Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Time To Say Goodbye

It's been a while. I do apologize for that. But really, the way the English higher education system works has made for a very dull couple of months. Nothing much to blog about as all we've been doing is studying for exams,pretending to study for exams, taking exams, and then sleeping for days after the exams to catch up. However, I am happy to report that my exams are DONE and I have now finished my second to last year of college. This also means that my year in England is quickly coming to an end. Exactly six days more and then it's back to Berkeley for a much anticipated summer of sun, food that is not pub grub, and seeing how many people I can fake into thinking I'm English ;-).

Before I can leave, however, there is one last major event. The play. That's right, the Lancaster University theater group's production of Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband" goes up this very weekend. We've all worked very hard on it (especially myself and the other American girl in it who have had to work dreadfully hard at adopting 19th century posh English accents and mannerisms. I guess that's why they call it acting) and I suspect it will be a very enjoyable show.

This I suppose brings me to some final thoughts on my time here in England. At first I was rather flummoxed by the somewhat lax academic requirements here at Lancaster. I had not, since perhaps 8th grade, had so much free time on my hands. UPS usually has me up to my ears in homework and working two jobs. And that's how I generally like to live my life; constantly doing something. Being at Lancaster forced me to slow down... way down. However, once I got over some of the crushing boredom I realized that this actually allowed for some freedoms I hadn't had in quite a while. I didn't think I'd ever get to be in a play again because they generally take up so much time. Here, however, I had copious amounts of free time to spare and was able to get back into the acting swing of things for a brief but much enjoyed time. I don't think I could live like this for much longer, but it's been a good experience for this year.

In general, England has been quite good to me. I've made some wonderful friends, tried beans on toast, and have learned to truly love a culture that some may say is very much like our own, but I find to be vastly different. Again, beans on toast. Enough said. So yes, over all a top notch year. Very much looking forward to returning to Berkeley and then Tacoma, but I wouldn't trade this time in Lancaster for anything. Hope to be seeing you all very soon and thanks for reading this little blog of mine.

All best,
Kate

P.S. Very sorry for the lack of pictures. The blog hos doesn't seem to want me to upload pictures at the moment.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Spring Travels

As you are all most likely well aware, I spent the past month roaming around Europe and parts of Africa with my two friends Erin and Jen. To try and write a detailed blog about all that happened over that month would be impossible for me and my increasingly short attention span. What I've decided to do is a very brief paragraph on each location visited. If any of you have specific questions I am more than happy to answer them in detail via e-mail (khetland@ups.edu).

The Lake District, U.K.-

I'm going to have to go ahead and vote this my favorite part of the trip. Mom, brother, and sister-in-law joined me in my country of residence for a week long stay in a cottage in the insanely bucolic Lake District. We spent the week wandering lush green landscapes, cuddling lambs, goat kids, horses, and barn cats, eating copious amounts of pub grub and sticky toffee pudding (yum!), reading by the fire in our cottage and sipping tea and nibbling crumpets, and so on. It was a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable week. I highly recommend it for everyone's next family vacation.

View from the hill above our cottage. Lovely.



Lamb cuddle! That and the goat kid were just about my favorite moments of the trip.



The female contingent on top of the fell.




Aix-en-Provence, France-

This is where I met up with Jen and Erin after leaving my family in England. While I only spent two days here, it was a very lovely two days. It was the first warmth and sun I'd felt in ages! It was exactly what I had imagined a city in Provence to look like. Colorful old buildings, great wine, bakeries at every turn. It was also the first time I'd been to a country in which I spoke none of the language. It was very frustrating, especially since (and this really should not have come as a shock to me) the French we're not very friendly. Alas. Oh, and my camera ate the pictures from France. Sorry.

Marrakech and Fez, Morocco-

From France we flew to Fez expecting to meet up with our first couchsurfing host. He was out of town. We grumbled a lot and freaked out a little before deciding to hop on a 7 hour train ride through 90 degree heat to get to Marrakech and a friend of Erin's. We hung around Marrakech for 4 days wandering the markets and surrounding mountains. Even got to ride some mules through the Atlas mountains. It was great fun. On day 5 we took another 7 hour train ride back to Fez and finally met up with our couchsurfer. He was nice enough, but dumped us at his families house where there were numerous uncles, cousins, etc. none of which spoke any of the languages that we three girls spoke. We felt very unwanted and I got sick so in the end we checked into a hotel for comfort reasons. Morocco and I didn't really get along that well, but I don't think I've ever met with friendlier people or better food.

The gates to the city of Marrakech. We took a horse and carriage ride around said walls. It was great fun.



Fruit stand. Mmm, dates!



Lantern stand in the souk (market).



Morocco was full of very skinny cats. Jen and Erin got a little annoyed with me because I just had to feed/pet all of them.



Surveying our kingdom.



A small village in the Atlas mountains.



Took a tour of a pottery factory outside of Fez. I pretty much wanted to buy it all. Someday. Someday.



Frankfurt, Germany-

Finally, a couchsurfer that worked out! Arrived at Simon's flat at 3am and he was very friendly and awake as he showed us to his huge attic room with skylights all around. He had mattresses and blankets all put out for us. Highlights included Simon taking us to his friends birthday party (such nice people. They made us a feast and danced the night away with us), touring the palm tree gardens, German thrift store shopping (just wait until you all see the spandex leggings I found!) and getting to eat all the foods I fell in love with in Munich 5 years ago. I love England, but I think Germany found my heart first and will remain as such throughout my life. I must say Frankfurt is not much of a tourist attraction but flights there are cheap so hey, why not? We also got to drive on the autobahn as the train to the airport was more expensive than renting a car.

Gummibears! A German tradition apparently. Yum!



Really wasn't a whole lot to take pictures of in Frankfurt. I did manage to get into a head-banging contest with one of Simon's friends though. He won. He head the heavy metal hair that I lack. It was German music at least.



The palm gardens in Frankfurt. Not sure what a tropical garden is doing in Germany, but it was lovely.



A traditional Frankfurt meal. We asked Simon what the green sauce was. He said "Uuhh, green stuff?". Whatever it was, it was tasty.



Prague, Czech Republic-

I had heard endless wonderful things about Prague and am happy to report that they were all true. The city is gorgeous! I never saw an unsightly thing the whole time I was there. I must confess that by the time I got to Prague I was so tired of traveling that I just sort of followed my friend Emily (who is studying there) around in a sort of travel coma. Went to some very cool museums and, as per usual, ate loads of tasty Czech food.

Not sure what this building is. In the case of Prague though, it doesn't really matter. The place is full to the brim of beautiful buildings just like that one, all with equally confusing names that are easily forgotten.



No trip to Prague is complete without sampling their specialty of fried cheese on a bun with tartar sauce. I think my facial expression pretty much sums it up.



Another travel essential? A trip to the local Ikea of course. Mom, Sally, Linnea I thought you'd enjoy that.



So there you have it. A super condensed version of my vacation. I do apologize for the shortness of it all. Finals are fast approaching and I have new play lines to learn. But, as I said, if you have any questions I'm happy to answer them. Also have loads more pictures so I'll try and make it around with slide shows to those who wish to see them when I return. All best, Kate

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Macbeth

It seems to soon for it to be over, but our production of Macbeth has indeed come and gone. It was fabulous, if I do say so myself. I was a bit skeptical of the modern twist and large amounts of blood at first, but in the end it all worked perfectly. We had many rave reviews, my favorite of which said "this is the best Shakespeare production I've seen in years outside of the RSC". Go us!

For those of you who are curious, I'm including a bit of said review below the pictures to give an idea of the look of the play.

Helping out the wounded sergeant.



Macbeth and Lady Macbeth dealing with their bloody business.



Macbeth and I having a chat about the terror of the night.



The Weird Sisters. Best part of the play in my opinion.



The porter. The only comic scene in the play. I was really glad I got to be in it until the director told him to drop his pants on stage.



Macbeth and Macduff's fight to the death.



Crowning the new king, Duncan, on the bloody stage.



****
The reveiw:

I've seen professional productions of Macbeth. Hell, I saw Owen Teal play Macbeth and I thought that was amazing. This is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and I've seen it countless times since I was 10 years old.

This one was amazing.

The set was simplistically beautiful - a white square, presented to three sides. The props were minimalist, the costume so simple - black white and grey. It felt like watching an old black and white TV show or classic film at first. It made the weird sisters, with their rags and corsetry and lace and colour stand out as something other worldly.

And then came the blood.

And oh God then came the blood.

It's been so long since I saw an audience on the edge of their seats collectively gasping in shock at the sight of blood on a stage. The white floor and mostly black costume made the red stand out right to the back of the hall. When Macduff's small child had it's brains bashed out on the floor, the whole auditorium gasped and winced, despite knowing it was a doll. It was the idea which got to their stomachs, including mine, which completely turned over in shock.

The cast didn't flinch from anything. It was a passionate, wonderful performance by all involved. I wish I'd picked up a programme so that I could praise them by name.

***

Friday, 29 February 2008

Cambridge mini-break

Finally, I got to do a bit more travelling. I'd been in the same place for far too long (6 whole weeks! Don't you feel sorry for me ;-) ?) In any case, this past weekend myself, Justin, and Olivia headed on down to Cambridge to spend a long weekend with Olivia's friends from middle school. I have a severe case of city envy right now. Lancaster is lovely, but it's very small and gets a bit dull rather quickly. Cambridge, on the other hand, provided far more entertainment. I absolutely loved the university and found myself wishing I had the ambition to attend such a school. Alas, I don't, so I just took pictures instead.

Here we are punting on the Cam. Turns out I'm a bit of a natural at it. I only ran us into one bush!





The view of St. John's college from our boat on the canal. Wouldn't mind living there (with numerous house mates of course. Any takers?).



We came across a jazz concert in the square accompanied by a german sausage stand. Turned out the whole thing was a benefit for Scientology (eek!) so we got our sausages and ran.



My personal favorite moment of the weekend: the chocolate fountain! One of the girls we were visiting just happened to have one. The men of the household were a little afraid when all the women rushed into the dining room squeeling with excitment. Yum!



Now for a bit of Norwich. I skipped out for 24 hours to go and visit my friend Lizzy in the neighboring (sort of) city of Norwich. Even more city envy. They had flowers blooming everywhere!




A bathtub I fell in love with and will someday have to have.



Norwich had an odd sort of obsession with Grecian architecture in its parks. There was also a sort of mini Taj Mahal. Oh England. I did have a good time doing the "one Grecian urn" routine from The Music Man though.



And now for two random pictures having nothing to do with either Norwich or Cambridge. Here we have a sort of family photo (i.e. my main group of friends here in Lancaster) and the poster for Macbeth (to be performed next weekend).




Plans for our spring break world tour continue. Looks like we'll be staying with a fellow named Ilias and his family in Fez. Mud huts and donkey rides in the countryside included. I am so excited! Hoping you are all well and warmer than we are. Much love, Kate

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The new news

Hello all!

It's been a while. For me that is a good thing because it means I've been bust busy busy. It also means there's a lot of news and stories to share with interested parties. The most exciting of the news is that, now prepare yourselves, we've had 5 days of sunshine in a row! I cannot express how happy this has made everyone. Those lovely green fields that England is so famous for are now covered with lounging university students.

Here we have Justin, Olivia, me, Leo, and Faye attempting to study in the sunshine. No studying actually happened, but at least the papers and book bags are there to give the illusion.



Olivia and I enjoying the extra vitamin D (or is it E? I can never remember).



Rehersals for Macbeth have been keeping me rather busy. The cast are great fun and rehersals are generally much funnier than you'd expect a tragic Shakespeare play to be. The director has decided to go with what he calls a "Soviet/Medieval look" which seems to mean we'll all be wearing knee length boots and trench coats. I've never really liked quirky stagings of Shakespeare, but I'm just going to have to go with the flow. Should be interesting.

This is a picture from one of our first rehersals. Not really sure what I'm doing. I normally pay a bit more attention than that ;-)



In other news, I have just bought tickets for what may turn out to be the coolest spring break trip I could possibly have planned. About a week ago my friend Jen (from Berkeley, but she's studying near Marseille, France) gave me a call and we discovered we both had the same spring break dates. As she didn't have interenet she asked me to plan a trip for us. Using my crafty skills with Europe's various discount airlines I put the following together:

April 1-3 Marseille, France
April 3-10 Fez, Morocco
April 10-14 Frankfurt, Germany
April 14-18 Prague, Czech Republic

It's a bit random, but we're both really excited. Since we're both totally broke post buying tickets we will be couch-surfing in both Fez and Frankfurt. For those of you not familiar with this practice, there is an on-line forum where people from all over the world post available couches/beds for travelers in order to foster better understanding between cultures. Some friends of mine did it all through Russia and met some of the friendliest people ever. At first I found the idea a bit alarming but after reading lots of reviews and checking out a few of the prospective hosts it looks like a great time. One of the people who might host us in Fez lives with her family just outside the city walls in a series of mud houses. She advertises donkey rides in the mountains as one possible activity. Sounds good to me. It will also be really nice to get back to Germany and see if those language skills are still there.

So that's the news. Exciting stuff really. Hoping this finds you all well and safe. Oh, and happy Valentine's Day to all! Cheers, Kate

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Further Exploration

My apologies for not having posted much of late. It's taken me a while to get settled in, finish term papers, etc. etc. Now however, life seems to be back too a normal, if not slightly too busy, pace. The latest news is that your's truly has been cast in the Lancaster University production of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Yay! I'm playing a bunch of Scottish lords rolled into one lord who might actually be a lady. Got that? Me neither. The director seems to think the gender does not matter so I'm just going with it. Not too many lines, but as I told my mother, the less talking the random cross-dressing American in 15th century Scotland does, the better. I'm doing my best to fake an English accent though. It sounds vaguely Australian with a bit of German thown in, but at least it's something closer to Scottish.

In other news, this weekend a few of my friend Olivia's friends came to visit from Cambridge. This gave Olivia and I a chance to play tour guide in Lancaster, which was good fun. I finally got a chance to see our castle in daylight and must say that it is quite delightful. Below is a picture of the gang contemplating entrance into the castle. Oddly enough the front door is not used as a door, and they get very angry if you try to use it as one. Oops.




Here we have a picture of the front of a church next to the castle. Lovely Gothic (?) architecture and a very nice tree as well.



Next we come to the back of the church and its clock tower.



The statue of Katherine the Conqueror ;-). A part of the castle in the back as well. Note the metal bit with the barbed wire which is the section of the castle still used as a prison. I have to say that while I'd prefer not to be in prison, this one tops my list of prisons to be in.



View of Lancaster from the castle. Also doubles as the set of any old Dickens novel.



Post castle meal at Merchants pub. Built underground in 1688 it is by far my favorite pub in Lancaster (and there are a lot to choose from).



Inside the pub is a series of stone tunnels lined with cozy booths, kegs of ale, etc. The food was amazing! We all ate ourselves silly with such things as fish and chips, clam chowder, ceaser salad, vegetable crepes, veal pie, and so on. Yum!



That, and a brief stop at another pub for some chocolate cake, concluded our tour of Lancaster. However, should any of you wish to visit, I'm happy to give said tour many times over. Cheers, Kate

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Back in England



(No, I have not found any penguins here in Lancaster, but the weather is making me wonder if it might just happen. This is a picture of my friend Karolyn and I on my last night in Berkeley. Some foolish person still had their Christmas penguin display up.)


So begins another five to six months of life in England. It took a 10 hour flight (on Virgin Atlantic, which is just a fantastic way to travel), an hour of navigating the tube in London, and a four hour train ride but I'm finally back in my flat in Lancaster. I have been welcomed home by the worst weather I've seen yet. We're talking freezing temperatures, pelting rain and wind, hail... the works! I cannot believe I forgot to buy wellies while I was home in the land of cheap stuff (compared to the £). I have discovered that Uggs, while very stupid looking, manage to keep my little tootsies warm even when sopping wet. Hey, if sheep skin works for sheep in the rain, why not my feet, eh?

So far all I've managed to do is go grocery shopping. Today was my first full day back and I slept halfway through it. As I told my mother, this meant I was getting up at roughly the same time as all of my flat mates. They had gone out the night before and, as per usual, slept until noon. I'm really hoping the jet lag will be gone soon as I've got a rather large paper due on Wednesday that I have yet to actually start. I'm usually not a last minute kind of gal but my time at home was filled with so much fun that I just ignored all school work. Sigh. If anyone has any brilliant thoughts on what limitations faminist critiques of romance novels bring, do let me know. That's all for now I think. I'll try and update this blog as often as I can once said paper is out of the way. Wishing you all well, Kate