Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hastings and High School

Apparently England is the place for me to find people that I haven't seen since high school. Last term I saw Peggy. This term I went to visit Ian, a friend of mine from GCS Drama Club, who is teaching in Hastings which is a little more than an hour away from Uni. Sussex. Although we couldn't decide on the exact amount of time that had passed, we were in agreement that it had been over 5 years since we last saw each other. Neither one of us knew that the other was coming to England until Facebook randomly revealed it one day. It took us about 5 months to actually set up a day to meet but I'm really glad that we did finally get around to it.

I took the train out to Hastings which was kind of a pain because they were doing engineering work and I had to get a rail replacement bus for about half the trip. Ian met me at the train station in Hastings. He looks almost exactly the same as he did in high school. Although I'm sure I don't look very different from the way I did in high school spare the length of my hair. When I passed through the barrier Ian informed me that the rowdy group of 13 year old skateboarders who had just passed me were a group of his students that had been quite keen on waiting for me to arrive. Ah the joys of teaching middle schoolers.

We got lunch in the Old Town (the older section of town) and a pub called the Hastings Arms. The pub had a really nice nautical atmosphere and the food was pretty good. Hastings is still a big fishing town so the nautical theme definitely fit. Old Town, in general, reminded me a lot of the Lanes in Brighton. It was full of narrow streets with tons of shops and pubs. The Hastings seafront is far more picturesque than what I've seen of Brighton's seafront though. We wandered out of Old Town to the seafront, passed a row of fish 'n' chips stands and blackened, weather-beaten boathouse, and turned onto a tiny alley of a walkway. The alley wound through layers of buildings before leading to the East Hill. Hastings sits in a dip between two hills, sptly named East Hill and West Hill. East Hill has a park at the top and West Hill has Hastings Castle which was built by William the Conquerer. Both hills are very steep and made me feel very out of shape even though I've been going to the gym regularly. The view at the tops was great though. It was probably the nicest day of the year so far, complete with sunlight, blue skies, and about 55 degrees. Hastings Castle is very much in ruins. Ian was telling me that storms have changed the coastline so much that a lot of the castle has fallen into the Channel.

Ian showed me the flat that he was in the middle of moving to. It's right on the seafront. He's living with three other Americans that he met through teaching. I thought they were all pretty cool and they invited me to come back anytime. The flat that they're living in looks right out onto the water and the Hastings Pier (not as impressive as the Brighton Pier). I was extremely jealous of the view they will be enjoying. I helped Ian move a few things from his old flat to the new one and then we all went out to dinner before I had to catch the train back to Uni. Sussex. We went to a pub called Yates. It was a peculiar place in that we actually had a waiter come to our table to take out orders. Usually you have a table number and just go up to the bar if you want to order something. I got the BBQ chicken melt which was a chicken breast marinated in BBQ sauce with a slice of bacon and cheese melted over it. I thought it was pretty good but the Jaimie and Alyssa told me that they usually got more BBQ sauce and the chicken wasn't as dry. I was just happy to not have to cook for once.

I got the train back to school without any problems. Ian and I are planning on meeting up again during my summer term. He wants to come out to Brighton and I'd like to go back to Hastings and hang out by the sea aka the Channel a little more.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shrove Tuesday AKA Pancake Day!

Jennie making pancakes

My cinnamon-and-sugar pancake

While they're celebrating Fat Tuesday in New Orleans today, the Brits are celebrating Shrove Tuesday or as it is affectionately called Pancake Day. I was unaware that this day existed until I had lunch with some friends who were discussing pancake toppings. It was decided that I would go over to my friend Jennie's house for a pancake party.

The first thing I learned about British pancakes is they are nothing like the hearty American flapjacks that many of us are used to. They are much more like crepes. In fact, I'm convinced that they are crepes-just by a different name. They are about the same thickness and texture. We ate our pancakes with a variety of toppings; cinnamon and sugar, sugar and lemon, peanut butter, and chocolate spread. Other suggested toppings I heard today included stewed apples and crushed Cadbury cream eggs.

One Pancake Day tradition that we did not take part in was a pancake flipping contest. That just seemed like asking for trouble in Jennie's small kitchen and five people. I would rate Pancake Day as a much calmer tradition than the shenanigans of New Orleans's Fat Tuesday. But it is still a very tasty tradition and may, at least in part, follow me home.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


After a 2+ year hiatus from theater I am back in blacks for the SMuTS (Sussex Uni Musical Theatre Society) production of FAME. I wasn't planning on doing theater at all while in England, but when my friend Richard had his follow-spots drop out on him the week before the show I said I'd give him a hand. I'm not a big fan of FAME. I didn't really like the music which is kind of a major part of a musical. However, the crew I with with was awesome. We has so much fun making fun of the show and each other. Throughout the show we had a running contest to see who could spot "Pink Bag" first. Pink Bag belongs to the stage manager, Laura, and she would send it on stage with different actors at different point in the show for all of us in the lightening booth to spot. The crew also went out to a pub after the show everynight which is a much better way to unwind afer a show than trying to do APUSH or calculus homework. I don't think I have the time or energy to be involved in technical theater at the same level I was in high school, but it was still a lot of fun to be a part of a stage crew again and I wouldn't mind continueing to have a small stage crew role occasionally in the future.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Baby

Jennie, Me, and Charli

Playing Pictionary

British Birthday Gifts

Today is my 21st birthday. I can't believe that I'm actually 21 years old. While I'm still debating whether or not I feel old enough to be 21, I had a brilliant birthday. It was completely different from the standard RPI Ruck-and-Bombers run I probably would have done had I been in the States. Instead I went to a pub called The World's End in Brighton with some friends for lunch and a pint. I was a little nervous when I arrived at the pub and didn't recognize anyone but it turned out to be a lot of fun. The pub atmosphere is really neat. We sat at a big table right next to a wall bookshelf that had the most random books on it. The rest of the pub was kind of dark with an assorted collection of couches and benches around tables. The music was very eclectic but enjoyable. Jennie and Charli arrived first and each was armed with a tea related gift. Jennie gave me a tea-for-one set and Charli gave me a mug with Union-Jack-teapots on it. You gotta love the British and their tea. About half the group showed up for lunch. Food options were standard pub foods. I had a bacon cheeseburger and chips (french fries) that was quite tasty. I had a pint of Guinness, as did Jennie, and we were both made fun of for drinking heavy, bitter beer. The other half of the group joined us after we had finished eating. Another cool thing about this pub is that it has board games you can play at the table. We played Pictionary for the better part of an hour and I am happy to report that the Girls slaughtered the Men Folk.

When I eventually left the pub I walked to Waterstone's to find a new few new books. I found a cookbook called Grandma's Best Recipes which has a bunch of traditional English comfort foods. I also got a few fiction pieces off the 3 for 2 table. I really shouldn't be allowed in bookstores with access to money. Especially now that I have a little bit of time to read books for fun.

After I dragged myself out of Waterstone's I stopped by Cafe Nero for a white chocolate mocha. Unfortunately the guy didn't make the espresso very well and it tasted slightly burnt. However one less than great coffee wasn't going to ruin my day.

After a quick food shopping trip, I headed home to make my dinner of tortellini and pesto. I wasn't the tostada feast I've grown accustom to on my birthday but it was still a good treat. My flatmates surprised me with a bouquet of flowers and a nice card. It was very thoughtful of them.

I was able to talk to my parents and my maternal grandparents thanks to skype during the evening. It was really nice to be able to talk to them. My parents and I talked for over an hour. Even though I haven't actually been home on my birthday weekend for the previous two years, I was always home within two weeks before or after my birthday. This year it's been five weeks since I last saw everyone and I'm much further away. I definitely miss them more around days, like my birthday, that I'm used to seeing my family.

I want to thank everyone for their wonderful cards and birthday wishes! I had a brilliant 21st birthday across the pond and can't wait to see you all again.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Snow Day!

It turns out that barely 6 inches of the white fluffy stuff will get you out of classes in England. I was almost ready for class when, by chance, I decided to check my email and got the memo that the campus was closed. Ironically it's actually busier now than it normally would be on a Monday morning. There are students all over campus and the surrounding hills having snowball fights and sledding. I went out to walk around and take some pictures. I walked over to Stanmer Park, a nature preserve a few minutes away from campus, and took some beautiful pictures of the snow and the trees with some pasture fences. Local families were already congregating at 10 o'clock in the morning to begin a day of sledding. I admit I did not think I would get to see snow like this when I came to England. In fact, it's one of the things I've been missing from the States lately. I was so excited to wake up to some decent snow cover. Even though snow is often a giant pain, living in the Northeast and all, it just would feel like winter without it.