Friends, Flatmates, Funny embarrassing stories

Wow! A lot has happened over the weekend. I am enjoying England more each day, and feeling as if I am belonging more and more. I was worried there for while, but God is good and answered my requests almost immediately. He has provided in every way and let things run smoothly for my transition here so far; I need to continue to trust Him to provide a part time job now. I have been busily handing in CVs everywhere I go. I am out of luck to continue my employment at Starbucks in the UK, so I might have to jump ship and join another coffee shop.

Well, Friday I finally visited Leeds City Art Gallery. Looking for the gallery led to a lot of other “adventures” when I couldn’t find it the first couple days. I took an open ballet class at Northern Ballet Theatre, which just made me miss my ballerina days more, but it was good, oh so good to be back in class! I also applied for an internship there in marketing, but we’ll see about that later…

Met some great new girl friends at the International students night – and we all went (guess what??) shopping all day Saturday. They are from Australia, Canada, Belgium, and Germany. All my flatmates are back for the semester, and I am especially happy to have Rachel and Cat back. I love my flatmates! Cat and Rachel and I get along well and can talk girl stuff and watch chick flicks together; Jack and Udo and Rich are always up to something – tonight it was playing the Irish flute…ok. Next they’re going to have an entire band in our kitchen! I’m thankful to have them to walk to the grocery store with or help eat all the cookies I make.

I visited another church Sunday and I think it will be a good fit. I had been asking the Lord for Christian fellowship, and some trustworthy friends in Leeds, and He definitely supplied those needs quickly! I was so impressed with the young people’s passion for sharing Jesus’ love with children in Leeds and reaching the younger generations that I volunteered to get involved in their ministry, Kidz Klub, targeting unchurched children in Leeds. I thought, why not commit to serving the people here in Leeds for the time that I am in the city, even if it is only 6 months.

Oh, one funny thing that happened to me? Well, funny for some unsuspecting early riser this past drizzly Sunday morning. On the way back from my run I decided to break out dancing down our street to 500 Days of Summer soundtrack on my ipod. I had checked to make sure no one was in the vicinity, I thought… I stopped my leaping and twirling when I noticed a parked car’s windshield wipers going back and forth. I don’t dance in front of people unless I’m on stage. Well, that car driver got their own private performance. I ran by the car as fast as I could!

I have been so busy exploring Leeds and meeting people that I almost forgot why I am here: school. My first classes are tomorrow. I’m sure it’s nothing I can’t handle. Wish me well! Or better, send your prayers.

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Ode to Cheese

Because the cheeses available in England (and I’m certain the all of Europe) are to die for, and they’re cheap! Even considering the exchange rate, one round (200g) of brie or Camembert from the local grocer costs about £1. That’s $1.60 for the quality and amount of cheese that would in America cost me $5 to $8 for an equivalent amount (1/2 lb). American cheeses like cheddar are cheap to produce, and our dairy costs have actually gone down in the last 2 years, but the high quality molded cheeses are imported and usually only available in health food or specialty grocery stores in the US.

I am enjoying grocery shopping and cooking for myself in England, can you tell?! It’s probably because I’m still in vacation mode and have plenty of time to cook. I made a couple batches of cookies for my flat mates already and they were a big hit. I think that any type of cookies will score high compared to plain ol’ “biscuits”. The boys are thrilled that I like to bake and share. They are all pretty good cooks too, actually. I was surprised to see all my male flat mates cook – and I mean really cook, like getting out potatoes and olive oil and pesto and tomatoes and mushrooms and cheese and some sort of pork patté stuff, and onions and garlic and basil and oregano and creating something out of it. And they do this for most all meals! I was impressed. Also popular among my flat mates is making coffee in a cafetiérre (french press) each morning. I’m sticking to my tea, and yes, I drank tea before I came to England.

This is becoming the break I needed to get my eating habits back on track, plus the walk to the grocery store is a bonus for not having a gym. I already found ways to make some vegetarian dishes in our little kitchen like stuffed courgettes (zucchini), spinach quiche, sweet potato and split pea soup. Jack made some sort of mushroom pancakes or fritters… anyway, they were good. I ate one without thinking about it being mushrooms. I still need to make aubergine lasagna (eggplant). I’m learning some fun new names the British use for vegetables! The main food groups in my diet are quickly transforming into these: Nutella, fine cheeses, fruits and vegetables, olive oil and legumes, tea and coffee.

Cheers mates!

Winter in Leeds…

Today marks my one week living in Leeds, England. The “harsh winter weather” lasted only the first 4 days I was here. It snowed lightly and the temperatures dropped to below freezing, but this is no Boston, that’s for sure! The ice on the streets was the worst part – I literally ice skated down the road from my flat, and then there was another couple hundred meter stretch of ice skating rink until you hit the main road which was covered in black slush, or “sludge” as they call it here. We wanted to go sledding down the hills nearby,  called “sludging”, appropriately, for when the ices melts into sludge.

Well, the weather warmed up a bit, and immediately I saw less winter clothing. A local post man has been wearing only shorts and a short-sleeve shirt all this winter, with thick socks and boots, of course. I saw him one day and commented on ‘how you must be cold’ to which he laughed and replied in his thick accent, “wore dem straight through since summer!” I knew at that point I was just egging on his mantra. Trying to get a feel for the fashion in England, I have been surprised by the number of girls in this town I have seen wearing tights and short skirts or nothing at all except long sweaters. From the back it looks like they’re wearing nothing under their coats other than boots.

I am doing consequently exactly what the British love to do – talk about the weather. They’re even proud of the fact that they talk about the weather so much. “We’re on an island, you see, so we get all sorts of weather.” Yes, but usually not any drastic changes. Their snow is like soft Nutcracker suite glitter, and their rain like faint April mist. I wondered how the British could walk everywhere in such wet weather. Now I understand. It’s like an ever present wetness in the air, not heavy American Midwest humidity, more like wafting sea mist. This is a bit of an overstatement; I don’t know how to describe the difference in the humidity better here than to show pictures of what it does to my hair. Stick straight in New Mexico, my hair was a frizz by time I got out of the taxi in Leeds. Here are some pictures inside my apartment after a brief walk outside to drop off a CV.

Also, some pictures from my 7th floor flat of the surrounding city and the snow while it was there. Now I wake up to thick fog every morning, and sometimes rainbows when it begins to clear.

Price of Forgiveness

Can you imagine what a life without a trace of guilt would be like? That is what Christ lived and what he allowed for when He took the raging sea of mankind’s sins from the beginning of time to the end and paid for it all with one horrible death. The verse in 2 Cor.5:21 “For our sake He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” takes on new meaning when you recognize how willingly He took on all our weight and guilt from sin, and remained sinless while he endured the punishments, torture, humiliation, and pain of the most wretched death the Romans could create for their worst criminals. Christ not only did the hardest thing in history; he did what no other man in history would ever be capable of – to give himself into the arms of those he knew would put him to a shameful death when he himself bore no shame, and although he had the power to stop it at his will, he did not, because he deemed all of mankind worth paying the price for.

In that light, it makes it harder for me to justify any of my sin when I know I have been granted forgiveness of my sins. I have been freely given a clean slate, time and time again. His forgiveness is limitless! That should make me ecstatic! I need to remember the price he paid for my freedom and guiltlessness whenever I consider giving into sin. If we had appropriate gratitude for what Christ did for us, I think we would be a much more pure and joyful people.

“GOC”

“‘God’s Own Country’ that what this is,” one of the gentlemen who works in the residence office in the basement of my flat told me in his thickest Yorkshire accent. I smiled as I thought about the beautiful country in this urban area of Leeds. Yesterday I had the chance to see many old church buildings along my walk down to the city centre. They were all well kept up, but I wondered about the congregations inside. Surely they serve God, but what about the many church buildings here that have been turned into clubs or bars? I was sorry to see them in such disgrace.

I know that God’s spirit is still present in this country, but fewer and fewer profess to be Christians. As I prepare for my semester at the university, I find myself reconsidering where I stand with the Lord and where my boundaries lie. I need His strength to resist temptation, as I would in any university, but I wonder what it is that is different in the young people here who are so friendly and open, yet lacking any respect of the spiritual.

Ephesians talks about the spiritual realm being real. Ephes. 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Both in verse 11 and 13 Paul tells us that as Christians, we are to “take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (13)

There are spiritual princes set up over different parts of the world to war for our souls. I wonder who is the spiritual prince over England today? Is he one of God’s angels or one of Satan’s? When I went out with my flatmates the other night, I could sense as we moved closer and to downtown and the crowds got younger and increasingly more drunk, that the “night out” to have fun was taking on a different course. Often I want to ignore what is going on around me and see only what I want to see, that it’s “not that bad” because sure, I want to have fun and not totally isolate myself from the other students here, but sometimes I cannot go along with them. What I felt was a fake sense of belonging all the young people were trying to make, that they all believed in or wanted something that tied them together – and that something was what they don’t know. They can’t find it in alcohol, sex, drugs or each other. When I stopped to listen to what the reverberating chant of all these young Brits was really about and stopped pulsing to what I just wanted to be music, I realized we were in the midst of a screeching riot. “I won’t do what they tell me!” The thing that supposedly would bring them together in purpose was their defiance of authorities. They wanted to define themselves, but don’t know how and end up defining themselves in rebellion alone.

The presence of both good and evil are evident, as both forces are evident over our own states. Great Britain seems to be slowly but surely sinking into the mentality of its European brother and sister countries. Will it too be swallowed up in deception and immorality? It is well on its way there. I pray that God will sustain His people in England and multiply them. What can we do? Pray.

I’m Here!

Tuesday 12.1.10 9pm Greenwich time

I got to my residence about twenty after 6, so the office was closed, but I hit all the doorbells until someone let me in, then this girl, Kayla from Slovakia in flat 7 opened it and helped me call the sub warden who had to call around to get into the office for me and get me an extra key until the office is open tomorrow. The office has lately only been open from 8 to 10 in the mornings because of the snow.

All my flights went smoothly until I got to London. After waiting around for 3 hours until they posted the gate number, I found out my flight had been canceled. I’m still not sure why the flights to Manchester were canceled; there’s snow but it’s not bad. They gave us the run around for a couple hours until they decided to have us go out and get our bags and come back in through customs and security so we could get re-booked to another flight. Needless to say, I missed my train, and by time I spent all morning/afternoon in the London airport I was beginning to feel the jet lag.
So we did get to Manchester, then I got on the wrong train at first, but got off at the next stop and got it sorted out, and from the station in Leeds I took a taxi to my residence. Again, I had the opportunity to speak with a very talkative Afghanistan man who told me about his hard life being separated from his first wife who he followed to England, and their daughter, and how he now works hard to provide for his second wife and family. He showed me a picture of his little boy who had heart trouble at 11-months and had to undergo lots of surgeries there in Leeds. He said god must have wanted this hardship to happen to him. I told him that my God is not a vengeful god, but a loving god who wants good for him.

God put a lot of people in my way today, or yesterday and today or whatever it is, to show me the way and answer my questions. I would feel very comfortable doing it again. Even in the early morning at London before I found out my flight was canceled, I sat down next to a gentleman having coffee and he ended up being from Washington state and was headed to Uganda to help with the orphanage and school he and his wife started there. We started talking about God and it was a very blessed situation and meeting. I thought it funny that my church in Columbia supports a missionary family in Uganda who run an orphanage and school as well. Perhaps it’s providence. They’re not in the same city, but I gave him the church website so maybe he can contact them.

My roommates (three out of 5 five are here already studying for semester 1 exams: Rachel (25), Jack (21) and Udo(21). Udo an exchange student from Germany who has been here since semester 1, the rest are from the UK. Rich and Cat are the other two flat mates who will be getting back in town sometime soon, I suppose. That will make it a total of 6 flat mates in our 6 bedroom flat on the top (10th) floor of our house. It’s very quiet and I have a view of trees, fields, city blocks and quaint English cottages from the windows. Now is not the time to decide I brought too much with me, except sweaters. Jack told me as he lugged my heavy suitcase up to the top, “You will come to hate these stairs.” I’m sure he is right; there are ten stories to climb, twelve if you count the basement where the office is.

I think we will get along well; they are all very open and friendly, although I think I am the only Christian. Rachel even had extra sheets and a sleeping bag for me since I couldn’t go to the store tonight. I’m just glad I got in! No one knew I was coming today, except the lady I emailed who I thought worked in the office, and I didn’t call in time to tell her I was coming late.

Phew! That was a lot! I am going to finish unpacking and catch up on some sleep! Good night!

Wednesday 13.1.10

OK so I exaggerated about the stairs. I went up and down them quite a bit today, got to count them. Although there are 10 flats, there are 2 on each floor except the top two and bottom floors. So, all in all there are seven flights of stairs. Just thought I should clarify that. I only want to be known to provide the true facts!

Looking Forward to a New Decade

New Years parties and the Rose Bowl parade are over. As the New Year solidifies itself, I have a lot of exciting new adventures to look forward to and blog about. I have committed to keep my blog up to date and my friends informed. I hope you enjoy my journey along with me.

What to expect from Introspectiondance in 2010:

  • Travelogue in the UK – and hopefully some traveling in Western Europe this summer
  • My experience studying at University of Leeds
  • Becoming a vegetarian during my time in England for health and safety concerns
  • Reviving dance for pleasure apart from a career: taking ballet or contemporary class at a local studio/company in England
  • Reviews of the shows and performances I see
  • One or more short stories because I plan to enter some fiction contests.

As for goals, I have my set of annually renewed or revised expectations like most people, but I decided on one thing I want to change for 2010. It is basically being ready to give an account of the hope within me and talk about and praise the Lord more openly. (1 Peter 3:15)