Update #3

It has been a busy couple of weeks, dealing with accommodation and writing two essays, but I thought it was about time for an update.  Nothing much exciting has happened.  I submitted my application for the History Honors program, I wrote two essays for class, and I now have a single room for the rest of the semester after a long struggle with accommodation.  However, the past two days have made up Raisin Weekend here at St. Andrews, which is probably the most exciting thing that has happened recently.

Raisin Weekend is a tradition related to the Academic Family tradition at St. Andrews in which 3rd and 4th years “adopt” Freshers and Exchange students.  Thus, you have an academic family with academic parents and siblings.  Raisin Weekend used to involve giving your parents gifts of raisins, but now it is pretty alcohol-centric.  I didn’t have an academic father so I escaped being woken up early to drink, and, instead, went to my academic mom, Claire’s, tea party.  This didn’t involved tea, but it did involve alcohol and fun games including a scavenger hunt, pass the parcel, and the game where doughnuts are tied to a string and you have to eat them without using your hands.  It was a Doctor Who themed party, and we had to choose a name from a bag that our academic siblings were supposed to use to address us.  I chose Rose (as in Rose Tyler) and there were other names such as Angel Bob and Davros.  Other Doctor Who themed things included a quiz we were given that included Doctor Who trivia and St. Andrews trivia.  I ended up leaving after the scavenger hunt because I had an essay due at noon the next day.  Traditionally, that night you go to your dad’s party, but I ended up staying in and working on my essay because I didn’t have a dad (although I was invited to go to Claire’s boyfriend, Ian’s, party).  The next day was the famous foam fight.  In the morning your academic mom gets you dressed up in a costume (we were Daleks and Cybermen) and your father gives you a Raisin reciept (an object to carry to the Quad).  When you get to the Quad for the foam fight, there are people lining the streets to watch.  You file into the Quad, dropping your receipts off with University staff, and then enter the Quad where people are spraying shaving foam at each other.  It is quite fun, except when you get foam in your eye, ear, mouth, or nose, but even that isn’t so bad.  When I got back to hall I was lucky to avoid getting a bucket of water dumped on me and, because I am not a boy, I didn’t have to strip down to my underwear and run around hall.  I got back early enough to have a shower, and then handed in my paper and did readings for class before taking a nap.  Overall, it was a pretty fun weekend, and it is great to have two papers out of the way.

At the moment, I am in the process of registering for courses at Penn for next semester.  It is hard t believe that this experience is over halfway done.  I know I will be sad to leave the beautiful town of St. Andrews, but I can’t wait to get back home and to Penn.  At the moment, Stamford and Philly are both under threat of Hurricane Sandy and Penn has cancelled classes for today and tomorrow while Stamford canceled school through Wednesday.  Hopefully everyone will be alright, but I can’t say that I am unhappy to be across the ocean.  If anyone in the line of Sandy is reading this, stay safe!  That is about it for now.  Hopefully, with those essays out of the way, I will have more time to update the blog.

Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Shakespeare, and Youtube: A Perfect Weekend in London

Since the last time I wrote, I have had one of the most incredible weekends of my life.  It was one of those things that makes you realize the beauty of travel and made me feel lucky to have access to amazing opportunities.

The most important factor in any travel experience is company.  I was lucky enough to be able to explore London with one of my best friends, Alexis Ebers.  She is in London studying theatre at BADA (the British American Drama Academy) and she let me stay in her flat.  She is one of the kindest and most talented people I know and it was so nice to be able to theatre geek out with her.  She and her roommates were so welcoming and accommodating and, without her, the experience would not have been half as fun.

I arrived on Friday around 4:30pm having traveled for 7 and a half hours from St. Andrews to Leuchars, Leuchars to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to London Kings Cross, and Kings Cross to Paddington Station.  Needless to say, it had already been a long day.  However, I was excited to be in London.  Our first mission, after we dropped off my stuff at the flat, was to rush over to the Globe Theatre to try to get tickets to see Richard III with Mark Rylance and Roger Lloyd Pack who played Barty Crouch in the Harry Potter movies.  While Alexis had tried to get £5 tickets in the groundling area (the people who stand in front of the stage for the performance), they were sold out.  Our only choice was to wait in the returns line and hope that people would return their tickets so we could buy them.  When we got there, we were about 12th in line, close enough to the front that we could get tickets, but far enough back that we might not.  We stood in line as people sold their more expensive tickets, but we were waiting for the cheap ones.  As we got closer and closer to the front of the line, time ticked on and the show drew closer.  When we were 2nd and 3rd in line with only about 20 minutes until show time, something miraculous happened; a man came out with three extra tickets.  We were prepared to pay £5 for them, but he handed them to us saying that he didn’t need the money.  We insisted, but he refused, so we thanked him profusely and went to get food.  Then, we looked down at our tickets.  They were tickets for seats on the lower level which cost £39.  We couldn’t believe our luck!  However, it got even better when we found our seats.  Some of the seats have obstructed views because of the support beams, but ours were completely unobstructed.  In fact, we were in the center of the row in the seats directly opposite the stage.  It was an amazing view.  When the man who had given us the tickets sat next to us, we thanked him again, and every time there was a chance.  It may have been a little overboard, but we were in awe of his generosity.

The show itself was really cool.  It was an all-male cast so there were men playing women, just like in Shakespeare’s time and the costumes were from that period as well.  There were also two adorable little boys playing the princes.  At the end of the show, before bows, the whole cast did a dance.  It was truly an amazing and entertaining performance from beginning to end.  It was so interesting to see the men playing women and, after a while, I didn’t even really think about it.  They were just the characters.  Mark Rylance played Richard in an atypical way.  He added a humor that made it hard to see him as the villain.  Whether or not one agrees with this interpretation, it was highly entertaining and his understanding of the text was clear.  Personally, I always find it interesting when there is a villain who isn’t entirely good or bad.  And, of course, the fact that we were watching it in the Globe Theatre (although not the original because the original burned down) only added to the experience.  After writing my paper for writing seminar on Shakespeare deification, I thought I was above putting such value on a place or object.  However, as we walked around the theatre, I couldn’t help put touch the stage and the walls and observe the beauty of the theatre.  Even though it was a reconstruction, it was incredible to be there.  The place has taken on a new life and new “holiness” based on the actors who have performed there and the amazing theatre that continues to be performed there.  Even walking into the theatre, we looked down and saw the names of people in the stones who had donated to the building of the new Globe which included Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, and the Middletons (i.e. Kate Middleton’s family).  After the show we walked around a little bit including a walk along the Millennium Bridge, also known as the bridge that the Death Eaters blow up in Harry Potter, and then headed back to Alexis’s flat for the night.

The next day started at 7am when we woke up to student rush tickets to see Our Boys with Matt Lewis (the guy who plays Neville in the Harry Potter films) and Arthur Darvill (the guy who plays Rory Williams on Doctor Who).  We rushed over to the Duchess Theatre on the West End arriving at about 8am and taking our place as 3rd in line.  This line was for £10 seats in the front row.  Behind us was another group of students studying abroad from the US.  In talking with them, we found out that one of them named Jess was dating Matt Lang of Starkid fame.  It was so cool to talk to her about the Starkids and how they are in real life.  When the box office opened at 10am we put our names down for tickets so that we could pick them up before the show, and then headed out to spend a day walking around London.  Because I am going back in December with my family, I wanted to save most of the touristy things (and, frankly, the expensive things) to do with them.  Alexis and I decided that we were going to do a Harry Potter tour, visiting places around London featured in the Harry Potter books and/or movies.  This included a bunch of places including Piccadilly Circus (where the Golden Trio apparate when trying to escape the Death Eaters in the movie), Trafalgar Square (where we also looked around the National Gallery for a but), Australia House (which was closed, but we peaked inside.  It is where they filmed the inside of Gringotts Bank.  Along the way we walked along Fleet Street, of Sweeney Todd fame), and my personal favorite, Leadenhall Market (where they filmed Diagon Alley).  Although the market was closed, it was amazing to just walk around.  It truly felt like we were on Diagon Alley.  We also went to Camden (where Alexis’s school is) which reminded me a lot of South Street in Philadelphia.  After that we grabbed some food and went to the show.

Our tickets were right next to center in the front row and we could see everything.  The show was amazing!  It was one of the best productions I have ever seen.  It had a cast of 6 men who were all amazing actors and who worked perfectly together as an ensemble.  Our Boys is the story of a group of soldiers recovering and being treated in a military hospital.  They all have different things wrong with them which sometimes adds to the humor of the story and sometimes adds to the sadness of it.  Even as I am writing this a few days after seeing it, I am in awe.  It was so well done and it was entertaining and moving; basically, it was everything that theatre should be.  It also didn’t hurt that all the actors were extremely attractive.  I knew that Arthur Darvill and Matt Lewis would be good (although I didn’t know how good), but Cian Barry who played Keith and Lewis Reeves who played Ian completely blew me away.  Really, everyone did and I was totally drawn into the story by all 6 of them.  I thought that I would be looking at Arthur and Matt the whole time, but I really didn’t, and Arthur and Matt were Parry and Mick in my head, not Rory and Neville (although I got sprayed by Arthur Darvill’s beer during the show, which was pretty cool for me).  After the show, they all came out and signed autographs and took pictures with everyone who wanted one (Arthur even hugged people who asked).  It was incredibly kind of them because, in London, actors don’t always do that and, as one of the last ones there, I can honestly say that they stayed the whole time.  I can’t think of much else to say as I am still in awe of the whole experience, but this was probably the highlight of my weekend.

The next day was another early one, although not as early as the day before.  We got up at 8am to grab breakfast with my friend from High School, Minou Clark, who is also studying theatre in London.  It was so great seeing her again as it had been about a year since we had last spoken.  After that, Alexis and I went to a Youtube gathering which was part of a tour by Contiki that brought Youtubers around Europe to do challenges and see fans.  I was really excited because I have not been able to go to a gathering in the US and this one had some of my favorite youtubers.  Overall, the experience was a little disappointing, but not as the fault of anyone.  We ended up waiting in line for 4 hours because there were so many people.  There were times that we did not move more than a few inches for 45 minutes.  However, some of them came out to quickly say hi to the people in line, which was nice, but we were concerned that they would close before we got to go in.  It was only supposed to be 2 hours long (from 12pm-2pm), but they extended it to 4pm and, I think, longer so that everyone who came could go in.  We finally got in a little before 4pm where we had to wait in another line.  When we got to the room they were in we were told we could go in one of two lines.  This was the most disappointing thing for me.  There were 5 people on my list of people to see: Charlie McDonnell, Michael Aranda, Bryarly Bishop, and Charles and Alli Trippy.  Charles and Allie were in one line and the other three were in the other.  I ended up choosing the second line and got a stalker picture of Charles and Alli, but I was bummed that I had waited so long and got so close to them, but couldn’t say hi.  Even when we got to talk to them, we were rushed because there were so many people.  This was something that I completely understood because there were so many people and they youtubers had been so busy, but it was a little bit unsatisfying.  Still, looking back at the pictures, it is pretty cool that we got to see them in person and get autographs and pictures.  It is really interesting to see these people you know from Youtube in person and I was really interested to see people’s real heights.  Charlie was sitting down, so I couldn’t tell, but Michael Aranda was taller than I thought and Charles and Alli were shorter than I thought.  Still, I don’t regret going and I hope to meet them again at another gathering that isn’t so structured.

Because that ran so late, I ended up staying in London an extra night.  I met more of Alexis’s friends and we did homework, a nice relaxing Sunday night after such a busy weekend.  In the morning I got up and caught the 10am train back to Leuchars where I am writing this.  Overall, it was an incredible weekend and one that I hope never to forget.

Update #2

I am sitting in my room at 1:10 am waiting to skype with Stim Board (it may not happen) and I thought, “why not write a blog post?”  As I suspected, it has been a while, which means time for another update post.  Since my last post, a few major things have happened.

First is my trip to Glasgow.  Before I went I didn’t know what to expect.  People here in St. Andrews didn’t seem, generally, to be a fan of the city.  But I think that many of them had never been there.  They had just heard the statistics and heard bad stories and applied it to the whole city.  However, it was beautiful.  The thing that people said about it being the Philly of Scotland rang pretty true after visiting.  There is the reputation thing, but they are both industrial cities, which led to many instances when I would look over and think “that could be Philly”.  Most of the city was built in the 1800s, which is different than many other European cities, although the history is not lacking.  We visited many places including the Glasgow Cathedral (where we got a private tour from a retired teacher named Malcolm) and the Necropolis (an awesome, giant graveyard), which pleased my inner historian.  We also went apple and pear picking in people’s yards (with their permission, of course), which was really fun and cool.  In the US, people would just ignore you or call the cops, and, although we were probably ignored a few times, we got several bags full of fruit.

The second major update is that I am currently roommateless.  This is a mixed blessing.  My roommate and I get along, so it wasn’t anything like that, but due to a series of things one of my roommate’s friends was left roommateless, and she really needed one for health reasons.  My roommate asked me if I would be okay if she left, I said yes, and that is pretty much the full story.  Not as exciting as Glasgow, but a major part of my journey here nonetheless.  It has been fine so far.  A little weird at first, but it is fine now.  The weirdest part is that, technically, someone could move in at any time.  I guess I will just have to see what happens.

That is it for now.  I think that I am going to post this to facebook soon, so, if you see this from there, hi new viewer!  I also have a youtube channel with the same name as this blog which I have not been dedicating a lot of time to but will hopefully update more now that I have a new camera (oh yeah, my camera broke so I got a new one in Glasgow.  The price still hurts, but it is nice to be able to keep documenting).  Finally, if you are reading this and we aren’t facebook friends (something highly unlikely), comment and I will upload pictures.  I have already put pictures up on facebook, but if there is demand here I will do that too.  Until next time!