The Adventures of Shelly

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Parting thoughts on London

Well, after just 3 short days in the London area, Mark and I have just a few cultural thoughts on our experiences. For anyone who wants to visit London, they should keep these things in mind.

1. London is VERY expensive. Right now the pound is equal to $1.90. So as you can imagine, it doesn't carry you very far here. But to add insult to injury, everything here is the same price in pounds as it is back home in dollars. So for example, if you see a sandwich for L3.90 it's really around $7.45! When you get into the tower of London for 15 lbs, it's really 30 bucks! Mark and I were just shocked by the prices here and we did everything cheap. Cheap bed and breakfast, cheap eating, no souvenirs (unless you count postcards that I bought to keep) and in just 3 days we spent about $1,000. But in pounds we only spent about 550 and everyone here tells us we did good!

2. Smoking is more acceptable here. Actually, I'm writing this from Germany and smoking is more acceptable in Europe in general. Right now a woman is smoking in the internet cafe that I'm at and it's driving me nuts. But here people can smoke in the restaurants, the trains, the metro stations, the small grocery markets, and even some buses.

3. English really is different from American. On Sunday when I was with Savitri she was talking to another sister and she said, "He told a porky." I looked at her quizzically. "What is a porky?" She laughed. As a transplanted American she could relate to my question. "It means lie. Ya know, Porky Pie Lie." I didn't know, it didn't make sense, but it was just one of the dozen or so sayings that I heard and had to process.

4. You're wrong if you think the U.S. is the place everyone wants to move to. Here in the U.K. I've seen just as many races, ethnicities, religions, and cultures as I see in the U.S. In fact, maybe more. But it really is a little mind-blowing when you're talking to a Chinese person and they start talking to you in broken English, but with a British accent. You have to stop and think. "Oh yeah, they're going to learn how to talk British here".

5. London is like New York, only they speak with accents and the buildings are older. (Loud, hysterical laughter) Sorry to disappoint, but that truly was my impression. I was impressed with London because the culture here has been around longer as well as the buildings and statues and museums and such. But you know the saying, 'it's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live here'. Well, I would reverse that for London. London is a nice (expensive) place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit here. Why do I say that? Well, it's such an expensive experience for something so similar to the States. I wanted to see London because I'd never been and I wanted to see what everyone was talking about. Plus, it was a great stop for getting over jet lag. But Mark and I both agreed that if we come to England again, this time we will go into the country side, visit Savitri and Stuart, and maybe just day-trip into London.

So those are my closing thoughts on London. Feel free to email me if you read this and disagree.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Finishing up in London

Today (Monday, July 10th) is our last full day in London. Tomorrow we'll be leaving for Paris. So we decided that the best thing to do would be to take a bus tour. I must say for anyone planning to come to London, this is a great idea and some of the best money we spent. For $40 a person, we got to get on and get off these buses at over 50 different sites in London. It also included some London walks (we chose the Da Vinci code one which was pretty fascinating) and a boat tour on the Thames (shame on us, we didn't go).

The buses were great because after doing a ton of walking the past couple of days, while getting over jetlag, it was nice to just sit back, plug in some earphones, and hear about these interesting sites. Of course, as it does in London, it started to rain. We enjoyed the coolness and decided to go buy tickets to a play. Now Mark and I have never seen a play together so we figured that in England, especially London, this was a great way to experience culture. So we decided to see a suspenseful, scary play called Woman in Black. We heard it was one of those plays that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The play did not disappoint. With just 2 men (and a mysterious woman that appeared at the most scariest moments) a couple of crops, some lighting, and noise affects, this play sucked you right in. At one point the entire audience screamed out loud. It was really suspenseful and scary and the ending was pretty cool. I won't tell any of you it (aren't I cruel) but when you all go to London, you can go see it.

It was a VERY full day today. Well, I must go. The internet place is kicking me out. See you guys later.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Savitri and Stuart

Today is Sunday and Mark and I left London to travel to the "town" of Reading. I have the word town in parenthesis because the place has over 200,000 inhabitants. However, because it has no official chapel, England doesn't recognize it as a city. Interesting, huh. Anyways, Mark and I were meeting up with a couple that we had never met before. Our good friends Chrissie and Steve found out that we were going to England and decided to hook us up with Steve's sister Savitri who has lived in England for over 10 years. They live near Reading so we met up there. We took the train into Reading station and looked for a woman that looked like the feminine version of Steve. Soon they arrived.

Now to give you guys a little background, Savitri and Stuart are Jehovah's Witnesses who have been studying Chinese. Recently, a Chinese congregation was started in Reading, so they are like mini-missionaries in their own country. Sav and Stu invited Mark and I to accompany them for an afternoon to see what it was like. So we decided to be a little adventurous and go... OK, so I decided to be adventurous and Mark came along because he had no choice. Hee, hee. Poor man.

Well, it was very interesting. First we had a small meeting for the preaching work. This was conducted in English by Stuart (thank goodness). But the Chinese sisters (no they are NOT nuns, Jehovah's Witnesses call the women sisters; and the men we call brothers) read their parts in Chinese. So I understood most of it. Then we divided into groups. Stuart (who has been studying Chinese for only a year, this guy's brain is amazing) had a Bible study and was going to take Mark. And the car! So Savitri, myself, and four others had to walk to the town center. (about a 20 minute walk) There you approach people who appear Chinese, introduce yourself (in chinese) and invite them to a study of the Bible. Well the usual fearless me quickly disappeared when I realized what was involved. Savitri and this other sister Justina visiting from Tokyo were experts. Savitri could peer into a crowd of dozens of people; pick out the Chinese speakers; and just start talking to them in Chinese! Oh, and did I tell you she's only been studying Chinese for a year also? Oh, and when she reads people a scripture from the Bible, her Bible is in Chinese too, with all those different characters. I stood there a complete mute. But apparently, the Chinese are very eager to learn about the Bible. Savitri and Stuart have started 25 Bible studies since January!

Well, after the preaching work, Savitri, Justina, and I walked to the meeting. This was another 20-30 minute walk depending on your speed. I'm telling you, I love walking, and so it doesn't bother me, but I'm starting to realize how horribly dependent on cars Americans are. Most Americans would have balked at walking to a place several miles away instead of looking at it as an opportunity to enjoy the day.

Well, when we arrived at the hall there was a mix of people from England, China, and Tokyo. You could hear both English and Chinese being spoken as everyone greeted each other. It was neat and intimidating at the same time. Savitri and I found some seats and then she introduced me to some of the friends. Then it was time to start. But where were Mark and Stu? Yup, they were late. And they were the ones with the car! ha, ha! Well we started to sing, but I only had an English songbook. So Savitri and I sang in English while everyone else sang in Chinese. That was neat. We were all singing the same song. But in different languages.

The brother gave the talk 75% in Chinese, 25% in English. He was from Tokyo so Chinese was his first language. But he did some in English because about 50% of the people in attendance were learning Chinese in order help the fledgling congregation. I thought that was very kind. When the brother read the scriptures in Chinese, Mark and I followed along in English. It was a very good discourse.

Then came the Watchtower study. (For those of you who are not Jehovah's Witnesses this is a question and anwer type Bible discussion we have on Sundays using an article from the Watchtower magazine. Because we study the same article all around the world, Mark and I could follow along in our English Watchtower even though the paragraphs were being read in Chinese) The brother who conducted the Watchtower was a Brit who had been studying Chinese for just 18 months. But he asked all the questions in Chinese. When the brothers and sisters answered, they would answer in English, Chinese, or a mixture of both. The reader was a young brother from Tokyo. He read SO fast. But Savitri had an English alphabet Watchtower that showed Chinese in English type letters with the Chinese writing underneath it. So I actually started to figure some things out! Finally, I got up the courage and asked Savitri to help me prepare an answer. My pronunciation was SO BAD. But everyone was so nice about it. Mark answered too, but only in English. I answered again in Chinese, but this time my pronunciation was much better. And I answered in English too (smile).

Afterwards, many Chinese people came up to Mark and I to say hi. The one thing they all said was how much they liked our American accents. This was a welcome compliment in England. But there was a reason they liked the accent. You see, many Chinese people learn English through American television and movies. So Mark and I were easier for them to understand. It's amazing how much influence Hollywood has abroad. But I have noticed that no one seems to have trouble understanding us, so for that; I am grateful to Hollywood. For me, the strange thing was talking to the Chinese people who had been in England for a long time and hearing them speak English with a London accent.

After the meeting, Mark, Savitri, Stuart, and I went out for Japanese food at this really good place called (get this) Wagamama's. I think that's the most hilarious name. Then Mark and I headed back for London. It was a great time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Do you speak American?

Hi Everyone! Hope everything is going well in the States. Here in London, everything is good. Mark and I are having a great time.

When we arrived in London, our plane was actually early. So it had to sit on the runway for a little bit. Apparently, London airport doesn't allow people in before 6 am. This normally wouldn't have bothered Mark or myself because for us passengers it was really 1 in the morning and many of us just wanted to sleep. Unfortunately, a 3 year old several rows in front of us had other plans. You see, a family was traveling together and between them they had 2 toddlers and a newborn. The children basically started making the business and coach passengers miserable about a few minutes after takeoff. First, the toddlers (a boy and a girl) started off in chorus. It was a direct, "I'm tired" cry for the girl, but the boy's was a "I definitely do not want to sleep, so I'm going to scream until I get my way" cry. The newborn was at this point mercifully asleep. About an hour into the flight, both toddlers went to sleep. And all was quiet. But they were serving dinner, so Mark and I couldn't sleep. Instead we had to eat. Then the plane lights went out...and everything was quiet...and everyone started to drift off...BUT IT WAS ALL A TRICK. The newborn woke up and started to cry. The boy, who had been asleep, wokeup, saw there was a movie playing on the screen, and began to whine. The girl, woke up, got scared in her new surroundings, and began to cry. And so, 2 hours into our flight, Mark and I gave up trying to sleep and decided to watch t.v. instead. Which would have been fine except Mark's t.v. was broken. So he started flipping my channels. And t.v. broke! About 3 hours into the flight, Mark and I managed to fall asleep. Sleep was sporadic. Everytime I would drift off, "The Brat" as I came to call him, would start to whine, or the newborn would cry.

So anyway, we arrive in London on maybe 2 hours of sleep, and it's only 6am. Bu according to all the guidebooks we shouldn't go to sleep. Instead, we have to go sightseeing and stay up until at least 10 o'clock Britain time!

So after customs, we hop the subway, and then walk to our inn, the Morgan House. There we are met by Rachel. She allows us to drop our backpacks off at the Inn, has one of the girls make us breakfast, and advises us to go to the Tower of London.

I didn't want to go to the Tower, but Mark did. So we went. Well, if you like stories of murder and beheadings, this is the place. They had Yeoman, also known as Beefeaters, tell stories of the trials and executions that used to take place in England. Also, they had on display the instruments of torture used to evict confessions from their prisoners. The Tower is great. We spent several hours there. (grin) But seriously, they have the crown jewels on display there (no photos are allowed there, otherwise I'd show you the diamond ring Mark bought for me and lent to them), fascinating armor displays, pet ravens, and tons of British history.

Well, anyway, after we'd been there for a couple of hours, I stopped to talk to some nice older gentlemen who were dressed in retired military uniforms. I wanted to find out what their uniforms meant. So one starts talking to me, and I realize very quickly that he has a very thick cockney accent. I'm not sure if it was my jetlag, his accent, or a combination of both, but I did not understand a - word - he - said! So I looked at him with this completely blank face and asked, "I'm sorry. Do you speak American?" He and the other gentleman burst out laughing. "So sorry, we didn't realize you don't speak English." And then in a much slower pace he explained about their uniforms.

Later Mark and I were watching a movie at this display and the funniest thing happened. It was this little 8 minute movie about Guy Falkes and they had these little wooden benches you could sit on. So I sit down and for some reason, Mark sits several rows behind me. So by this point, I am d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g. I am falling asleep all over the place. Leaning against walls, sitting on benches, propping against trees, and Mark is trying his best to keep me awake. (evil man) So I think he decided to sit away from me so that I couldn't lean on him. Well, 2 minutes into the movie I'm nodding away. All the sudden, I wake up to find myself sliding off the bench in a forward fashion, and this mother is looking down at me like, "What has this woman been drinking?" Behind me I can hear Mark trying quite unsuccessfully not to laugh. "Ya'all right, Lass?" asked the mother as she inched her children farther down the bench. I wiped the drool off my chin and nodded. "jetlag" I mumbled wanting to crawl under the bench and die. AFTER getting some sleep in of course. But I managed to stay awake for the rest of the film.

Afterwards, Mark and I decided to get something to eat. This helped wake me up somewhat. Then we walked across London Bridge. Later, we caved and took a nap. Then we had dinner at a pub and went back to bed.

SO. My advice to all you would be European travelers. Ask for a non-children flight. And if they say they don't have one, two words. I-POD. Very handy to block out screaming children.

Well, I must go now. But hopefully tomorrow Mark and I will be able to download fotos. So if you come back, come back to this entry and see the cool pix.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Aaaahhhhhhhhhh! (that's French for screaming)

You must pardon Shelly, she has temporarily lost her mind, planning this trip! Must she relinguish her control of the blog to her trusty sidekick, Mark Kent? Yes, that's right! Mark Kent, mild mannered instructor by day, fearless caped crusader by night. O.K., so it's a sheet, but that's only because the cape is at the cleaners. 'Cuz I don't do laundry any more. Think that's bad, well then hang on to your hat. This is Shelly's blog. And... after a few side grabbing moments of laughter she is back...

Hi everyone. Shelly here. My good friend Vikki has helped me to set up a blog for all of my adventures. This year it's Europe. Mark and I will be traveling to this wonderful continent for a month. (By the way, if you are a thief planning to rob my house, I have a state of the art alarm system. It's comprised of lasers, vicious cats, nosy neighbors, and the mother-in-law. {evil laughter})

So anyways, Jehovah willing, here are the spots we are planning to visit and in this order: London, Paris, Brussels (brief stop), Amsterdam, Hamburg, Munich, Innsbruck, Switzerland, Barcelona, and last but not least, Madrid. Eight countries, 30 days, 16,000 miles. Amazing Race you've got nothin' on us! Oh, and did I tell you we're doing this with one backpack each? Mark will be carrying them both, of course. Unless I get tired of walking. Then he'll be carrying me too. (For those of you who think I'm joking...stay tuned.)

Tah, tah for now.