Tag Archive: Summer


“The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad.”

Mark Twain

Before I left for my international adventure, I knew I would have to blog about it, and I had no idea how I was going to do it.  Three weeks and 5 countries later, and I still have no idea where or how to start with this blog post.  As I continue writing I realize that after starting with a phrase like “international adventure,” I owe my readers an explanation, lest I sound like that worldly Facebook friend you secretly hate.  *ahem*

A  few short weeks ago, I boarded a plane to England, where I was to take a two week honors course entitled “Traveling and Telling: Mobility and the Art of Narrative,” taught at Magdalene College at Cambridge University by Oklahoma State professors.  As evidenced by the title of the course, we spent the middle weekend of the two weeks traveling to a different country, in my case Barcelona, Spain, and then returning to write about it in narrative form.  As if that weren’t pretentious enough, after the course my girlfriend and I spent ten days on our own visiting Paris, Dublin, and London. To keep the amount of content manageable (and to build the dramatic tension), I have decided to break the trip down into parts, and write separately about each part of my trip– sorry, adventure.

I’ll start off with England, where I spent both the beginning and the end of my journey.  I spent more time in England than anywhere else, and it served as sort of a cultural vestibule to Europe, its culture being similar enough to the United States’ that it was easily accessible, but different enough that it was still clearly a part Europe. The first part of my English experience consisted of the two weeks I spent in Cambridge, and the last part of my trip was a day and a half in London before our flight out.  Our stay in London was during the Olympics, and was a truly unique and multicultural experience.  Actually, it was mostly a chance to pay too much for Olympic souvenirs and walk too far for Olympic atmosphere, but it was an experience nonetheless.

Anywho,

-My first impression of England wasn’t a good one.  After getting past the surly customs guy at Heathrow Airport and a 50 minute subway ride through a rainy, thoroughly graffiti’d and dingy-looking London, we made it to King’s Cross Station to board our train out to Cambridge.  After a 9 hour flight and a 50 minute subway ride through a rainy, thoroughly graffiti’d and dingy-looking London, my bladder was on its last legs, but I couldn’t find a bathroom anywhere save for the one that cost 30 pence to use.

There’s not much warmth to be had in a country where it costs 30p for a wee.

-On the train from London I was struck by how quintessentially English England was.  This may seem like an odd thing to say, but rarely does something look exactly how one pictures it.  The landscape was made up of hedgerows, rolling hills and rows of identical, slightly warped-looking townhouses, straight out of Harry Potter.  It was like I was on a movie set, designed to look exactly like England.

-Cambridge, a college town so steeped in history and tradition that using the phrase “steeped in history and tradition” seems almost mandatory when describing it.

-As I walked around in Cambridge and London, I found myself very conscious of my foreignness, and my perceived global perception of Americans.  I felt like I had the stars and stripes glued to the back of my head, and that everywhere I went I had to apologize for my American. When ordering in restaurants, or talking to cashiers I felt like I had to preface everything with “Ah yes, sorry for my American but can I get an English breakfast tea?”

-My concerns weren’t entirely unfounded either, I don’t know if they hated Americans, were just having a bad day, or didn’t care enough to falsify their friendliness, but a lot of the waitstaff and service employees seemed excessively surly and in many cases what I and my vague sense of Southern Hospitality would call downright rude.

-Going to England without a rain jacket is like going to the moon without a spacesuit, except instead of your eyeballs getting sucked out you’re just wet and uncomfortable the entire time.  It never quite rained rained, it just violently drizzled every day we were there.

-Driving on the left freaks me out.

-A lot of things in England were incredibly logical and efficient, like their shower design and public transportation, but others were apparently so comically rooted in antiquity or tradition that they defied even the most basic sense of the word logic.

Faucets.  Why in the world would you need one faucet that spouts scalding hot water, and one that dispenses ice cold water in the same sink?  Neither is comfortable for hand washing, and they’re too far apart to mix them to a nice medium warm.

WHY.

Also, British outlets are way too large to be practical, it takes a four foot power strip to power a basic computer setup, why does that make sense?

British money doesn’t make any sense either, I’m sure it has some historical significance, but the size of coins seems to be arbitrary.  Two pence pieces are massive, pound coins are small, ten pence pieces are larger than a pound, and nothing seems to make sense except for the composition of the coins themselves.  American and Euro coins at least roughly correlate size with value, with the larger coins being worth more than smaller ones. Normally this nonsensical sizing wouldn’t be a big deal, but because there are no bills there smaller than a five, transactions are extremely coin-centric.

-Time in Cambridge is measured in centuries rather than decades, and prices are measured in weight, rather than money.

-British Pubs are awesome, enough said.

But,

-British food was extraordinarily bland.  I appreciate subtle flavors, but the Brits can’t handle spiciness.  I guess their stiff upper lips are too sensitive?  Not even the Indian food was spicy enough.  To survive, I had to buy some Tabasco from the grocery store and carry it around with me like a flask.

-The more time I spent in England though, the more I grew to like it, its quirks, its history, and its stiff upper lips. Despite the effect it had on my bank account, England is a place I could see myself one day, sipping some English breakfast tea, writing and minding my own business in a coffee shop on an undoubtedly rainy day.

Long-windedly yours,

-Andrew

P.S. It took me way too long to post this.  Pictures are coming soon, but if you can’t wait you can check (most of) them out on my Facebook page.

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If you read my somewhat melancholy and unsatisfying post yesterday, you’ll know that I feel like I’ve wasted my entire summer.  But there are two weeks left, and I’ve devised a plan to make it count, to echo the summers of old.  Every day I will do an activity reminiscent of summers past, and I will post the results here, for better or for worse.  Three parts nostalgia and one part random, this is an entertainment experiment the likes of which has never been attempted.

Okay, so I’ll probably end up running out of ideas after a couple days and that will be that, but uh, yeah. Any suggestions are welcome, in fact please send suggestions, because I only have about four ideas in my head at the moment.

And rather than bombard you with posts every day, I’ll just update this one as I feel the need, so check back if you’re interested.

Day 8: I Think 7 Days is Enough,

Results:

Only sort of a cop-out,

-Andrew

Day 7: The S.S. ARomDoms

I guess I should be more specific, I made an aluminum foil boat, please tell me you did that as a kid, if not go do it nao.  All it takes is a piece of aluminum foil and an imagination :D.

I spruced mine up a little with a skewer, a piece of paper, some cardboard, and an appropriately nautical themed Lego man, because I had way too much free time today.

The following is a photo essay on my time spent sailing the whole wide pool.

The sailing was smooth as the S.S. ARomDoms embarked on its epic journey to the other side of my pool.

Iceber-- the side of the pool ahoy!

These waters be shark infested...

Luckily, it was Harry, the boat salvaging shark. Why his name was Harry no one knew for sure...

Results:

I obviously had WAY too much fun.  Day 7: I feel like a kid again.

Day 6: Adventuring

Remember when you were a kid and you used explore the woods behind your house, fighting off invisible hordes of orcs and claiming new territory for the land of Androsidalia? Coming back at dusk, bloodied, dirty, and exhausted, but feeling heroic nonetheless?  That was where I spent most of my time as a kid, climbing trees and fashioning stick swords or magic staffs.

I set off to recreate those fond memories this afternoon, (because it was only, yeah ONLY, 101 today! ) hiking boots on and expectations high.

It was hot. Still really hot.

I flipped out when I saw a copperhead.

I went back inside and took a shower, like 15 minutes after I went out.

Results:

Adventuring is a fall activity. Day 6: Don’t judge me.

Day 5: Ice Cream Cone

Adults eat ice cream in bowls, because there’s no dignified way to eat an ice cream cone.  It gets all over your face, it drips everywhere, and you have to awkwardly yet sensuously lick it with your tongue.  Weird. But, ice cream cones were awesome when I was a kid, so I got a big cone of birthday cake ice cream with gummy bears. Yum.

Results:

110 degrees + ice cream cone + car = bad idea.  Day 5: Sticky…..

This should have been a sign...

Day 4: Dreamcast–I mean N64

I’ve got to start off by saying that the Sega Dreamcast was FAR superior to the Nintendo 64 and the Sony Playstation.  Better graphics, better controller, better everything.  Except no one bought it.  My family was one of the 5 Dreamcast-owning families in the country, so my reminiscing about the good old days of the Dreamcast wont strike a nostalgic chord in the hearts of my readers, unless you happen to either A.) be in my family, or B.), be one of the smartest video game shoppers in the country.

Anyway, I managed to find an N64, with it’s 3-handled abomination of a controller and early 90’s graphics quality, and play it.  To be specific, I played Cruisin’ Exotica and Pokemon Stadium, both classics of the N64’s repertoire.

The verdict? I think my standards in video game quality have risen considerably since the glory days of the N64, and my fabled third hand never grew, so I couldn’t properly use the stupid 3-pronged controller.  Also, Pokemon Stadium  was way more fun when you could load your own super powerful, rare-candied (Missingno anyone?), killing machines called Pokemon into it and pwn your noobish little neighbors.

Results:

I’m sure all you video game hipsters out there will hate me for this, but contrary to what you pretend to believe, video games have actually gotten better since they came out.  They were great for the technology of the time, but appreciate that technology has advanced. Some things get better with age, like wine and wizards; some things are timeless, like Saving Private Ryan and Happy Meals; but some things are better in your memory than in the present, like broken arms, jean shorts, and N64’s.  They make a fond memory, but reliving them isn’t quite as fun.

Day 4: Let’s be honest here, I’m just bitter that Dreamcast lost out to the N64.

I mean come on, it had a little gameboy thing inside of it that you could take with you anywhere, 10 years before the Pokewalker.

Day 3: Watch an Old Favorite Movie

Turns out all of the movies I used to watch as a kid are on VHS, and I’m pretty sure VCR’s all died (yes, died) in the early 2000’s, because I could not find one that worked to save my life.  I did however, find a copy of Jurassic Park II: The Lost World on VHS, still shrink-wrapped, because I was too scared to watch it as a kid.  But alas, I resigned to watch old trailers on YouTube, and Toy Story 3 on Blu Ray.   I figure it’s close enough, because Toy Story was my favorite movie when it came out, Andy (coincidence much?) graduated High School the same year I did, and he shares that same sense of sappy sentimentality that I do.   I don’t know if it’s just because of all the eerie similarities between Andy and I, or just because I grew up with Woody, Buzz and the gang, but that movie makes me cry every time.  So Grood.

Results:

Day Three: *sigh*

Also, I wear that shirt all the time, I have like three of them. This is me looking cool in Kansas City just two weeks ago. Anyone who creeps my Facebook pictures will find several pics of me over the years in that same shirt, I call it my protagonist shirt.

Day 2: Get Ripped

Okay so this is less nostalgic and more “I attempted this earlier this summer”-ish, but my motivation for fitness dwindles with each passing Dorito.  Also, I’m not sure this is possible in two weeks, but uh, grrrrrr, let’s do this!!

Attempted: 50 pushups

Completed: 48.5 pushups

Attempted: 30 laps in the pool

Completed: 23 and a handstand.

Attempted: Tons of weights and sweaty, workout-type stuff

Completed: A moderate amount of weights and sweaty, workout-type stuff

Results:

Pain, but I think I can feel a six-pack comin’ on. Day two: success?

Day 1: Legos

Okay so I’ll admit, this one isn’t as nostalgic as it maybe should be; it hasn’t been that long since I’ve played with Legos… Is it my fault that part of me is still 14 on the inside? Coolest toys ever.  I hate that they put age limits on them, I mean the lower limit I can understand, for choking hazards and stuff, but when you put that upper age limit at like 14-16 you alienate a good part of your customer base.  The man-child demographic who never really grew out of Legos is a significant faction, Lego! I had to buy a child’s birthday card with my Lego purchase, so I could convince the cashier that it was a gift for my little cousin or something.  Should there be so much shame?? I cannot be the only one who feels this way… Big kids of the world unite!  Let us cast off the shackles of shame and cashier judgement and buy our Legos with heads held high.

No? So maybe I’m the only one. But still.

Anyway, I bought some Legos, built them, destroyed them, and built them again.

Results:

Twas awesome, just like it was ages and ages and ages ago when I did it last.. You can see my Lego masterpiece below.  Day one: success.

Pictured: The bottom of the Ocean.

Two weeks left of summer.

Normally I would say that summer has gone by so fast it’s just been a blur, various trips and parties to pass the time. but this summer has been more of a blank space than a blur. Equally fast, if not more so, but filled with nothing.  I’m not even sure how it happened, I have accomplished and done so astoundingly little.  It’s not the satisfying kind of “little” either.  Sometimes doing nothing can be relaxing, but mine is the stressful kind of “little.”  Stressing about doing nothing whilst trying and failing to come up with something to do.  All I’ve done is work.  I feel like I should go buy some Pokemon cards or build a tree house or something to compensate in my last two weeks.

Last summer I was happy, but scared shitless at the impending school year and the consequent ending of my childhood.  Last school year came and went, the cliff I seemed to be careening towards turned out to be more of a time warp, and there I was again, gas pedal stuck to the floor on my summer, eyes glued to the rearview mirror.  As time goes on, the image in that mirror fades, and finally, now that summer is almost gone, I am able to look ahead. What used to seem like a cliff at the end of my summer however, that terrifying feeling of unknown, has been replaced with a looming brick wall.  I know what to expect now, I just hope I can find a door before I dash myself against the side of that big brick building called potential.  If I can find that door, break through that barrier, then has the potential to be a damn good year.

Well huh, that wasn’t exactly the blog post I intended, I uh, apologize for that.

I guess that’s all I have for today, so now for some unsolicited opinion, in the form of some charts and graphs.

::OPINION ALERT::

Read these graphs, or never talk to me ever.

How did this get in here?

Another one? My bad.

I heart charts. But seriously, this one makes me sick.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”

-Matthew 19:24

I just quoted the Bible,

-Andrew

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