My 2012 In Review

After a long and thoughtful walk through Fullersburg Woods I have had a chance to reflect on all the events of this past year; and what better time to reflect than the present? I’m astounded at how much has happened in one year, and hope I can give an accurate summary of it all.

January 1st, 2012 found me waking up long before sunrise in my dorm room at the University of Leicester in England. Together with my college friend Erica, we headed to the airport to catch our flight to Dublin, to spend some time in beautiful Ireland and Northern Ireland. From the illuminated manuscripts of the Book of Kells, to a traditional Irish music pub crawl, and finally the stormy coast at the Giant’s Causeway, my visit to Ireland was a memorable one.

Looking goofy at the Giant's Causeway - very windy and rainy

Looking goofy at the Giant’s Causeway – very windy and rainy

But schoolwork was always calling me back to Leicester, and much of January was spent in class or at the library. But I had more international travel to look forward to: a weekend in Madrid, Spain spent exploring the streets with another college friend, Jackie. Less than a week later I was off to Berlin, Germany to visit the many astounding museums, Prussian palaces, the Berlin Wall, and a concentration camp covered in snow. It was an icy cold, but edifying experience in German history.

Brrrrr! is all I can say – at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

February and March were stressful, writing essays, choosing a dissertation topic, and applying for a museum internship. Spring Break could not come soon enough, and yet there were still diversions to pass the time; Queen Elizabeth II came to Leicester, plus a visit to the enigmatic Stonehenge, and hiking in the British countryside. The beginning of April marked the beginning of Spring Break, and a chest infection kept me stuck in my room. I hunkered down and began work on my dissertation, waiting for my parents to arrive for their 10 day visit. I enjoyed showing them the best of Leicester, and we explored Oxford, London, and stunning Blenheim Palace together, and celebrating my birthday in style.

May and June were devoted to reading, researching, interviewing and writing my dissertation, which filled most of my days. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration was a good chance to get away and go camping in Wales with friends, and Sean came all the way from Chicago to visit England for a few days, and even sat in on my Bollywood dance class. Entering into July, it seemed as though time was speeding up, and my dissertation deadline was looming. Before finishing my time at University, I saw the Olympic torch and held it for myself, made a wee trip up to Glasgow, Scotland, and had a farewell night out with my Bollywood dance class in true Bollywood style!

Getting my turn at holding the Olympic Torch!

At the end of July, I turned in my final dissertation and packed up and moved south to Exeter, to start my internship at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. It was the best museum I could have worked at, with the most entertaining staff, lots of tea and cake, and a giraffe for a mascot. Exeter was beautiful, and I spent my weekends exploring the area, hiking in the rolling hills, and visiting the birthplace of crime writer Agatha Christie. There was time for another camping trip when friends from Leicester came down for a weekend and we piled in the car for the coast. Mom and Dad even made it to Exeter for a weekend, and helped me pack up some of my things for my impending return home. Soon enough the internship was over, and I had to say farewell again.

In mid September my brother got engaged, and soon after he came to meet me in London and we spent a few busy days there before catching a flight to Italy, and spending a few days with my friends Anna and Enrico in Verona. From there it was on into the Dolomite Mountains, then back towards Milan, with a breath-taking train journey through the Alps to boot! Completely exhausted, we returned home to Chicago at the very end of September.

Verona - city of spectacular views! And my former home

Verona – city of spectacular views! And my former home

The first thing I did was visit my grandparents, and family, and much of October was spent reconnecting with old friends. I soon started a holiday job working at a department store, and in my spare time I worked on a very ambitious scrapbook project. Mid November I was hired on as an intern at a children’s museum, working in their office twice a week. Better yet, I received news that I had passed my Masters course with ‘distinction’, and my dissertation got high marks. Unfortunately, my busy schedule prevented me from spending Thanksgiving Day with my relatives in Indiana, but my Grandma Smith and I kept each other company that day. Also unfortunate, our beloved dog Shadow died just a few days before Christmas, but friends and relatives have been a support as we adjust to him being gone.

Catching up with Grandma and Grandpa on Christmas Day

Now, a few days away from the New Year, I can reflect on everything that has happened this year. This little summary serves as much an update as a reminder for myself, and I look forward to attending my graduation ceremonies in Leicester next month, and several important weddings next year. Bring on 2013!

Family comes to Europe

It was brought to my attention that since my transition from the UK back to the US, I have neglected to post anything! I’ve been back home in Chicagoland for 2 weeks now, and enjoying being back. But thinking back just a few weeks ago, my parents and my brother both made the long trip over to the UK (separately) to visit with me before I came home.  Mom and Dad came over to see Exeter (and to help take some of my luggage home, for which I was grateful). They came on the last day of my internship at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, which in typical fashion at the museum, was celebrated with cake. Over the weekend, my parents and I enjoyed a Devon cream tea together, took a tour of Exeter Cathedral, and enjoyed several wonderful pubs. It was a very quick visit, but convinced Mom and Dad that they will have to come back to England in the future.

Noriko and I on our last day at RAMM


Mom and Dad at the Jolly Roger Tearooms

The following week my brother arrived in London and we spent a few days there together, before heading to Italy for a week-long trip. With nothing to do the night before he arrived, I treated myself to Kew Gardens, and then a musical at the Aldwych Theater: Top Hat! (for those who know me, I am a huge fan of Fred Astaire movies, which this musical was based on). My brother and I visited the Tower of London, British Museum, Harrod’s, Kensington Gardens and plenty of pubs.

Top Hat at the Aldwych Theater

Harrod’s at night

In Italy, we visited three cities in the north: Verona, Bolzano, Milano. Having spent a semester abroad in Verona in college, we stayed at my former landlady’s house, passing many hours at her kitchen table. In Bolzano we took advantage of the Dolomites, and the fresh mountain air. The locals spoke Italian and German since the town is so close to Austria, and only became a part of Italy after WW1. My favorite part of the trip was our train ride up through the Alps, and spending a few hours in St Moritz, Switzerland. Then half a day in Milan before catching our flight back home. It’s no wonder I was so tired by the time we arrived back in Chicago.

Enrico and Brian may not share a language, but they share soccer.

Enrico and Anna, with my brother and I.

Taken from the train at over 6000 feet.

Milan’s famous Cathedral, where we toured the rooftop as well as the inside.

And after all that excitement, I am happy to be home!

Adventures in Devon!

Hello everyone! As the end of my time here in the UK is just a few weeks away, I am scrambling to cram as much in as possible. My work placement at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum is going well and I get to work with curators and conservators, handle some amazing museum objects and get as involved as I can in my two months here. The box of spiders in glass jars, Victorian dresses, antique books, and early 20th century maps are the kinds of things I get to work with, which just confirms I chose the right career. The thing that amuses me most about working in a museum in Britain is how much tea and cake is involved! Every Thursday is Cake Day, and whenever I am with the conservators, we stop for tea and biscuits at 10:30am and 3:30pm precisely. Of course they warned me on my first day, ‘this place runs on tea and cake’.

I’ve been keeping myself busy on weekends going to different places in Devon. One weekend I went to Torquay on the ‘English Riviera’, which is the hometown of the author Agatha Christie. I enjoyed the place and plan to go back in two weeks time to see an Agatha Christie play at the old theatre. I’ve also ventured out on Dartmoor, a national park of over 350 square miles of moors, forests, rolling hills, waterfalls and wild landscapes. Celebrating a colleague’s birthday I’ve also taken a ferry down the river Exe for a pub lunch at one of the few pubs in the country that cannot be accessed by car, only by boat, walking, or cycling. And as a pleasant surprise to Mom & Dad who thought I had grown to dislike camping and hiking, I have done two weekends in a tent in rural Devon, taking in the sea and the gorgeous South West Coast Path.

I’m still looking forward to visiting Penzance in Cornwall this weekend (yes, the pirates of Penzance!) and having the opportunity to travel with my brother in Italy before returning home! Arrival date back in the US is set to be Friday 28.

Noriko and I at Torquay Harbour

The palms trees and pavilion in Torquay, ‘English Riviera’

At Topsham Museum, the ubiquitous tea and cake

View from Topsham over the Exe

Pub lunch at the Turf Locks Hotel

Fog rolls in along the Coast Path near Branscombe

Devon Bootlegs walking group near Branscombe