with Kayla, and ended up back at St. Sebastian.  When Sandy came back from her class at 4:00, I was still there, and this time when we saw each other, neither of us were wearing our coats (or our headbands anymore, for that matter).  We quickly realized, though, that we were wearing the exact same shirt. 

We immediately opened Kayla's computer to document the occasion.  Because if it goes undocumented, it probably means it didn't happen, right?

P.S. Thanks Kayla for letting us use your comp.  (And here is the shout-out you always wanted.)

An update (from the St. Sebastian stairwell, apparently)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Our friends in I.K. provide constant entertainment.  In addition to saying "Yes, we can!" all times (both in and out of context), they also love the phrases "Free for you" and "If you want I want."  "Free for you" essentially means "go on, have a piece of pizza" or "sure, you can use our bathroom."  It also works both ways; if they need to borrow something from our kitchen, they come in, take it, and then ask, "Free for me?" before heading back upstairs.  Today, Vaidas tried to persuade me to do their dishes by saying, "Jenni, washing dishes, free for you!"  So really, you can use it in any scenario.  There other go-to phrase, "If you want, I want" roughly translates to "Whatever you say."  So if we ask Sergi if he wants to come to Merkur with us, he will likely say, "If you want I want" aka "Sure, if you want me to."

In Sandy news, we're working on getting her a phone.  We also have so many trips planned throughout the next several months and even though we aren't living with each other like we thought, we are having so much fun both together and separately.  She has yet to come visit me in I.K. (!!!!) but I see her often at St. Sebastian; I'm there every day hanging out with Kayla anyway.  Here we are in the stairwell, just hanging out, as you do...

An update from Salzburg, one week in.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I've been helping the Spanish boys with their English quite a bit lately.  We still speak Spanish with one another, but we've been having an "English day" every now and again.  On one such day, I taught them to say "I go skiing" instead of saying "I make a ski."  Sergi and Roman are obsessed with skiing; they have all their gear with them here at IK and go skiing every chance they get, which is, like, every couple of days.  They are expert-level skiers, so I don't know if I'll ever attempt to ski with them, but who knows.  It could be a fun challenge.

Anyhow, it's really fun having these English and Spanish lessons with the Spanish boys because I'm never afraid to speak with them since they make mistakes with their English so often.  There's just no level of intimidation when it comes to speaking Spanish with them; they're both very helpful and patient and they very much relate to the endeavor of learning a new language.

I have another new friend named Andy.  For anyone who has ever wanted a British friend who uses phrases like "dreadful" or "darling" or "love", Andy is that friend.  He lives one bus stop down in a dorm much like I.K. but he might as well live here.  We see him often and I'm usually in tears of laughter anytime he's around.  I love him so much already.

Of course, I've met all of these friends through Caroline.  I've also been introduced to so many cool places around the city because of her; it's such an advantage having a roommate who knows the city so well and has lived here for several months already.  I can't believe I was ever hesitant about this living situation; I already can't imagine my experience any differently and it's been one week.

Sandy hasn't been to I.K. yet (you have to take a bus to get here) but we've hung out in the Altstadt a bit this week and gone to dinner a couple of times.  She's getting to know all of the girls at St. Sebastian so I think it's safe to say we're both very content with our respective living situations.

Other than that, there is so much snow on the ground right now and everything is perfect.  This place is a dream.

^^ A picture from earlier this week of me, Kayla, and Mozart.

^^ A picture of Vaidas, me, Gena, some guy we don't know even a little bit, and Caroline.

^^ Nobody knows why Vaidas, Roman, and Sergi are posing with an angel ornament, or where they got it, for that matter.

^^ Nor does anyone know we they're poking Sergi with ski poles as he lies on the floor.  Caroline and I just looked down and this was happening.  We asked no questions.

Quote of the day: "Adios!!" -- Sandy speaks Spanish yet again to an Austrian shopkeeper as we exit the store

The Best Valentine's Ever?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentinstag (Valentine's Day auf Deutsch) has come and gone.  It was, by far, my favorite night thus far (you know, of all six nights to choose from).  Caroline organized a "pub crawl" -- a tour of the pubs and bars in Salzburg -- and it began at Shamrock.  Out of the 52 students in our program, 40 showed up, so it was a great group, and so fun. 

For some strange reason, the pub crawl started at 5:30?  We're not sure why.  And because it started so early, most of us were in bed by 10:30....

Anyway, we all met at Shamrock and went inside, where we, of course, ordered our signature margarita pizza...  From there, we went to Murphy's, and then to O'Malley's, and it didn't end up being too much of a 'pub crawl' because those were the only places we went!  We didn't mind, though.  It was just one of those nights where the atmosphere is so conducive to having a good time, and you're surrounded by so many people you love, and it's just impossible not to have fun.  So much laughter...  We're at this phase in our group where there's sort of this collective understanding: we are about to spend the most amazing next few months together.  Everyone feels it - it's almost electric.  I guess I shouldn't even say we're 'about to' have the most amazing few months because it's already begun.  We are having the time of our lives and every night, I actually feel a pang of sadness that our semester is one day closer to ending.  Again, may I remind you, we've only been here a week.  

I think I might have a problem.

Anyhow, the weather is still so, so cold.  In fact, on our pub crawl, as we were walking from points A to B to C, I kept asking Caroline, "Are we there yet?  Are we just a minute away?  Just tell me we're close even if we're not.  I can't take it, otherwise."  Walking through the snow, I felt like my toes were about to break right off.

I am still so happy with my roommate set-up.  Caroline and I are inseparable and, again, I can't imagine not wanting to live with her.  We have already bonded so much as roommates; one of our "roommate bonding activities" is walking to the vending machines to get chocolate, like Milka bars and/or Ritter Sports.  We are about to have to cut ourselves off, though, because the habit is getting excessive.  It's just too tempting, especially since the vending machine is in I.K. (we do have to walk across the courtyard, though, so there's that).  When we're feeling like we need to be a little bit healthier than chocolate, we opt for "protein bars", which are actually Snickers. 

Here are some pictures from Valentine's Day (or rather, Valentine's Night): Kayla, Sandy, Lindsay, me, and Caroline.  The first picture is from Shamrock, the second from O'Malley's.

Quote of the day: "You're my best friend and I love you and if you weren't here I would probably be dead." -- Sandy, to me, during a "moment" we shared on Valentine's Night

Pastry Tasting

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The past week has been crazy; please excuse my absence and lack of updating.  We've had 3-hour German classes every day.  My class starts at 9:30 and Sandy's starts at 1:00, so sometimes we pass each other on my way home from class and on her way to class, but other than that we haven't seen a whole lot of each other.  My teacher, Frau Eva, is really intense, as I indicated in the last post.  If it's possible for one's brain to physically hurt from hyper-concentration, then that is, in fact, what I experience each day upon leaving her classroom.  I am learning so much, though, which is why I came here in the first place.  Nevertheless, I'm learning way more than I expected.  And although the class itself is really intense -- and the three hours seem to stretch on forever -- the view from my classroom with the snow falling down all around us is unbelievable.  Hard work is hard work, but it certainly does help when you're working hard in the most beautiful city on earth.

I've been walking back from class each day with Kayla.  I've mentioned her before, and I'm getting know her really well.  She's from Seattle, and has the bluest eyes and prettiest cornsilk hair -- I've never seen anyone so (naturally) blonde in my life.  We're in different German classes, but she's been waiting for me (or vice versa) at school so we can walk back together.  It's a bit of walk and freezing in the snow, but these walks have become the highlight of my days this week.  Salzburg is so magical and the atmosphere is just unreal -- walking home in the swirling snow, we'll make a detour here or there and just take it all in.  It does not seem like a real place, and neither of us can really believe that we live here.  

We've found some really fun places around the Altstadt during our exploring.  One place we stopped in this week is a little Irish pub called Shamrock.  We've actually eaten lunch there 3 days in a row -- we order a 5 euro pizza and drink Snakebites and it's quickly becoming 'our' very own tradition. 

Another highlight of this week: pastry tasting!  Kayla and I went together and sat with Caroline and our new friend, Lindsay.  The four of us had the best time.  Pastry tasting is just as amazing as it sounds; hosted at Cafe Schatz, we were invited to taste all of the pastries.  During the full hour that we were there, they just kept bring treat after treat after treat, all for free, of course.  Ingrid, our director, set it up, and when she told us about it, I was expecting a "sample" size, but the portions were huge.  We also got hot chocolate, which was the icing on the cake (or rather, the pastry).  

Life here is already passing by so quickly and I find myself wanting time to stand still.  Every day is better than the day before and I'm starting to wonder if it's possible to have a bad day here at all?

I don't foresee a bad day in the near future, at least.  Because tonight we have our Valentine's Day event, and then we have a 3-day weekend, and then we have a trip to the Alpine Hut next Monday.

Life is so, so good in The Alps.

Quote of the day: "Best hour of my life." -- Kayla, on our way out of pastry tasting

Lost in the Altstadt (which is NOT that big).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It is probably my biggest weakness, as a traveler, that I am very directionally challenged.  My second-biggest weakness is my inability to resist H&M, TopShop, Zara, and Mango, but that's beside the point. 

Anyhow, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I got lost, but I didn't expect it to be on the way to orientation, aka the place I just went yesterday.  I called Sandy and asked for help when I realized I couldn't find the building in the Altstadt.  Thankfully, she came and got me, led me back to the building ("Ohhhh, yeah, it's this building!", I said as we walked in), and we slipped into the back, unnoticed.  During today's at orientation, we learned about all the excursions included in our curriculum, and signed up for travel groups.  I made sure to sign up in the same group as Kayla, the girl I talked to at LHR while Sandy was networking with Pakistani diplomats.  

Following orientation, we took German placement tests.  There are 52 American students this semester, and of those 52, 42 got sorted into the beginner's class (Sandy), 7 in the intermediate class (me), and 3 in the advanced class (3 students who are native German/Austrian but American by birth).  Caroline is in her own private class because she's a semester ahead of everyone, including the 'native' students.  

Sandy was thrilled because she didn't actually have to take an exam; if you have had zero German, you check the box that says, "I know nothing! Help!" and you're automatically funneled into the level-1 group.  Surprisingly, after our placement exam, we actually had a class (I had sort of assumed that the exam was our class for the day).  My German professor, Frau Eva, is native Austrian, extremely strict, intimidating, scary, the list goes on.  I've already heard semi-horror stories about her, but I'm told if you do your homework, you'll be fine.  It might take a few classes to convince me of that, though; this first class was somewhat traumatizing and I'm already wondering if I know German but at all.

Feeling as though my brain has become absolute mush, I took the bus home to I.K., discouraged for the first time since we arrived.  All of that changed, though, when I met: "the Spanish boys."

I walked into Caroline's and my room only to find that she wasn't there.  I quickly heard her laugh from the common room upstairs, though, followed by some very obviously accented voices.  It dawned on me that these voices must belong to Sergi and Roman, about whom Caroline has told me a lot.  I ran up the stairs and sure enough, she was sitting on the couches with the both of them, along with Vaidas, another student on their floor who I have nicknamed "Lithuanian Michael Cera."  

After I introduced myself, Sergi and Roman asked me if I knew Spanish, and when I started speaking it back to them, they screamed and clapped.  I actually conversed with them for a couple of hours, which helped my self-esteem as I had just spent the bus ride home wondering if my chosen area of study (foreign languages) was right for me after all.  I could tell right away what close friends Sergi, Roman, and Vaidas are.  Not only did none of them know each other when they came to Salzburg last fall, but none of them knew any English (Caroline could attest to this) which is crazy because now they converse so easily.  After speaking Spanish so easily with them, though -- and also realizing how quickly they picked up English -- I'll go to class tomorrow feeling a bit more encouraged and inspired about language-learning in general.  And these feelings will last about five minutes, I predict, once Frau Eva gets the best of me.

I will master the German language if it's the last thing I do, though, just you wait and see.

I will also try to master my sense of direction, but I'm a little less sure about that one....

Quote of the day: "Who would have thought that I would be the one saving you?"-- Sandy, when she rescued me in the city center

Currently thankful for: Sandy, public transportation, Kinder bars, Happy Hippos, and cheesy pretzels the size of our heads.

Orientation at Uni. Salzburg

Monday, February 9, 2009

We had orientation this morning at 9:00, where we got a free breakfast.  Let me tell you, that free breakfast in and of itself was what got me out of bed.  When my alarm went off at 8:00, every bone in my body was screaming at me to press 'snooze', roll over, and sleep for another hour.  Or ten.  But Gena was waiting to catch the bus and go into town with me, and the free breakfast was waiting for me as well, and that was enough. 

Sandy and I love free meals, so after orientation, we, naturally, sat behind the breakfast table and snuck leftover croissants when no one was looking (I'm not sure that anyone would have cared, but you never know).  Sandy likes to hide food in her purse on the off-chance that she and I will run out of money and therefore won't be able to eat.  With 3 H&M's in Salzburg, this is a very likely possibility, but I'm proud to say we've purchased nothing from H&M thus far!  And we've been here for over one whole day!

Orientation was great, mostly because it was there that we received our bank cards.  We get $250 a month deposited into our school bank accounts (we paid for this in our fees) to cover meals.  After orientation, Sandy and I split up so I could run some errands (yes, I already have errands to run here).  Now, when people ask me how much German I can speak, I tend to say "not a lot."  But it really is all about your confidence level and I'm learning that more and more.  Today, for example, I walked into the Tabak Trafik to purchase my bus pass and had to conduct this exchange in German, which was fine.  Next, I went into A1 to activate my phone -- another German convo, which was more difficult, but surprisingly fine as well.  Lastly, I went into a boot store here.  With so much snow on the ground and months more on the way, I realized I need a better pair of boots than the pair I brought from Goodwill for which I paid a grand total of $1.99... I knew I'd spend much more than that in town today but I also knew that the 10-day forecast predicts snow 24/7 as far as the eye can see, so, what else am I supposed to do?  Anyway, I walked into the boot store and spoke with the very nice sales clerk.  She was super friendly -- spoke only German with me -- and sold me a pair of boots for only 39 euro.  They were originally 102 euro and I got them on sale.  When I asked her if I could wear them out of the store, she replied, "Ja! Natürlich!" which made me very happy.  I don't know why I thought 4 semesters of German wouldn't be enough to get me through basic conversations, but it's great to learn that it is.

After our break, our cultural director, Andreas (a native Austrian born and raised in Salzburg!) took us on a 4 hour walk through the mountains.  Thank goodness for my new boots, right?  The walk was incredible; I loved seeing the city from so high up and it's just so absolutely breathtaking.  One particular highlight was seeing the oldest convent in the German-speaking world, built in 750.  There are still nuns there, too!  We went inside and hear them singing (but not in the abbey, like Fräulein Maria).  We even toured "Austria's most romantic graveyard."

After the tour was over, we were starving from all that walking, so we went to dinner with our new friend Tim (the guy in the red hat).  We had a great meal together at the coziest little restaurant in the Altstadt.  One particular highlight was Sandy signing a Mariah Carey song under her breath and nearly dying of embarrassment when the waiter sang the next line back to her. 

After dinner, Tim and I boarded the bus to head back to IK (he lives in the red building) and stopped at Hofer (one bus stop down from ours) to get some groceries.  That was an interesting experience for a couple reasons: (1) I accidentally bought 6 bottles of carbonated water (rookie mistake, I know) and (2) We failed to bag our groceries in time and, in turn, received death stares from everyone around us for causing so much congestion around the counter (another rookie mistake, I know).  At the point, we decided to call it a night and take the bus to IK -- just one stop but we had so many groceries, we couldn't have walked.  I guess that was a third rookie mistake, buying the amount of groceries you would buy in the US (with a car) as opposed to buying only what you can carry, here.  Regardless, there is something so comforting about bags full of groceries -- especially when you have such a great kitchen to cook in, like mine and Caroline's.

I love it here, I love it here, I love it here.

Did I mention I love it here?

Quote of the day: "Hola!" -- Sandy, to an Austrian today in town

Meeting My Roommate, Settling in to Salzburg

Sunday, February 8, 2009

As soon as we pulled into Salzburg, the bus dropped us off right beside a line of taxis.  Ingrid handed us each envelopes containing the addresses of our room assignments and a 5 euro bill to help pay for the taxi ride.  I reluctantly said goodbye to Sandy and split a cab with a girl named Gena, also living in I.K.  By this time, the butterflies in my stomach felt more like butterfly monsters.

As we pulled up to I.K., the snow was swirling all around us.  I stepped out of the cab and saw 4 buildings all around us: a blue one, a green one, an orange one and a red one, with a courtyard in the middle.  A girl in a green puff-coat stood on the curb, waving somewhat timidly.  She had curly blonde hair, and henna tattoos on her hands.  She greeted me with a half smile and said, "Hi, I'm Caroline."  I paid the driver and gathered all my belongings, and then turned to really face her.  "Hi, I think I'm your roommate."  "Yeah, we're in the blue building.  220," she told me.

Gena and I fumbled up the stairs (her room was directly above Caroline's and my room) and I cursed the fact that (1) this dorm had no elevator and (2) in Europe, 220 means the equivalent to an American third floor.  Wearing my overstuffed backpack, I helped Gena with one of her suitcases as we trudged up the stairs; my shoulders actually felt like they were going to pop out of their sockets.  When I got to room 220, I entered cautiously, even though it Caroline was still downstairs waiting for the rest of the incoming IK group (she had told Ingrid she would help direct them all to their respective buildings).  I took a good look around; there were pictures on the wall depicting Caroline at various music festivals and other concerts, dressed in festive clothing, with wild hair and makeup.  I surveyed all the photos and artwork hanging around her bed and surmised to myself, "She is a total hippie."

In just a few minutes, she had returned back upstairs to our room, having seen everyone off to their respective buildings and rooms.  That's when she started, just, giving me things -- like tons of things.  Lotion, shampoo, a cell phone, a cell phone charger, books, face wash, etc.  Apparently, her last roommate had left all of this stuff and Caroline saved it all for me.  We quickly began talking about our upbringings, trying to get to know each other a little better.  I knew she was from Idaho and that she had been living in Salzburg since September, but that was it.  When she told me that she hadn't been home since she moved here, I was shocked.  "Not even for Christmas?", I asked.  "Not even for Christmas," she told me.  I learned that her aunt had come to visit for Christmas and that they'd gone to Morocco.  I also learned that she had been so lonely waiting for the new group to arrive and I could tell she was so genuinely excited to have my company.  Suddenly, all of the fear I had about my roommate dissipated.  I had an inexplicable peace about everything, in such a way that, all at once, I was so excited to be living there, which seemed totally crazy since 10 minutes prior, I had been plotting my escape to St. Sebastian.  

As we talked more, there was one thing that stuck out to me about our conversation: the way Caroline talked about her group of friends last semester.  She described how close the group had become, and how, on the last night of the semester, everyone in the group was in hysterics at the thought of leaving, and that the boys were crying the hardest.  She told me how, when you have share such an amazing experience together with a group of friends like that, it really hurts when the group has to split up.  It immediately dawned on me: "This is what is going to happen to you; you are going to have the time of your life over these several months and you are not going to want to leave."  Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But either way, I sat down and wrote my parents an email and said, "I don't think I'm going to want to leave this place."

For dinner tonight, Caroline took the group of us -- all the American I.K. students, at least -- to Rossbräu, a restaurant down the road that's open on Sundays.  Not only had Ingrid given us money for our taxis, but she'd also given us money for dinner and a 24 hour bus pass to help us get settled. 

What's even cooler about this set-up is that the IK population is assembled not only of American students but Lithuanian, Spanish, Hungarian, Polish, German, Irish, and English students, and I'm sure many more additional countries.  

I've been here for less than 24 hours and have loved every minute.  

And I already really, really, really don't want to leave this place.

From LHR to Munich to our final destination: Salzburg

We woke up at 5:00 so we could be ready for our flight to Munich.  We then took a chartered bus from the hotel to LHR, and it was so nice to not have to worry about navigating the tube by ourselves that early in the morning.  One guy from our program overslept, though, and the front desk had to call his room repeatedly -- we almost had to leave without him.  But he woke up, made it onto the bus, and away we went.

Once we arrived at LHR, we got in line, and I planted myself on the airport floor once I saw how long the line for check-in was.  I was unpacking and re-packing some items in my bags -- mostly because I was worried about the film in my lomography camera going through security.  I was holding the lomo camera in my hand and messing with the film when a guy from our program looked my way.  "That's one hell of a camera you got there," he said to me.  His name is Tim, but I only knew him as "Red Hat" because I had yet to see him not wearing a red beanie.  My first impression of him was that he was the kind of insufferable, pretentious hipster who purposely brings up Cannes Film Festival in conversation just to pronounce it Kahn Film Festival.  But as we spoke in line at LHR, I was reminded that first impressions are not always accurate.  He seemed really nice and friendly.

Speaking of friendly, Sandy proved yet again that she may or may not be the most talkative person alive.  She asked me to wait for her after I went through security, as I walked through ahead of her, so when I didn't see her for almost 10 minutes, I began to worry; we hadn't thought to rehearse "what to do if Sandy doesn't make it through airport security."  When she finally appeared, I asked her what on earth had taken so long.  Apparently, she had struck up a conversation with an airport employee on the other side of security, and now knew (1) this woman's favorite yogurt flavor, (2) her favorite vacation spot, (3) her opinion on Americans from the south, and (4) her opinions on snowstorms in Budapest.  Only Sandy...

I slept through our entire flight to Munich, listening to "Wicked Wisdom" by Of Montreal on my iPod -- my favorite song at the moment.  When we landed in Munich and entered the baggage claim area, we were greeted by Ingrid, our program director.  As we made eye contact with her, we noticed she was mouthing the names of each of us to herself as we entered, crossing us off a clipboard-list she held in her hand.  We collected our luggage from the conveyor belt and boarded another charter bus, this time to Salzburg (about 2 hours away by bus).  This drive was beautiful.  There was so much snow on the ground.  It was during this beautiful drive, however, that we realized something awful: we were not rooming together like we had planned.

There are a few different dorms where we can stay here.  St. Sebastian is where Sandy and I wanted to live, and where we requested to live.  It's technically in Neustadt, but so close to the Salzach and the Altstadt.  Another dorm and possible room placement is International Kollege (I.K.) which houses a mix of different international students (hence the name).  The downside is that it's about 40 minutes'  walking distance from the Altstadt, which is where everything happens.  So we were understandably really disappointed when Sandy got placed in St. Sebastian and I in International Kollege.  We were also confused, as we had both requested to live with one another and were fairly certain that our request would be granted.  I had been counting on rooming with Sandy so much that this information seemed to drain me of any excitement I had about the upcoming semester.  In fact, my first thought was, "This is going to ruin everything.  I'm going to hate my roommate -- I just know it."  

We talked to Ingrid, the director, as she was mingling with all the students on the bus.  She encouraged us to give our room assignments a shot, assuring us that if there was a problem, "other accommodations" could be made.  Sandy had been placed with a girl named Kate, from Alabama, while I placed with a girl named Caroline, from Idaho.  Shortly after the room assignments were handed out, Kate approached Sandy and introduced herself.  They seemed to hit it off an I began to worry, "What if Sandy loves Kate, I end up hating my roommate, and then Sandy doesn't want to switch?"  I walked down to the lower level of the bus, where Ingrid was now sitting.  I asked her where my roommate was; I was very anxious to meet her.  "She's not here on the bus -- she is already in Salzburg," Ingrid explained.  "How?," I wondered.  As far as I had known, it hadn't been an option to fly directly to Salzburg -- I had thought the London orientation was mandatory (otherwise, I very likely would have skipped it).  "She's been here since September," Ingrid told me.  "Great," I thought to myself.  "I have to wait another hour to meet my roommate, who I will probably end up hating."  Ingrid must have sensed my apprehension; she assured me, "Jennifer, you're going to love her."  Although this made me feel a bit better, when I returned to my seat and noticed Kate was still there, visiting with Sandy, I said to her, "Hey -- we're not sure what happened, but there was a mix-up with the rooms.  We both requested to stay with one another and we might be switching once we get to Salzburg.  I'm really sorry, but I may request to move in in your place."  Kate's gracious response surprised and humbled me.  "Of course!  Yeah, I'm so sorry that happened.  I don't want to take your room or anything. If you requested to room with Sandy, you should room with her.  I didn't request anyone because I don't know anyone in the program.  So I'm fine living wherever."  I instantly felt embarrassed for my lack of maturity in handling the situation.  "Well....we'll see.  Thanks," I mumbled as I slid back into my seat and Kate made her way back to hers.

I spent the rest of the bus ride in nervous anticipation, wondering what my roommate would be like and whether or not I would like her.  I couldn't dwell on this for too long, though, because I was distracted (happily so) by a story Sandy told me about yet another friend she had made at LHR.  Apparently, when I was at our gate talking to a girl named Kayla (who will be going to school with us), Sandy was talking to someone she believed to be a diplomat.  She's still not sure who or what he was; he just looked 'official' and was wearing a suit.  He also had an iPhone, which seemed important.  As they began conversing, Sandy learned that he was friends with the former President of Pakistan who was recently murdered, and that he has the current President of Pakistan's number in his phone (his iPhone, mind you).  He even showed Sandy the name and number in his phone when she didn't immediately believe him.  When I asked Sandy, "What was the name of the contact in his phone?", she said to me, "I think it was....Aviv.  Yeah, it was Aviv."  When I asked what the last name was, she said, "Um, Aviv."  "The current president of Pakistan's name is Aviv Aviv?", I asked in disbelief.  "I guess so!", Sandy replied, and I couldn't help but laugh.  What's even funnier, though, is that Sandy asked the guy if she could call the president, to which he replied: no.

I didn't have time to ask if Sandy found out the diplomat-man's favorite yogurt flavor or his opinion on snowstorms in Budapest, because we were pulling into Salzburg, which meant I'd meet my roommate in no time at all.  The butterflies began to set in.

Pictures from LHR and the bus ride:

Quote of the day: "I feel like I just found out I didn't make the varsity pom squad." -- Sandy, upon hearing our room assignments 

Our last day in London (alternatively titled: brrrrrrr)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Today we worked on what to do if (1) Sandy gets off at the wrong tube stop and (2) what to do if she stays on the tube and I accidentally get off without her.  In the first scenario, the answer is: stay where you are, don't move, and Jennifer will come find you.  In the second scenario, the answer is: "get off at the next stop -- then, stay where you are, don't move, and Jennifer will come find you.

Today was colder than yesterday, but that didn't stop us from spending the whole day in the city, which included a 3 hour private bus tour.  As the tour began at 8:45 am, Sandy asked the hotel to ring our room at 7:00 to make sure we were ready in time.  So when Sandy woke me up at 8:00, my response was, "Wow -- I can't believe the hotel forgot our wake-up call!"  She replied "They didn't.  They called.  You've been asleep for the past hour."  Whoops.  Luckily, I got ready in plenty of time and we were soon on our way to the tour of London.

We saw all the usual attractions, and while I think Sandy and I prefer to see Europe by our own agenda, the tour wasn't bad.  I hadn't ever been to St. Paul's Cathedral before, and I found it especially interesting that it was one of the only buildings in the area to survive the 1940 London fire (whereas Sweeney Todd's barber shop on Fleet Street did not).  The highlight of the tour was Sandy asking the tour guide if she could get married in the cathedral. The answer is no, she cannot.

After the tour, I insisted that we head straight to Notting Hill for the Saturday Portobello flea market -- the best time of my day.  This was my 3rd time to visit the market and I'd venture a guess that it will never get old (for me, at least).  Sandy and I managed to avoid making any purchases (the '1 checked bag only' restriction on our flight to Munich tomorrow having more effect than actual will power, though), but we spent 3-4 hours pursuing the booths nonetheless.  We stopped to eat the best meal of the trip (so far) at Falafel King.

After lunch, Sandy had her first experience with a public toilet!  A public toilet in London is a large red cylinder-looking structure with a button and a screen on the outside.  When you push the button, if the toilet is occupied, it will instruct you to "WAIT."  If the toilet is vacant, the door will automatically slide open and revel a single-person toilet 'station', if you will.  We are told that, in between occupants, water shoots through tiny holes in the floor to keep the room sanitary and clean.  Basically, we're talking about a port-a-potty but with so much class.  Sandy was initially reluctant to use it, because she thought it cost 20 pounds instead of 20 pence, but once she realized the difference, we rushed right over to stand in line.

While waiting in line, we met a nice young man -- also from the States (Chicago) -- waiting in line for the toilet as well.  When we discovered that he's studying abroad in London, and has been here for awhile already, Sandy began asking him a series of questions: (1) Have you ever used a public toilet before? (2) Will there be toilet paper when I get in there? (3) Is it scary? (4) Is it clean? (5) What happens if the door slides open while I'm sitting on the toilet? (6)  What happens if the jets of water shoot out of the floor while I'm sitting on the toilet and I get wet? (7) Are there paper towels, or a hand dryer?

Rest assured, she came in and out of the toilet quickly enough and there were no malfunctions with the toilet (or the door) (or the floor) whatsoever.

We then made our way out of the flea market and toward the tube and that's when we stopped in American Apparel...and that's also when the will-power ran out (for me, at least).  I bought a yellow circle scarf (I love their circle scarves) and justified it because I can wear it tomorrow when we fly and won't need to worry about packing it.  So there.

We met up at O'Neil's with Grace and her friend for dinner.  When it comes to restaurants/pubs, O'Neils is admittedly a really lame choice, in theory.  Mistake number one: it's a chain.  Mistake number two: if you tell locals that you're eating there, they'll laugh at you (this has happened to me, and yet I still have no shame).  But I really like their veggie burgers, and after taking bites out of mine last night, Sandy and Grace wanted to return to get one for themselves.  So, we made our 2nd trip there in 24 hours (it's right around the corner from the Jesmond Dene, which is how I initially discovered it).

During dinner, a man sitting directly across me in the restaurant pulled out his camera, smiled at me, and took no less than four pictures of what I can only imagine was me stuffing my face with food.  That was not my favorite part of the meal.

Now we are back in the hotel room and have said goodbye to Grace, as we head to Munich tomorrow at 5:00 am!

Currently listing to: 'On Top of the World' aka the The City theme song (Sandy, and only because Jennifer won't stop singing it, and also because we think it's about our lives right now) + 'Wicked Wisdom' by Of Montreal (Jennifer)

Quote of the day: "I don't even want to talk to you right now, I just want to enjoy every minute of this meal."  -- Sandy, while eating at Falafel King

Thankful for: falafel, new clothes, and the hours of exercise we got today (even though our energy levels are now totally depleted).

Greetings from London!

Friday, February 6, 2009

After a 9-hour direct flight from DFW to LHR, we have made it.  The flight was actually pretty rough, thanks to some intense turbulence.  Normally, I love turbulence (weirdly enough, I have found that it relaxes me and puts me to sleep) but this was something I've never experienced before.  Things were actually flying off of trays and into the aisles, so much so that Sandy was grabbing onto my leg and praying, "Lord, if the plane crashes, please let me die upon impact."

At first I laughed, then I was alarmed, and then I was asleep (see what I mean?).  The storm had passed by the time I awoke, and while I normally sleep during the entirety of my plane rides, I stayed awake most of the time on this one.  The airline (British Airways, which we loved, apart from the turbulence) was showing all the Oscar movies, so I sat back and watched Rachel Getting Married, which I enjoyed.  Sandy didn't sleep much either, and, for that reason, we were super tired and jet-lagged when we landed in London and went through customs, bright and early this morning.

This was hardly my first customs' experience, but for some reason, I totally panicked during the cursory questioning part.  First, they asked to see our acceptance letters from the University of Salzburg.  I had zero recollection of packing mine in my carry-on; the only reason I found it was because I was  fumbling around in my bag with no expectation of finding it -- I just didn't know what else to do when he asked for mine after Sandy produced hers so readily.  So, more or less for show, I dug around in my bag and then, there mine was -- exactly where it was supposed to be.  

With a look of bewilderment on my face, I handed it to the man, who glanced it over once and then asked us both which university we came from.  I answered ever so matter-of-factly, "University of Oklahoma!"

I do not attend the University of Oklahoma.

Sandy looked me, half-annoyed and half-confused, and then the man asked us a few more questions before funneling us through.  On to baggage claim!

I spotted our escort first -- a man holding a sign for us.  Sandy asked me, "Where?  Where?  I don't see him -- what does he look like?"  Let it be a testament to both our exhaustion that I replied to her, "Well, he doesn't look like the shiniest star in the sky," and then she nodded, as though she totally knew what I mean.

What does that even mean?  I don't know.

On our way to the hotel, Sandy asked every human with whom we came in contact if they had flown British Airways; she is really on a B.A. kick right now after all the free food and drinks we were offered during our flight.

Once we made it to our hotel, we quickly checked into our room on the 16th floor, which overlooks beautiful London town.  It's absolutely freezing here -- colder than it was when I was in Alaska.  Just the walk from the hotel to the underground (probably 90 seconds?) is brutal.  It snowed a bit off an on today -- and it's so beautiful -- just very cold.

We saw TopShop and H&M at various points throughout the day and I proudly refrained from entering the premises, as both of those establishments played major roles in the thousand-dollar debt I owed my parents after my last trip to London... but that is water under the bridge.  Paid it off!  And now here I am.

After not shopping, Sandy and I attempted to walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park all the way to Buckingham Palace.  Five minutes into our journey, the cold was so unbearable, that we stopped for lunch at a  cafe near Royal Albert Hall.  We were really enjoying the food and the warmth of the cafe until we realized that neither of us could keep our eyes open.  It was the worst feeling just wanting to curl up right there at the table and go to sleep, only to realize that we had to venture back out into the bitter cold to get home.

So, we headed back to the hotel room, Skyped with our friends JC and Hunt, and then decided a nap was well overdue.  At that time, it was 3:00 and we didn't have to be anywhere until 6:00, when we had to meet up the other American students downstairs in the hotel bar.  At 6:15, I woke up to Sandy shouting that we had overslept.  In that moment, if someone had pointed a gun to my head and asked me where I was, what day it was, what time it was, or who I was, I would have had no response.  It took me upwards of 30 seconds to remember that I was in London.  I have never been so disoriented in my life.

We rushed down to the meeting, which wasn't really a meeting at all, so we skipped out early and met up with Sandy's sorority sister, Grace.  She is studying in London now, and texted us the address to a pub on Argyle Street, which I immediately recognized; my family's favorite hotel in London is on Argyle Street.  I guided the way and in no time at all, we had arrived.  We had the best dinner -- just us girls -- but were already ready for bed by the end of the meal.

In related news, Sandy loves riding the tube -- and loves referring to it as 'the tube' as much as possible.  She has had only a few minor freak-outs, but I am really in my element here so we make a good team.  The deal was: 'Sandy gets us to Europe, Jennifer gets us through Europe.'  Applications and deadlines give me horrible anxiety so her job was to remind me to turn those in and to help me with the paperwork, which, in turn, made this trip a reality.  And now that we're here, I'm more than happy to take the lead, which I will gladly do tomorrow morning as we shop around one of my favorite places: Notting Hill! The Portobello Market awaits us....

Quote of the day:
"Oh!  Look!  A dungeon!!!!!!" -- Sandy, really soaking up every bit of old London

Currently listening to: Dead & Gone, by T.I. and J.T. (Sandy) and Breakin' Dishes, by Rihanna (me)

Currently thankful for: Smart Wool socks, luggage push-carts in the airport for girls who have severely overpacked their bags, and the Kelty backpack that allows this girl to severely overpack her bags.

^^ A snapshot of Sandy, taken during our attempted walk through Hyde Park