Monthly Archives: March 2015

29/3/15 – 3 x 7 = 21

7 things I learned during my week alone in Barcelona:

1. One should always remember to adjust one’s phone and other time-keeping devices for the new time zone after traveling. One would think this would be self-evident, but one would be wrong. Phones do not always adjust the time automatically. Especially when said phones are on airplane mode. While having the wrong time may not matter while one is wandering about a city casually, it becomes slightly more important when one desires to see a movie. When one walks into the theatre an hour late and insists that the movie begins in 5 minutes, those working at said theatre may become deeply confused and fear for one’s sanity. When one does this twice in one night, those working at the theatre will likely inform one of the correct time very, very slowly and cautiously. One will then understand why the movie was not showing when scheduled. One will then be able to adjust one’s phone to the new time zone. If more humiliation (as well as a small amount of triumph) is desired, one may return to the theatre the following day at the correct time to actually see the movie.

2. I am not an extrovert. I know this already, and yet for some reason, when I pictured myself traveling this semester, I pictured some alternate universe Lizzy who would make friends effortlessly everywhere she went, go out to bars and clubs on her own (/with her dozens of new friends), and have no trouble practicing her Spanish with every person she met. This Lizzy does not exist (or if she does, she is not me). The longest conversation I had the entire first half of the week was with a Welsh woman at a dessert shop.

I’m not an extrovert, and I’ve been working hard at accepting that this week. I did a lot of walking alone, sitting alone, and eating alone this week, and it was so hard to break away from the feeling that I wasn’t doing it right. But you know what? Sometimes being alone is exactly what I need.

3. When traveling, it is hard to meet locals, but it is very easy to meet other travelers. In the end, I did make several friends in Barcelona. On a Sweets/Chocolate tour of Barcelona, I met someone from Australia who enjoys good food as much as I do. After the tour ended, we shared a lovely evening full of tea, cava, and lots of tapas. On my way to Montserrat, I ended up chatting with two students from Canada, and we spent the day together exploring the monastery and, in the evening, visiting a high-end perfume shop and smelling perfume to our heart’s content.

It took me until the end of the week to figure out, but if you want to meet people while abroad: 1) stay at a hostel, or 2) get involved in touristy activities and you’re bound to meet other travelers!

3. Fear is a really powerful thing.

4. But it is possible to overcome, with several cups of tea, some sunshine, and those small things that give you the confidence to keep going.

5. Those small things are everything. The chocolate on the end of the croissant. The music and voices and laughter drifting in through the balcony window. The salty-sticky sand covering my feet. The puppy nuzzling his owner on the metro.

When I got here, I realized I may not have packed the best. I had seen that it was supposed to be significantly warmer than Oxford, so I brought only one pair of jeans, one pair of capri pants, a couple shirts, and two dresses. While the weather here was warm to me, however, it was still quite chilly for the Barcelonians, and I was literally the only person walking around in sandals. I realized if I didn’t want to stand out as a total foreigner I might have to wear that same pair of jeans all week, and I felt like a total idiot, but then I made an amazing discovery: my short pants, which had a sort of scrunch at the end that I assumed was just stylistic, were actually un-scrunchable. I could expand them into regular length pants.

I could not explain why, but these pants felt like a miracle. Such a small thing, but my transformable pants made me feel capable, somehow, of being brave, of exploring all the places I wanted to explore and speaking in Spanish and interacting with other people and doing all of the things I was afraid of.

6. Part of self-care is pushing your comfort zone. I think I did a pretty good job taking care of myself here. I meditated every day, I made time to spend alone in the apartment to recharge, I let myself laugh when I counted out the wrong change or messed up a word rather than beating myself up for it. I also made plans to get out and do things in the city, and I followed through. That more than anything made me really proud of myself. I am usually motivated by external factors– by other people’s needs or interests or by academic and social expectations. This trip was just for me, and that actually made it harder for me to feel capable of accomplishing anything. But I did– I did a lot! I did interact with people, I walked over half the city, I took a day trip I’ve been wanting to take since I was first in Barcelona two years ago, I navigated the metro– I even successfully gave people directions, in Spanish! Twice!

7. Traveling alone is something I would recommend to everyone to try at some point in their life. Doesn’t have to be to another country, but going to a new place and learning how to be on your own– learning you can be on your own– is a pretty powerful thing. And, of course, now I am so, so grateful to be spending the next week with my parents!


7 images from my trip:

The view from the balcony of my Airbnb apartment in the Gracia district

The view from the balcony of my Airbnb apartment in the Gracia district

Dragon fountain at Parc Ciutadella (the Dolores Park of Barcelona)

Dragon fountain at Parc Ciutadella (the Dolores Park of Barcelona)

Always at home by the ocean

Always at home by the ocean

Felicidad: pure happiness (choco-caramel-banana cake, cava, and a book)

Felicidad: pure happiness (choco-caramel-banana cake, cava, and a book)

The view from the aeri tram up to Montserrat

The view from the aeri tram up to Montserrat

Montserrat: a monastery build into the mountainside

Montserrat: a monastery build into the mountainside

¡Hola! :)

¡Adios, Barcelona! Espérame, voy a regresar otra vez.

7 lines of the song I’ve been listening to non-stop this week:

But I’m okay in see-through skin.

I forgive what is within.

‘Cause I’m in this house, I’m in this home, all my time.

Cover your crystal eyes

And feel the tones that tremble down your spine.

Cover your crystal eyes

And let your colors bleed and blend with mine.

22/03/15 – Time to Fly

Sunday again already? Jeez, the weeks fly by quickly here.

I have had such a wonderful week with one of my oldest and dearest friends– Nina, who has been with me since 2nd grade, through jump rope drama and personal crises, whether we lived in different parts of the city, the state, the country, or the world. We’ve dreamed of exploring England together for years, and it was wonderful to finally have that happen and to be able to catch up with someone I can talk to for hours. A brief summary of our week in pictures:

We saw Oxford from the top of the tower at University Church…

Hey there, quite a few stairs, huh?

Hey there, quite a few stairs, huh?

Ug Oxford y u so pretty??

Ug Oxford y u so pretty??

We toured Blenheim Palace (on the rainiest day I have experienced yet in England, of course)…

So Winston Churchill lived in a palace...

So Winston Churchill lived in a palace…

Angry statue dude

Angry statue dude

We walked down High St and explored the Botanical Gardens…

Literally, too pretty.

Literally, too pretty.



And we even organized a day trip to Bath, successfully navigating the train system and making our way to the Bath Cathedral, the Roman ruins, and the Fashion Museum (and the crepe shop…)



Bathing in sunlight


Look at that lovely lady!

They are heavy and the corsets do make breathing a struggle, but seriously I would be so down to wear these dresses regularly.

They are heavy and the corsets do make breathing a struggle, but seriously I would be so down to wear these dresses regularly.


NUTELLLLLAAAAA  (and yes, this is a Belgian waffle, not a crepe…)

In addition to exploring with Nina, I have been finalizing my plans for break. I finished my last tutorial of Hilary term on March 12, and I have until April 21 to take a break, which gives me a LOT of time to fill (okay, I do have to do some preparatory work for my Trinity term tutes, but I’ll think about that later). So, by take a break, what I really mean is drive myself up a wall planning a bunch of travel around Europe.

Planning isn’t exactly my favorite thing in the world. Remember that Myers-Briggs personality thing? That last letter, P (Perceiving)? That tends to mean I like to keep my options open and make spontaneous decisions. But alas, that is not how the world of travel works (if you want to travel at any reasonable sort of price, at least, let alone on a budget). So I have spent lots of time figuring out plane tickets, bus rides, Air Bnb apartments, and more, for my break. This is my basic itinerary:

Monday (tomorrow) March 23: Fly from Gatwick to Barcelona on Easyjet (oh boy, we’ll see if the cheap fares are worth it! I think I have my backpack within the size limit…)

March 30: Fly from Barcelona back to London and meet up with my parents!!

April 5: Fly to Dublin on Aer Lingus (now we’ve got a weight limit, too, fun fun…) and explore Ireland with the ‘rents.

April 10: Fly from Dublin to Paris and meet up with my friend who is studying at Cité Universitarie! Also taking the bus from the airport to the campus without knowing any French is going to be fun.

April 15: Fly from Paris to Rome on Vueling (curious to see how this compares to Easyjet/other budget airlines) and meet up with two friends from Oxford!

April 20: Fly back to Oxford (well, Gatwick) from Rome on British Air… prepare for round two.

I probably could have hit even more cities if I tried, but I really wanted to make sure I had time in each place to get to know it, instead of just jumping from one to the next. And man, look at that itinerary! I’ll be hitting almost all of the major cities that I’ve wanted to see for a while. But talking to everyone else makes me wish I could just tag along with everyone… some people going to Morocco, others to Prague and Greece… I know I fly out tomorrow, but it still feels surreal, to really be able to go to so many places! Ah, the wanderlust.

I can’t yet give any tips to those considering traveling abroad while in Europe, but I will be sure to give updates each week on how the airlines are, the most amazing secrets of each city, and all of the silly mistakes I am bound to make.

While it has been stressful, I’m honestly so excited to be doing some traveling on my own. And I can’t believe I’ve gotten this all organized! It was hard, and scary, and I had to take it in little steps and do lots of consulting (of friends, parents, and the internet), but I’m really proud of myself for getting it all together. Time to fly.

15/03/15 – Truthful Lies and British Pies

Yesterday was Pi Day!! 🙂

Which is definitely celebrated in the UK, if not as widely as Pancake Day, at least enough that we felt inspired by the pie-making (and eating) atmosphere to bake our own homemade American Apple Pie! This turned out to be quite an ordeal: we had no reliable measuring instruments for our ingredients so there was a whole lot of eyeballing amounts, we rolled out the dough with a wine bottle because we didn’t have a rolling pin (actually worked exceptionally well…), we realized we had no pie tin and had to walk to the grocery store, only to find that in England they only have tiny little pie tins because they don’t make American pies, so we had to fit the pie in that, and then run back and forth to the one staircase on the entire campus with an oven to bake it.

Somehow, we still managed to make an edible– and dare I say, quite delicious– pie. The crust (recipe from my family cookbook) was perfect, and though we had a bit too much lemon juice, making the insides a bit more like apple soup than apple filling, the flavor was excellent.

Annnnnd of course I forgot to take a picture. :'( Which is sad, because it was freakin’ beautiful. Golden crust and everything.

My roommate and I also tried some savory pies from the Pieminister in the Covered Market and realized that we have been seriously missing out– they are dang good little morsels, with plenty of healthy, filling vegetarian options.

Once we had finally finished the pie, we consumed it while watching V for Vendetta (no relation to Pi Day), a movie which– well, let me just say that I can quote one of the monologues involving almost entirely words beginning with the letter “V,” by heart. I’ve seen the movie a couple times (by which I mean every 5th of November for the last 7 years, if not more frequently).

Watching V in Britain was actually quite a different experience. We had a real live British person watching with us (*gasp*), and the movie– which involves a futuristic vision of the world in which America has collapsed and Britain has become a fascist, Nazi-like state– honestly felt different when I realized I was at the center of the action, not an ocean away. As I talked to my roommate afterwards, the potential for some of the awful things that happen in the movie felt scarily real.

V isn’t the movie for everyone, but I was glad that everyone I watched it with last night seemed to have as profound an experience as I did when I first watched it. It helped lead us to a discussion about our own views on the world, on love, on integrity. It felt fitting, as people are leaving for break, to be reminded of the strength of love and human connection, as horribly cheesy as that might sound: “I hope that the world turns and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you.”

I honestly do not think I have heard a more beautiful line in any piece of art, ever.

I’ve finished my first term at Oxford. On Thursday at 14:00 (2pm) I walked out of Christ Church after my last tutorial. I did it– I actually did it. Funny enough, I always get a surge of excitement right before I finish a term, when I can see the end in sight– and then as soon as I’ve finished, I feel sort of… empty. “I can’t feel anything anymore” (Evey). In V for Vendetta, Evey’s father says that artists use lies to tell the truth. In some ways that describes how I’ve felt about my experience at Oxford.

There is a sense in which studying abroad doesn’t feel entirely real. There’s very little likelihood that I will see most of these people after we leave at the end of next term. The difference in culture and atmosphere makes it hard to see this world as part of the same world I will be returning to next fall. Even the tutorials feel surreal– not even “real” classes like at home, just casual, once a week conversations with another member of the Oxford community. There is a sense in which this existence is part of a fantasy, an escape from the reality of major requirements and fellowship applications and social expectations that exist at home. But it is by virtue of this that it provides such a fantastic learning opportunity. I have time to really think about what it is I want to do after college, short term and long term. I have time to reflect on my hometown and home culture. I have time to miss my friends and family. I have time to challenge myself, and to give myself a break. I have time to meet new people, to experiment with new ways of communication, to share my experiences and listen to those of others. These are all things that, sadly, I rarely have time for at home, when I move from class to class to class, obligation to obligation, always in pursuit of an end and never able to just exist in the moments themselves.

I notice myself doing a lot more thinking here, and getting more into my head. I’m going to be writing a novel next term! A novel! I couldn’t have imagined that this fall. But given the time I have here, it feels possible.

The truths that I’m finding in this escape from reality are not all clear to me yet, and not all things I can explain here in a blog. But I am finding, more and more, that a removal from reality– a lie, in a sense– can sometimes be just what you need to understand what is true.