31 July 2011

global viewing

I've just done something I may never do again.

I've watched a movie series whilst living in three different countries.

It was while I was living in the USA as an aupair that my friend, SuhRa, got me to watch Harry Potter 1, 2 and 3 on dvd for the first time. We then went with friends to an IMAX theatre and watched HP4.

I returned home to Australia where I saw HP5, 6 and 7p1 as they came out.

Today I went and saw the finale, HP7p2, where I'm living on a working holiday visa in England.

The movie was brilliant! On my way there I was deciding how I wanted it to end. I haven't read the final book yet. Starting with the movies in the USA and reading those movies in their book version back in Australia and discovering more wonderful stories and extras, I decided to wait and see each new movie before reading the next book. So now I finally know how it ends. But like I said, on my way there I was deciding who I wanted to be involved in the final fight and survive and how the baddies were going to roll. Delightfully they performed almost exactly as I'd hoped. I think it was fabulously written, intriguingly interlinked with bits and pieces from the other stories with a lovely settled ending. (Yet to read book 7 though.) It left me very satisfied and happy and peaceful.

It was also my first movie in England. Odd to have to travel to another town to see it but I was pleasantly surprised that it cost me only £9 for the train there and back, my movie ticket AND a coco-cola that was at least 500ml. I never bother buying snacks at the movies back home. It's just a waste of money. It was 80p for my drink! Think I'll see some more movies in the future.

19 July 2011

knitting and knights

On Saturday I went on my own day out. The knitting part you can read all about over at my other blog. I'd had my fill there by 2pm and since my bus wasn't leaving until 7pm I opted to check off one of the things on my London to-do list. So I caught the underground and went to the Tower of London. Now I had close to three hours here but I recommend you allow more than that as there's heaps to see. I bought my ticket and waited just inside the first wall with quite a crowd for the next Yeoman Warder tour.
This grassy area (which is at least twice the width you can see or more) was originally the moat. It served the city well for centuries until London grew and the sewerage system set up ran into it. Then it was turned into grass. The Yeoman Warder tour guide was fantastic. A real character cracking jokes and getting away with sly comments. Very entertaining. Did you know that people still live in the houses within in the Tower of London? Me neither.
Here's some of the houses that are rented out. Except the one with the guard at the door. That's the queen's house. Here is where the tour ended half an hour short. Unfortunately for us tourist someone was getting married shortly in the chapel there so we couldn't have the full tour. And there's me outside the Waterloo block where the crown jewels are kept. I did go through but you can't take photos in there. Guess that makes sense since you have to enter and exit the volt through massive doors. They were interesting to see. Quite extravagant and quite a lot there. More than I had expected. I guess each royalty had their own crown made for their coronation. Anyway, the line was massive once the tour was over so I went into the White Tower first.
Lots to see in there. It's full of armoury mostly. Look, even a toddler sized suit. And check out the sword. It's huge. I keep thinking it would be interesting to put a suit on to see what it felt like. Some suits were complete cover and others were just the major areas with leather for the less vital areas.
This dragon was pretty cool. You walk up some stairs to the next level and it's the first thing you see. Made of armoury pieces and such. They had a section that was hands on. This display you put your face in a helmet shape hole and they had a war playing on a tv screen behind it so you could experience how much a knights sight was impaired. You really can't see a lot through two small splits. I'd never thought about that before.
These here are old time mortar shells. They would be filled with tar and gunpowder and stuff, even greased rags for the horses' hooves, and then wrapped in linen to be catapulted into the gathered enemy. And there's me outside the White Tower. I decided to then go see the crown jewels because the line wasn't so packed and I really did want to see them. I got in and through in plenty of time before the tower closed. In fact, I still had some time to wander a section of the wall.
Inside the towers along the walls there were more displays. It would have been good to explore properly. Here's an old time crossbow in one. The writing on the walls were written like you were reading the latest news which made it feel like you were a part of the adventure. In one of the towers they had some crowns that had been stripped of their jewels. I only got this photo coz I hadn't seen any sign saying I couldn't. But I got told off for taking it so perhaps I just missed the sign.
And then I got to christen my new umbrella. It was raining on and off all day, even pouring at times. But it wasn't until just as the Tower of London was closing for the day that I was actually outside in it. I was happy to be though just so I could use my umbrella. On my way out of the White Tower I went through a gift shop. It had some great stuff in there as far as gift shops go. I was heavily drawn to the calligraphy pen set that had a lovely wooden pen with two nibs and about 6 pots of different colours. But in the end I opted for the fantastical quill with a pot of red ink for half the price of the other. How fun is it!?

I may just have to go back again some day and see the rest of it. I did come across the Tower of Torture as I was heading out which had already closed for the day. That would have been interesting...? I did see one display of a chopping block and whilst there overheard a guide telling a story. A beheading that needed a fill-in executioner so they called on the butcher. (If you're a easily quesy you may want to skip over this paragraph.) Now he said that people would often pay quite a chunk of money to the executioner to make sure the job was done well. If it was it was painless aparantly. He did comment executioners being quite well off because of these tips. But this butcher, well he hadn't chopped human before and he was nervous. First swing and he missed only scratching the neck. The one on the chopping block apparently made some comment--something like "Is that the best you've got?". I think the second swing was similar. Third swing got half the neck at which point the nervous, sweating butcher pulled out his butcher's knife and hacked the rest off to finish the job. Shockingly gross, I know. No wonder people paid the executioner for a good clean lop.

We were also told on our tour that during the time of the Tower of London there were a LOT of beheadings but most happened outside on Tower Hill. There were only a few beheadings inside the Tower of London. The Yeoman Warder said you had to be a "friend" of the king to be beheaded within the walls. It was a bit strange to walk around a place with so much history in it.

So that was my day out in London.

13 July 2011

falling... ♥

Read a mini article about "Falling in Love" that is published in full in RELEVANT Magazine.

There's nothing wrong with falling in love, being caught up in all the emotion of it. It happens and it's a wonderful thing but I do believe there is simply more to it. If you want a good lasting relationship that is. Emotions can be amazing but they are also the bane of my existance. They are certainly fickle. It's no hidden truth that no matter how passionate and vibrant the emotions attached to love are, they don't stay that way forever. We don't live in a fairytale.

The above mentioned article says, "Feelings are an incredible resource--but they were not meant to stand alone." This accounts for many emotions I think. We choose how we live and respond. To ourselves, to God, to the world around us.

Love, as God created it, was always meant to be associated with action. A verb. It is something we do. A choice. Emotionally supported or not. It's a truth I need to constantly remind myself of. All too easily forgotten in my humanness. This truth goes for any kind of relationship too. How we love our family, our friends, our neighbours, our local strangers, our enemies is just as much a choice as any romantic relationship.

As one who still dreams of "falling in love" (and I am such a dreamer), it is actually a good term to keep in mind. "Falling" is always temporary. The question is will I choose to love beyond the thud when the falling is over?

03 July 2011

europe week--düsseldorf, germany

Here's the finale. The highlight of my europe week. The crux. The whole reason in fact. Düsseldorf. City of Suhra. At least, that's why I even know about it. This is where my friend, Suhra, grew up. This is where her wedding was to take place a few days later.

I arrived here with Suhra and Mike at 2am but the next day still started early. We caught the train into town together and they pointed a few things out and where the shopping was and got me some maps and then went on to the airport to pick up more wedding guests. It was my plan to do some shopping but though I wandered around seemingly everywhere I didn't find what I was hoping to buy. After hours of frustration I made myself go do something touristy rather than just wander the shops. I passed by Marktplatz with the town hall and statue of Jan Wellem on his horse. Further down the street you run into the Rhine and from there I could see the Rhine Tower. I walked along Königsallee which has a nice water feature with fountain at one end and surrounded by trees and lovely green grass. That is lined by designer shops with overpriced goods. I went on past this to another shopping area but still couldn't find the sort of thing I was looking for. By now I had too much of an idea in my head and it was impossible to match. In the end I just gave up and decided to catch a train to go to the Rhine tower. The stop I got on at didn't have a ticket machine so I just got on. Then I couldn't see one on the train either. I did eventually see one when I was halfway there and since there were people packed around it I opted to just stay put and finish my journey. Thankfully no ticket-checkers on that journey.

I got to the Rhine tower and rode the lift 168m up to see Düsseldorf from a bird's eye view. It was a bit wierd looking almost straight down as I stood right at the edge of the window. He he. I eventually made my way back to the train and this time found a ticket booth. Good thing too coz there were ticket-checkers on the next train I caught. I sat at Mike and Suhra's working on some wedding projects I had to finish while I waited for them to return as well as the rest of the bridal party to show up. Suhra ran through the schedule for the next couple of days and then after dark, after given instructions, I caught two trains to meet and stay with the other bridesmaid who couldn't make it to the meeting. Just as I was approaching the stop I had to get off at I started thinking about something and distracted myself. At the last moment I realised I was there and jumped off. He he. Katrin and I greeted each other for the first time and then she took me back to her place.

Thursday, with an overnight bag packed, we journeyed to Maria's (maid of honour) for lunch with the bride and her bridesmaids. Delicious. German bread, wraps with fillings, chocolate cake and it poured rain. Thankfully that was the most of the rain for the day. We walked back to the train station, gave her a "bride-to-be" sash and put on our "maid of the bride" badges and then we blindfolded Suhra so she couldn't see where we were going . First stop was a massage place. Such a good decision. And not just for the stressed and busy bride-to-be. We had a 20min massage and then a facial and it was so relaxing. Some of the bridesmaids actually slept. It was a fantastic way to start the bachelourette day. After leaving there we wandered the blindfolded Suhra around before leading her back to a nail place two doors down. There she had her nails done and while that was happening I went hunting with a creative mind. What I managed to come back with was a make shift tiara/crown moulded out of aluminium foil I'd bought at the corner store. Now this looked like a bachelourette party. Blindfolded again we moved on to our next stop where I had to entertain Suhra while the others got things organised. Eventually we got to go in and we sat in the lobby of a hotel and had some champagne and a toast before heading up to our rooms. There Suhra walked into her room with roses and petals strewn around, we sang the chorus of a song and then gave her a gift from us that made her cry. It was a bracelet that had a charm representing the four of us and some others representing the life she was about to begin. You can see it here. We then got dressed up and prettied before heading out for dinner at an all you can eat asian place. It was good except asians don't seem to be big on dessert. :( We had fun chatting and laughing and taking photos. Unfortunately most of the photos taken of that day and the wedding were not on my camera. After dinner we went to a local club that was really quite fancy and other girls met us there. I gave them "I'm with the bride-to-be" badges and we hung out for a while. I must admit, it felt kinda empty in there and apart from a small group of us no one was dancing. We were going to surprise Suhra by having Mike and the guys meet us there but the bouncers wouldn't let them in. In the end we ditched that club and all went to another one not too far away that was smaller and fuller and more fun. This was also another first for me. First time clubbing. I'm not converted but I did have fun and even did some dancing. I hope I didn't look too ridiculous. Some of the others were very entertaining to watch dance. After a few hours though I was ready for some fresh air. We stayed out so late. I haven't seen that hour of the morning (by staying up) for quite some time. Lots of crazy photos taken...not on my camera though. We went back to our hotel and crashed into our comfortable beds.

Friday I wasn't needed in the morning so I went back down the street. I was obviously too tired though because I was being such a drama queen going back and forward between two shops and two different handbags and unable to make a decision. I almost bought one but then at the second last minute I just put it back on the shelf and walked away. If I wasn't convinced I would like it it wasn't worth wasting my money on. Drama finally dealth with, I went back to Katrin's and sorted out my clothes. I had to work out something that didn't stink of smoke and then we went to the church for the wedding rehersal, a dinner and an evening of decorating and final set up. I worked hard on my creative tasks to get them done and thankfully a few hours later I was done...and moved onto other things. Again it was well past midnight before we got home.

And the big day arrived. This is the day that brought me on this whole european adventure. A second time to live in the northern hemisphere. The wedding I'd been planning to come to for the last three years. We got up and got partly ready, swung by the florist to pick up the gorgeous flowers, and on to the hotel to meet the other girls. There we got dressed together and added our final touches as the photos started. We waited for the guys to show up while Suhra hid except when they did, they weren't dressed in their suits yet. Isn't it a bit backwards for the ready bride to be waiting for the groom? We posed for some first sight photos as Suhra came up behind Mike and tapped him on his shoulder. We then loaded into cars and went downtown for a photoshoot. Yes. Odd to have them before they were married but that's how the day was going to work best for them. It was a bit of fun being there with a whole bunch of people around. There were lots of loud comments and singing from those near by as they saw a bride and groom and wedding party. I think there was even a bachelour party going on with a bunch of drunk guys playing beer games and one outfitted in a dress. Unfortunately it was quite windy so I hope they got some decent photos. It even rained at one point and had us running back to the cars. Of course it stopped once we got in so we stepped out again for a few more. Then we went on to the church.

While this was my 5th time as a bridesmaid (I've been so priviliged) there were some firsts here. Like even attending a wedding in another country and also a multicultural one. There was a touch of Korean culture as well as the service translated into Korean. Johanna sang "Just the way you are" which made lots of people teary and Suhra promised to be a good wife according to Mike's will (he he, and God's when correcting herself). It was a lovely wedding. Suhra was stunning and Mike was handsome. We make a good looking bridal party don't you think?
Once the marrying was officially done and a few group photos taken, we moved on to the reception. Waiting around the corner while all the guests were seated the bridal party was announced and we danced in to "California Love". (Highly appropriate as that's where they met and fell in love.) The best man and maid of honour gave awesome speeches and then we ate. Mike and Suhra also appeared for a while in traditional Korean dress to cut the cake and feed each other the first bite. And smear some on each other's cheeks.

Throughout the evening various people did special things for the bride and groom. Some ran games which were fun to watch. One I had to play. I was the first one out and my punishment is to send the wedded couple a postcard. No worries! ^^ But I swear, no one understood how to play that game until halfway through. Katrin won it too. And the next one which was a dance competition where she was partnered with the photographer. Go Katrin! My favourite one was the pantomime. It was Suhra and Mike's history done to "Say a little prayer for you". It was hilariously fabulous! The night rolled on and the dance music boomed. I rotated through different activities...dancing, talking with people, taking photos, drinking a dieble (Düsseldorf beer--another first). I had a lot of fun. I got a lot of lovely comments too. It was fun to see some people I knew from the USA though I had hoped to see more. It was a fabulous celebration. Right through til home time at 3am!

Congratulations Mike and Suhra! Hope married life is awesome.

Sunday I actually slept in! Seriously!! I didn't get up til 11am. That's huge for me who says a good sleep in is 9am. I'm usually awake by 7:30 no matter what time I've gone to bed. I suppose a run of 2-3am bedtimes does that. I packed my things together and thanked Katrin for her wonderful hospitality and went to afternoon church with Katrin's other house guest. I thought it would be strange to go to a church that was in another language. Half the songs were in English but the pastor also decided to translate his sermon to english as well as he went. We had a korean lunch after church which reminded me of San Francisco and discovered Mike and Suhra had taken someone to the airport. We were worried we wouldn't say a proper goodbye to them but just as we were about to leave--as in finally got in the car to go--they returned. Yay. We wished them well and said goodbye and I gave them my present coz I forgot to take it to the wedding. Busy being a bridesmaid... Then I was driven to the airport.

I arrived at the airport and used the quick check in machine to get my ticket after a bit of trouble getting it to work for me. I then took my bag to the drop off counter and the lady said, "You realise your flight has been delayed for almost two hours?" Ah right, that would explain why the gate opening time on my ticket was LATER than the flight time. So I roamed the few shops and ate some food and spent the last of my euro cash on some chocolate. When I went to the gate I had to show my passport. The guy started flicking through the pages. "Yeah, there's no stamps," I said. He looked at me but let me through. Just as I was passing through they called to me out the back door. He said something in German which I figured was asking if I spoke german so I said no. The other guy that was in there asked for my passport and why I have no stamps. "I came by train and no one asked to see my passport," I replied. After a moment he gave it back and let me go on. I consider it quite sad really that I had a week's trip in europe and all my passport shows of it is my re-entry into England. That's the downer about travelling to another country by land. I was able to hurry through the airport in London. When I found out my flight had been delayed I was hoping I wouldn't get stuck in London for the night as I had to work at 8am the next day. I'd planned it so I could catch the second last train home already so with the change I wasn't sure how it was going to happen. I was too late for the bus I'd booked but that was only £6 wasted. I had to buy a ticket on the fast train though which cost me £18 instead but it was worth it coz it meant I got into London in time to catch the last train home. So at 12:45am I wheeled my bag through the door, dumped my stuff and climbed into bed...ending my europe week adventure. What a blast!