One Grecian Urn….

Does anyone know “The Music Man”?

If you do, you’ll know the scene this references. I couldn’t help but think of this when recently I was in the British Museum with a friend. He took so long to look at the artifacts that we only got through three galleries!

After looking up at the sky, I retreated inside the museum gates to find my friend. I actually rang him, only to glance upon him, phone to ear, not ten feet away from me. Silly, these cellular devices.

The bluest sky

We stopped in the entrance hall/centre to look at this display. Obviously embossed with some sort of Qur’anic script, this was an external element of the exhibit I want to see about the Hajj- which also costs £12.

Beautiful.

It didn’t take me long to realise that my friend was going to look at Every.Single.Thing.
“D….you’re going to look at everything, aren’t you?” I said, tentitively from behind his shoulder.
“Yes!” he replied, enthusiastic, although completely absorbed in reading the caption on an urn that looked exactly like the one next to it.
Don’t get me wrong- I love museums, but I like to read the captions on what calls to me that day, so I can always go back and discover something new.

This is how my comic caption idea was born. If I was going to spend three hours in three galleries, I was going to amuse myself, dammit!

Captions occur directly under the pictures. Enjoy.

I don't want to be a chicken, I don't want to be a duck

I'm too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my trousers. DAMN I'm fine.

You can see my face in the reflection. Don’t I look amused…

Return to sender

Some of the captions came right to me. I took pictures of all those.

How low can you go?

Come to think of it, perhaps I took too many pictures of urns? They’re not all Grecian either.

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who is fairest of them all?

Some of these are downright humorous.

This'll show him....

Oh look, there’s D, being a good history major.

Reading every word.

I love the sea life on this thing….I forget what it is though.

A plate of fish?

Have you seen my pitcher? I was sure I'd put it somewhere. Oh, you too?

As an avid owl lover and collector, I’m always looking for owl things everywhere. Where better to find them than in the ancient world?

Owl childs toy- WHOO WHOO

I was obviously at this the entire time I was there.

If you like it, should'a put a ring on it!

The ancients had some pretty nice accessories going on as well.

Waist belt?

and sweet details.

Look at the little flowers.

Do you hear what I hear?

Harry Potter references?

Diadem?

And they were quite advanced. I marveled at the sense of perspective in this painting for quite awhile. I admittedly know nothing about painting technique, but this is certainly not flat. 

 

Grammy's Chinese ring!

I have a ring just like the above that my Grammy bought from a peddler during her childhood in China (Family: correct me if this is wrong)

YUM

Petrified food? Volcanic!

I saw this and just had to take a picture. Imagine if it were plush!

Giant Scarab Beetle

The last thing I saw might have been my favourite.

Oh wait, she's real!

A child who wears costumes in public? After my own heart. I did that at her age.

Fresh air.

Back outside again, I took another picture of the sky and some beautiful trees. I think I’m in love. When I get a nice camera, I’m going to take a proper photography class and learn how to take nature photos with contrast and perspective.

Coming soon: Wanderings and some City Rules,

Love, Hannah

Oh and PS: This is what Snape would sound like reading Keats.

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Chinatown Part Two: What I Found There

Let’s continue with Chinatown, shall we?

If you happened to miss part one, you can find it –>HERE

Because I know you’re all super keen on vicarious travel.

So the first time I went to Chinatown I bought this sucker:

Great Hannah, what on earth is it? It’s a steamed cake!! Basically, whipped eggs and sugar and flour. It’s oh, so light and sweet, but not too sweet. The texture is like angelfood cake, only more cloud-like. You know how angel food cake kind of sticks together? This cake isn’t sticky at all, and it’s so spongey.

I could go on and on about it, but basically, if you ever have the chance to try steamed cake, DO IT!

Next up, and you can totally judge me for this, was the Chinese New Year visit you read about in my last post.

No, not that I went to Chinatown again.

But rather that I bought all four of these pastries in one visit.

From L-R, Top-Bottom: Pandan Cake Roll, Sweet Yam Pastry, Red Bean Paste Fried Sesame Ball, Pandan Pastry.

Can you just see them?

The two pastries were typical and flaky, but not at all dry. They were filled with delicious pastes of either Sweet Purple Yam or Pandan. If you’re not familliar with Pandan, it’s a bit difficult to explain. My friend, who is Malaysian had to keep telling me it didn’t taste like anything much, but it was the smell that made it taste so wonderful.

It comes from the screwpine plant and the leaves are commonly used in cooking. Most things that are flavoured with this are a delightful green. According to the ultimate authority of Wikipedia (Don’t tell me you don’t trust it),

The characteristic aroma of pandan is caused by the aroma compound 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline which also gives white breadjasmine rice and basmati rice (as well as Bread Flowers Vallaris glabra) their typical smell. Bottled pandan extract is also available in shops, but often contains artificial green food coloring. The leaves also have a repellent effect on cockroaches.

Cool, huh?

AND just so you know, there have been cockroach sightings at SOAS. So I’ll be using this stuff.

I actually went to the asian market and bought a little bottle of extract of the pandan variety after taking a nibble of the pandan cake. Gosh. So soft and cakey!! Not dense, but pillowy soft and light as a feather.

The red bean ball was my least favourite. I loved the centre, which was filled with a sweet red bean paste of which I am quite fond. The outside was fine, because I like sesame flavouring, but it was fried, which I didn’t realise when I bought it. I’m not the hugest fan of fried things, because 1) They are usually too heavy and 2) The flavour of the fried-ness covers up whatever flavour is there naturally.

I might have eaten the paste out of the middle and tossed the rest.

All in all, I will be back. At only £1 a pop, these cakes are well worth a trip over there for a cheap and delectable taste of Asia!

Stay tuned for a bit of a comical trip through one gallery in the British Museum and some Grecian Urn comics.

Love, Hannah

新年快了!!

Hello travel lovers!

This past weekend I went to the Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown, London.

Because I rise super early, I was up and breakfasted by 9:30.

Before you can say jack robinson (not that you do), I was down on my way to Leicester Square and Chinatown to make the 10:15 start of the parade.

For living so close to everything, I usually just walk everywhere. I could take the tube, but honestly I just prefer to walk. If you’ve ever been to London, you might know how well you can get to know the city if you don’t spend all your time on the tube.

So after winding my over towards Chinatown and asking whether I was on the right track, I found myself standing on the edge of a crowd of people who stood with cameras ready and watches/cell phones expectantly waiting for the parade to appear.

Lanterns floating

Everything was festooned in red lanterns and people teamed in and out of each side street, holding paper dragons and red events programs. The children were throwing small explosives into the street and jumping back in surprise as they made an audible “pop” upon contact with the path. 

People teemed about, each wondering when the parade would appear. I just wondered if I was the only one there alone. What made me smile was the wide variety of families and individuals that were there. They ranged from me, with a completley hidden motive for being there, to typically British families wearing traditional chinese knock-off dresses, to Chinese girlfriends and western boyfriends, to Chinese families with three or four children in tow.

The entrance to Chinatown was filled as well. People wandered in and out, waiting for the stalls to open. Stalls that would sell hot Baozi, or buns, and other delicacies of the day.

Finally, the scarf-clad woman in front of me exclaimed to her boyfriend in a decidedly Scottish accent, “OOH! Here’s comes, it really is coming!” And sure enough, there we heard drums and saw the flashing head of a golden dragon wending their way towards our corner of the street.

Gongs were struck, and many people robed in gold and red processed past. Some people weren’t watching (see above), but most were banging their toy drums and watching, captivated by the display of culture.

I had found myself a good spot, it seems, because I got a fairly good view of the dragon’s head! Western dragons are fine, but give me a Chinese dragons any day! I love the intricacies of their colouring, and each embroidered coil that snake down their backs.

They’re actually kind of cute, with their fluffy feather-like puffs that surround where you might imagine their ears to be, and their bulbous little noses and gaping mouths. Yes, I’d want to ride one.

Of course, all these mystical creatures were puppeted by children, or teams of people. When you think of a puppet-show, it often seems a shame to see the puppeteer who is making the characters move. Not so with dragons of this kind; it completely adds to the charm and magic of the performance to see both the humans and the puppet moving together in tandem, as if they have made friends.

Some fancier dress followed, as well as a very English bus pasted with a “Happy Chinese New Year!” sign. Official-looking men in florescent vests urged us to all, “please keep out of the street!” as they pushed us back. Some people just didn’t listen, stepping straight into the way of the procession to snap the perfect picture from the middle of the road.

After the bus passed, it seemed like the parade (however short) was over, so I decided, with somewhat bad judgement, to make my way to Trafalgar Square, where there was reported to be more festivity. One my way I passed this tree. Hoards of people surrounded it, throwing the little bean bags into the tree. As I got closer and got my hands on a bean bag, I read the little tag attached; “A wish for prosperity” it read. I threw it into the tree with such brute force that it ended up by my feet. Trying again, a few times with which ever bags I could grab, like a greedy child, I finally managed to lodge my bag between the crook of two “branches”. Satisfied, I smiled, hoping my wishes of prosperity, good health, love, etc, would come to fruition.

Bad mistake. Trafalgar was MOBBED. Somehow, I managed not to succumb to panic, and inched closer to the centre with everyone else.

Something crazy inside my told me to go look at the stalls, which weren’t seeing at all, being only advertising. But look I did, and soon found myself trapped in between a gridlock of people, who were all as disgruntled as I was. One advertiser stood in his tent and yelled “Move alonggggg….police is coming……no need to stall…..hurry upppp” in his lovely Chinese accent. I was put at ease by this, finding it humourous, but the man next to me, who was a bit too close, muttered something rude and gave a push to the woman in front of him.

Coming round to the south side, I had the most lovely view. Snapping my picture as I was moved along, I managed to get this shot before I was swept away by the current of people, like the smallest of fish.

It was just too crowded for me to stay to watch what would have occurred on the stage. There were people dressed as Zodiac characters in blow up plastic costumes that looked ridiculously difficult to walk in. They rather just shuffled down the street, with helpers to hold their arms in case they decided to totter and fall.

It is indeed a shame that I didn’t stay longer, but the crowed were just too much. Stay tuned tomorrow to hear what I did end up doing!!

It involves these. Well, not really. But I did try on some specs.

Happy Travels!
Love, Hannah

Home is Wherever I’m With You

I’m about three weeks into my London adventures and I can say with confidence that I’ve become acclimated to everything and the way it works. I’ve even been morphing into softer language, as per the request of my flatmate who claims he “can’t understand me with out a British accent”

Ask and ye shall recieve. I prefer it anyhow. (although for the sake of not sounding pretentious, I won’t make a full change over)

One thing I haven’t really been keen on is being away from my family. Call me needy, dependent, immature, or whatever you will, but I know we all feel like this from time to time.

Even when you're eating Whole Foods Salad Bar

That’s why I’m going to do a little post on Homesickness.

Lets back up. What am I doing over on the other side of the pond in the first place? I’m studying abroad, gaining my independence and becoming an adult, blah de blah. In all seriousness, I truly believe this year is for me to grow as an individual and realize how capable at life I am. I’m not dependent on my parents, but it’s nice to have them there.

I love this picture. They visited on their way out of town.

This year, I’m on my own.

In the middle of a big city

At first, it’s been hard. You could say I had a classic case of homesickness:
crying, isolation, all or nothing thinking, you get the picture.

Trying to smile at myself

But the key is, what did I do about it? Alone in the bustling city of London, what sane person couldn’t find something to distract?

Distracting enough?

For the first couple of days…erm….lots of days….I simply couldn’t. I felt like I was the only person sitting until 12pm in my room weeping because  I missed my family. Some adult I am, I thought to myself.

So I went outside. I got involved. I made something outside myself to invest in.

A bit of hand art never hurt anyone....

And it’s been working. I feel like my life is useful here, like I’m not just wasting my time feeling nostalgic for what I left behind in the states. That’s what I’m here for, to make a new life for myself and live it up!

So what advice do I have?

1. Don’t isolate. I know it feels like you’re alone and being alone perpetuates feelings of wanting to be alone. Don’t do it. Get out of your room even to fill your water bottle and say hi to whoever you see. The more personal interaction you have, the more you’ll feel included and whole.

2. Get out of your room. Go explore your surroundings. It will get your mind off of whatever you are missing and chances are you’ll find something really exciting!

explore!

3. Don’t dwell on it and know it will pass. My life dream is to travel and move abroad but even I’m feeling homesick for home? It can happen to anyone, even adults. And Smile at yourself. Seriously, my Dad taught me this one and even if you’re crying, it can help you see clear to sunnier skies 🙂

4. Do something you love. Do you usually really love writing? Don’t forget about it. Running? Don’t stop! Oftentimes hobbies involve other people as well, so join a club and see what friends you can make. My flatmate and I made soup, since I love to cook. It was just what I needed!

Piping hot!

5. If you need to, contact those you are homesick for. Call them, send a letter or an email. It’s okay to talk to them and don’t think that just because you’re “on your own” that you can’t tell them about your day and keep them in your life. Being an adult doesn’t mean being alone.

6. Engage in the culture. What will you find when you look for it? Local bookstores? Events? I found a farmer’s market! 

Whatever you do, don’t do nothing. Homesickness is so common that there’s no reason to feel alone. If you’re stuck in the middle of it, pour yourself a hot mug of tea and stew about it for awhile, but then seriously and try some of the things I listed above. They worked for me, and I’m pretty sentimental.

Best of luck in your travels!
Love, Hannah

Feeling a bit British

The buildings are big!and old!

I’ve been here five days and I’m already feeling a bit British.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had sort of an old fashioned way of speaking. I say “raather” instead of “rahther” and use colloquialisms like “I suppose” and “as well” and “indeed.” Judging by the way my flat-mates talk, I’m well on my way to developing a British accent. Brilliant.

One thing I didn’t have straight was the fact that what the Brits consider the first floor is what Americans call the second floor. Needless to say, I walked into the wrong flat first day in my residence.

But before I even moved in, I couldn’t move in. We traveled across the ocean to find that my home school hadn’t payed my housing fees. This naturally resulted in lots of sitting, anxiety and flustered dispositions, as we were all tired. Lucky my Mom and Dad had a flat around the corner they were renting for a couple days, isn’t it? I stayed there.

That's what you get for staying in the flat of a cook

We came back one night and the whole flat smelled of Fish. Normally I dislike this smell and will go to great lengths to avoid it (read: SARS mask) but this was actually quite nice smelling.

Things are different here.

hump? bump? tomato tomahto?

Anyone care to enlighten me as to why Londoners run with backpacks on? I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before. It’s like they’re late for something, only they’re wearing athletic wear. hm….

Smiling and jetlagged

I’ve found myself a place in this big city. I only hope I can take up my space!

Here's my place!

Expect more soon. I’m a bit busy figuring out my courses and such. Pictures as well!

Love, Hannah

 

Two Weeks!!

In two weeks I will be sleeping in a new bed

In two weeks I’ll be making new friends

In two weeks I will be shopping for a whole new life

In two weeks I won’t be at home anymore

In two weeks I’ll be in a whole different time zone

In two weeks I’ll be beginning one more step into my life as a global citizen

In two weeks I’ll be in LONDON

From my last trip. I love the contrast of building + sky

Wish me luck. As a country girl (more or less) I’m looking forward to seeing what city life will bring me. I’ve never lived in a city before, and the thought of having everything at my fingertips and never being bored is tantalizing.
I simply could not be more excited.

Look for updates during these last couple weeks on packing, shopping and readying myself for departure and soon after, arrival!

Love, Hannah