Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Past 8 Months

So, now to catch up on the past 8 months of my life.

Yes, believe it or not, I have been doing things with my life, not just writing and perfecting my blog posts about Europe.

I have a few stories that need to be told, but for this post, we'll just stick with a short overview.  (And by short, I mean only kind of short, but actually kind of long, because I'm reviewing 8 months worth of adventures.)

Are ya ready?

September:

I started off the month by going to St. George with some friends.




I job-searched without any luck.


October:

I was still without a job, so I went on another vacation to Lake Powell with friends.




I celebrated an awesome birthday with family and friends.




And then I found a job substitute teaching.  Woohoo.

And then to celebrate my new job, I went on yet another vacation to St. George to see Les Miserables.







Had an amazing Halloween party, complete with 20's costumes, and murderer in the dark.



Met the handsome Jef with one f.
I was just walking down the street in SLC, when I see this attractive face pass by.  So of course I yell out to him, "Hey, you're Jef!"  And he says, "Ya..."  And I say, "Hi..."  And then we went our separate ways.  Yes, I have a way with words...


November:

Still substitute teaching.

Learned how to make sushi.


December:

Still substitute teaching.

Started grad school applications...

Met Alfie Boe (I think this story might need it's own blog post.)


January

Found a new job as a teacher at a treatment center.  And found I love working with teenage boys so much more than 2nd graders.  Go figure.

Took the GRE.

Finished a couple of grad school applications.


February

Finished all of the grad school applications

Richie got MARRIED!







Heard back from the first school, Syracuse, and the answer was YES!

Opened Heidi's mission call to Everett, Washington!


March

Heard back from the second school, Arizona, and the answer was YES!

Heard back from the final accepting school, Simmons College in Boston!

Had a hipster night at The Chocolate.






Went to the Festival of Colors and met a new friend.



Our new friend was the guy standing next to me.  Don't I look so warm and inviting?  No wonder he wanted to come over and talk.


April

Went to West Side Story and saw Tony and Riff!



Decided where I'm going to school in  the fall (and yes, that's another blog post, folks).

Well, that's it in a nutshell.  I know it's not as exciting as going to Tesco in Europe, but there you are.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Jen's European Adventure: The Walk of Doom, The Best and Worst of Breakfast, and the Long Journey Home

I'm about to break some awful news. This is the last of the European posts.  I know, it's been a long time coming.  But seriously, it was fun, wasn't it?

So, I know I left you at a cliffhanger.  You're thinking to yourself, "Josh, Jen, and Ben have to walk up an enormous hill in the heat and early morning!  Are they going to make it?  What if Josh's other wheel on his suitcase breaks?  What if Jen's other suitcase handle flies off?  What if Ben gets lost?"

But don't you worry, I'm here to tell you about it now.

We wake up super early (this time, the boys actually woke up on time), pack, and begin our way to the train station.  But when I woke up, I noticed something was wrong.  You see, if I walk around in the heat for a long time (for instance, if I'm at Disneyland), and I go to bed too late, am dehydrated, and don't get enough sleep, my ankles swell.  Like a pregnant woman.  And as soon as I woke up, I knew my cute little ankles were gone, and I now had... dun, dun, dun,

KANKLES.

Anyway, we start climbing the hill, and it is already hot at 5 in the morning, and there's this mist that is covering everything.  It's a little eerie.  But kinda cool.

This picture doesn't really show the mist, but trust me that it was  like the ending scene in Pride and Prejudice.  But much less romantic.
Believe it or not, we did make it to the train station alive, without incident.  Dare I say, it wasn't even as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Although my ankles were a different story.

Do you see how my feet just look like they got stuck on the bottom of my legs?  No ankles.  And this picture doesn't even accurately depict how swollen they were.
They were like that for the rest of the trip.  I was constantly elevating my feet, but it didn't go away. 

Anyway, enough about my ankles.  As you know, I found Nando's Phil in Scotland, and then I found French Phil in, well, France.  So I really wanted to find an Italian Phil.  It would have rounded off the trip nicely.  But guess what?  I was looking the whole time we were in Rome, and never found one.  I was down to a couple precious hours left in Italy, and an Italian Phil needed to be found.  I had some qualifications that they had to fit though.  They had to be attractive (obviously), and we had to have some sort of interaction, and I had to hear them speak in their beautiful accent.  So I didn't have much hope in finding someone.  Josh and Ben were trying to help, trying to point people out, or saying, "What about that guy that sold us the pizza?"  But nothing felt right.  But as we were getting on the train, there was an attractive, young Italian guy that was getting on with us.  As I was getting onto the train, lugging my suitcase on, and he opened one of the sliding doors for me.  I said "Thank you," and he said, "You're welcome," and smiled at me, and BOOM!  He became Italian Phil.

We return to Termini, and because we were leaving, and didn't have to catch a train or buy tickets, it actually wasn't too bad.  But that doesn't mean I'd want to hang out there.  It still gave me anxiety.  We had a little while until our bus came to take us to the airport, so we decided to get breakfast at our favorite place:  McDonald's.  Except that when we got in line, we realized that Italians don't do breakfast.  It was probably 8:00 in the morning, (maybe earlier, I don't remember) and their menu was lunch items.  So we had a great Italian breakfast of cheeseburgers and milkshakes.  I pretended that my milkshake was a frozen coffee drink, and for some reason that helped me feel better about eating that for breakfast.

I look sick.  But remember that I woke up at 5 in the morning and hiked up a  hill.  So don't judge.
I looked around to see what other people were eating for breakfast, and I came to the realization that the Italians have coffee and cigarettes for breakfast.  I felt a little better about the burgers and milkshakes after that.

After breakfast, it was back on the bus and to the airport.  The bus wasn't as bad, because it was the morning and only 117 degrees instead of 145 degrees.  And then it was time for our last Ryan Air flight.  Except we were all dreading this, because it was a whole 3 hours this time.  Some of you may be thinking we're wimpos, thinking, "It's only 3 hours!"  But don't judge until you've been on one.  And this was bad because we've already made every joke we could about the illustrated safety guides, and we had to pass 3 hours of being uncomfortable.  We tried to sleep, which worked for about 30 minutes, and then we spent some time writing down our adventures so we wouldn't forget the funny, small things that happened on the trip.  It wasn't as bad as we imagined, but it's definitely not how I want to spend 3 hours.

When our plane was about to land, we were all SO excited to be back in the UK with it's gray, overcast, cool weather.  We had been dreaming of being out of Italy's heat since we landed in Italy, so you'd think I wouldn't be able to think of anything but Scotland.  Our plane had probably touched land for 1 minute, before I blurted out, "I'm craving gelato so badly right now."

What can I say?  That stuff is good.

When we get off the plane, it is literally heaven.  We had been continuously sweating for the past 3 days, and to have a cool breeze and un-stuffy air was the best feeling in the world.  Sister Liu picked us up from the airport, and we spent the afternoon chilling at her house.  After a week running around Paris and Rome, we were happy to just sit, talk, and relax.

When we became hungry, we decided to go to the grocery store and get some sandwiches, and Iron Bru (it's a soda for those of you who don't know).  We couldn't leave the UK without trying Iron Bru.   It was pretty good.  But it kind of felt like I was drinking sodified bubble gum.  But good, nonetheless.  

After we ate our lunch/dinner, we decided we really wanted some dessert.  So we were off to a different grocery store, Sainsbury's (Jena, every time I saw a Sainsbury's store or advertisement, I thought of you.  :) Just wanted to let you know.).  As you know, the British have a hard time with swipe cards.  There were a few instances where we had to tell the cashier what to do with the card, but for the most part, we had gotten by without trouble.  When we chose our desserts and get to the checkout, we were surprised to have an American cashier!  Sweet, no problems with the card, right?

Wrong.

Josh and I paid without trouble, but then it was Ben's turn.  He gives the man the card, and pays for everything fine, but then, all of a sudden, Ben's card is gone.  The cashier thought he had given it back to Ben, but Ben didn't have it.  It was nowhere to be seen.  Not on the ground, not under the counter.  It was weird.  That was when we realized that the cashier had dropped it down the scanner.  So he had to get a manager to come help him get the card out.  Which he did.  Yay!

After eating our desserts, it was time to go down to Hawick to stay with the next family, the Yules.  When we got to Hawick, we were invited to go to the Chinese restaurant where some of the Yules worked.  After eating burgers and milkshakes for breakfast, sandwiches and a bottle of iron bru, and about 3 desserts each, we just weren't that hungry.  But we thought it was going to be free, and we didn't want to be rude, so we ate.  But then they gave us the check.  So we paid, feeling like we were going to burst from all the food we ate.

Then we were off to the Yule's.  Before we get into this part of the story, there are some important things you should know:  
  • First off, it had been one freaking  long day.  
  • Second freaking long days lead to being very, very tired
  • Third, there are many different Scottish accents, and some of them are harder to understand than others.
When we get to the Yules, at first there's only 2 people there.  But then the family keeps coming in and introducing themselves, and they are one LOUD family. And they have one of those accents that are harder to understand. Don't get me wrong, it's fantastic.  They're great people, some of my favorites that we met on the trip, but when I'm so tired I feel like I'm going to pass out at any second, and they're speaking English, but it sure doesn't sound like it, I was a little overwhelmed. I basically had no idea what was going on that night.  But Ben didn't either, so at least I had that.

It was finally time to go to bed, and I just have to show you this one picture so you can see what we felt like.  I took a picture every day in the month of August with the number of the date.  This day, I don't know if we had just forgotten, or I was just too darn tired to look, but it was far too late, and we hadn't found a 24 yet.  So this is what became of it:


Josh's face, the white background, the off center picture, my fake smile, it perfectly describes our feelings of the day.

I slept very soundly that night, and the next morning, we got up and started packing up our things.  But before we could leave, there was something that had to be done.  A funeral procession for Josh's Kera hair product.  It had caused Josh so much discomfort, and ruined so many pictures with it's glue-like substance, so it was time to say goodbye. 




We like to do things in style.

After the funeral, we went to a bakery where one of the Yules worked, and bought a scrumptious breakfast of sausage rolls, chicken bakes, and fudge doughnuts.  The bakery was located in a place where you basically just get it "to-go", but we didn't have anywhere "to-go".  So we just ate in the car.  The first thing to try was the sausage roll.  It's basically what it sounds like.  A sausage, inside of a flaky roll.  It was pretty good. 

A picture of a sausage roll, for your convenience.

 But then I tried the chicken bake.  I fell in love.  It was almost like how I felt when my taste buds first experienced the macaron.  While I was eating it, I was wondering what I could do to express my feelings about chicken bakes.  So I said, "I'm going to write a song about chicken bakes."
It goes something like this:

"Chicken bakes... yum."
To the tune of "Red Robin... yum."

Mmm... chicken bakes.

Then it was time for the fudge doughnut.  In the UK, a fudge doughnut isn't really a doughnut with fudge on it.  I think it can come with fudge frosting, but it also comes with caramel frosting, but it's still called a fudge doughnut.  Got it?  Good.  Here's a picture just in case you're reading this at 3:00 am and still don't understand.

And once again, it was a delight on my taste buds.  So I wrote another song about fudge doughnuts:

"Fudge doughnuts... yum"
To the tune of "Red Robin... yum." 

But then we felt bad for the sausage rolls.  We had to write them a song too.  So Josh and I came up with:

"Sausage rolls... meh"
To the tune of "Red Robin... yum."

After eating our oh so delicious breakfast, we went back to the Yule's, and can you believe it, but it was actually a lot easier to understand them!  It's amazing what a good night's sleep can do for you.  They are absolutely hilarious, and it was fun to spend the morning with them.

Then it was time to leave lovely Scotland.   Our next stop was the Preston LDS Temple, to pick up British Josh (remember when we stayed at his house?).  We were staying with him again that night and he was at a wedding, and we were his ride back to Leeds.  So we sit at the Preston temple and British Josh is nowhere to be seen.  We're not sure what time they're supposed to be done, so we walk around the temple in the rain for a little while, and then sit in our car.  Josh goes into the stake center and doesn't find out any more information.  We can't get a hold of him, so we are just stuck waiting and hoping that we haven't missed him.

We passed the time by practicing our favorite song, "On the Wings of Love."  For some reason we thought British Josh would love our rendition of it.  We finally decided that we were hungry, and that we were going to get sandwiches at a nearby grocery store.  But, of course, as soon as we get to the store, that's when British Josh calls and tells us that he's done with the wedding.

So we have to hurry, and we decide that the faster way to buy our lunch is to go through the self check out.

Don't you just see disaster creeping up?

We all swipe our cards within seconds of each other, and one at a time, each of our machines completely freeze.  So the manager brings us all to the service desk, and he was so so nice, apologizing about the machines.  But we were the ones that should be apologizing.  We just froze their entire self check out lane in less than 30 seconds.

Then we individually buy our items from the girl at the service desk.  This was our first real encounter with someone who has never seen a swipe card before.  Sure, we handed our cards to a few cashiers in the past, who would look at it, unsure, but as soon as we said, "It's a swipe card," they would know what to do.

This lady had NO idea what to do with it after we said it was a swipe card.  She kind of looked at it funny, and held it weirdly.  Then she very clumsily swiped the card through the machine.  It was kind of funny to watch.

Then it was back to the Preston Temple to pick up British Josh.  We finally meet up with him and introduce ourselves to each other.  British Josh has the wedding reception to go to, which is in Bradford.  So we head down there.  On the way down, Josh and I perform "On the Wings of Love" for British Josh, and even after all of that practicing, we messed up and forgot the second verse.  We're pretty sure British Josh thinks we're crazy.

The reception that British Josh had to go to was in Bradford, or as we nicknamed it, Bradistan.  When we got there, it felt like we had transported to Pakistan.  There were clothing shops, restaurants, everything Pakistani.

We dropped British Josh off at the wedding reception, and made our way to TK Maxx for some discount shoes.  Ben wanted some dress shoes and we needed to get boots for Josh's friend at home.  We found a couple pairs of boots, and the only thing we could find for Ben was some snazzy snake skin shoes.  That were purple.

And no, he didn't end of buying them.  Unfortunately.

Our next stop was, of course, Tesco.  We had to replace Josh's Tesco shirt, and what better way to waste some time than go to the local grocery store?

I forced Josh to take this picture.
As Josh and I were getting a new shirt, we realized that for the 100th time that trip, we had lost Ben.  This Tesco that we were in was massive, and we wandered around for an hour trying to find him.  We went out to the car, waited around the checkout, and wandered up and down almost every single aisle, with no luck.  So we just went and got a can of Tikka Masala for Josh to bring home (which ended up being confiscated at the airport in Dallas.  Lame), and then just waited, and eventually Ben turned up.

It was then time to pick up British Josh and head to Leeds.  We were staying at British Josh's brother's house again.  And if you don't remember, Ben had a little fecal problem the last time we were there.  We weren't going to bring this up with British Josh, but, remember, this was our last night in Europe and I was still jetlagged, which means that sometimes, things just popped out.  And I accidentally let it slip that Ben clogged the toilet.  And had to unclog it with his hands.

Now I'm sure British Josh thought we were crazy.

That night, we stayed up talking for a little while, and then went to bed so we could get up on time to catch our last flight.  In the morning we got to Heathrow, and went to some check in lines.  There wasn't anyone in line, so we thought we had scored.  But, actually, we accidentally went to the Business Class.  Yes, there were huge signs above each line saying "Business Class", but we honestly didn't see them.  And, of course, we ran into problems.  The guy that I went to chewed me out because it was business class, and I just thought, "Well, you didn't have to help me.  You could have told me this was Business Class and I would have GLADLY gone to the regular, non-business line."  Remember, I'm a rule follower. :)  Josh's boarding pass jammed, so his attendant and to sort that all out, and Ben had to repack his bag right there in the Business Class line.  Yes, we're very classy people.  Meant to be in the Business Class line.

Then it was time to go through security.  Josh and I were just walking along, and we showed the airport attendant our passports and boarding passes, and then went to the security line to go through the metal detectors.  We turn around and Ben is nowhere to be seen.  We've already gone past the point of no return, so there's really nothing we can do. The security line was super long, so we thought we would see him before we went through the metal detectors, but we couldn't find him anywhere.  We finally went through the metal detectors (and I got the pat down again, do I really look like that much of a threat?) and we waited for Ben for at least 20 minutes more.  I ask you, what could have held Ben up for 20 extra minutes?  Well, he lost his boarding pass in the short distance from the check in line to the security line, and had to go back and print another one.  Oh Ben, we sure love you.

As we were walking to our gate, I was walking, just people watching, and all of a sudden I see this face pass me:


I knew I recognized him, but could not figure out how I knew him.  We got into an elevator with a bunch of other people, it was totally quiet, and I realized it was Nigel from SYTYCD!  I wanted to stop the elevator and run back and look at him again, but I kept my cool, because Josh would have been embarrassed had I freaked out.  But it was freaking awesome.

The airplane ride back to the U.S. was uneventful.  I actually can't remember it at all, so that tells you how uneventful it actually was.  We must have used up our quota of awkward, embarrassing, stressful, unlikely events in Europe.

When we got back to the U.S. we had to wait forever to get through customs.  I watched a stupid "Welcome to the United States" video about 23 times by the time we got through.

When we finally made it through customs, we had to wait for our next flight.  We were hungry, and so, we decided, as our last meal of the trip to go to none other than...

McDonald's!

And it was outrageously priced, but we paid for it and ate it anyway.  And they had videos showing off their delicious iced coffee drinks, but I resisted and got a Rolo McFlurry instead.

As we waited for our plane, Josh needed to charge his phone, so he found an outlet, and plugged his phone in, but it had to sit on the ground on the other side of the hallway, and we watched fearfully as airport transportation would continuously drive by, sure that one of them was going to run over the phone.  Josh claimed he wanted someone to run it over so he could get a new phone, but he did go save the phone after a couple of close encounters, so I'm not sure how true that actually was.

We finally made it back to Utah, where Ben's parents picked us up.  We arrived back in Spanish Fork at midnight, just in time for Ben and Josh to start their first day of classes the next morning at 8:00.

And I didn't have anything to get to, so I could sleep the whole day if I wanted.  But I didn't, because I was still on Utah time, so I woke up at a completely reasonable hour the next morning, and was back in the swing of things.

So there it is, my trip to Europe, a whole 8 months after it happened.

I hope you enjoyed it, and here's to more exciting adventures in the future. :)
(And hopefully an American Phil... if you catch my drift.)