Friday, September 2, 2011

Day Fourteen

Internet has been out for a long time, so yeah!  Let's focus on the adventure!

We left the hotel, and we even got the chance to sleep in! We woke up at seven, baby! How's that for living in style? We had been waking up as early as five, which is hard on the traveling body. We ate food, and I couldn't tell you what we ate 'cause my journal won't tell me. (At least I'm honest) Soon, we were on our trip to Wales!
It was a four hour journey, with a ten minute pit stop in the middle. I hadn't brought any entertainment like Ipods, so I basically just sat and stared out the window. And boy, did the view keep me occupied. I didn't know much about Wales until I traveled there, so I wasn't expected it to be so beautiful. It's incredibly mountainous and green, with small streams stretching through the landscape like veins. Pictures really don't do the place justice.

The fact that we were in a moving bus kind of hampered my photography abilities. Still, I got a few good pictures.

By the time that we arrived, we were all ready to stretch our legs. We stopped at a cozy little inn for lunch. There, we met Anna and Will, two Welsh locals and our culture guides for the rest of the day. They were both quite friendly. We ate lunch, which was. . . (searches pictures)

This! Which appears to be carrot and onion mash, roast beef, boiled potatoes, peas, and bread. I remember it being pretty good. Anna tried to learn all of our names. She did very well, actually. When she was going about naming everyone at my table, she got every name except mine. She squinted at me and was going, "Oh, one moment! I got it, I got it!"

"Think the Bible," I offered.

"Ah, you're Esther!" she said.

Ding ding ding! The bible thing doesn't usually work! Oh well.

We gathered outside for our walk to a lake. The entire town (the more proper town would be village) was on a mountain, so buildings were scattered across the uneven terrain. I thought it was cool that a lake was up there.

On a side note, I remember us gathering outside the inn, and that there were a set of about 12 steps leading from the entrance to the ground, protected by a rail. I remember one guy (his name withheld)  letting out a cry and then trying to slide down the rail at high speeds. He went too fast and soared into the gravel parking lot, scratching up his palms. Score one for common sense! I remember him begging us not to let the delegation leaders know, because, well, it wasn't a very smart thing to do. (He WAS usually very intelligent)

So, to the lake! It was a lovely, green spot, full of swans and ducks! DUCKS!

And yet here is a picture of a swan.

We played a few team-building games before proceeding to attempt to learn the Welsh language. It is the third most difficult language for an English speaking person to learn. It is incredibly guttural, some sounds of the alphabet are more than two syllables long, and I can't even create some of the noises Will was pulling off. I don't remember much, but I do remember how to say the number thirty-six. It's pronounced TREE-dahg-qwakgh. We all had to recite our delegation numbers in Welsh, and in 17 seconds. There are forty of us! It took us a while, but we did it, and beat the Texas Delegation (the delegation that was here before us) record. Eat that, Texas. We beat them in numerous endeavors throughout the trip.

Our delegation after destroying the second largest state with the power of harsh and guttural sounds.
We walked back to our bus. It was really nice and cool, with a light breeze. Wales is a really nice place, if not perpetually cloudy. We were only there for about forty-eight hours, but I'm pretty sure sunlight isn't very common there. (Edward and Bella have found their new home!) Anna joined us on our bus trip to Bangor University. The trip was about an hour. Bangor University kind of reminded me of ISU in its layout, for those who know what I'm talking about. It was really cool, though. Each student got her own dorm, which was really great! I was really looking forward to my alone time. I enjoy sleeping on my on schedule, too.

The only problem was the lock on my door.

Okay, there wasn't a problem with the lock. There was a problem with me. This sounds utterly ridiculous, but I have little experience with key-and-lock doors, so when I was handed my door key I was caught off guard. But no worries, right? I mean, you just stick the key in the hole and twist, right? So I did that, and locked myself out of room. My friend turned and said

FRIEND: Esther, what are you doing over there?

ESTHER: (while desperately fiddling with the lock) I'm just trying to figure out how this door works!

FRIEND: What, you mean you can't open the door?

ESTHER: (leans against the door casually) What do you mean? Of course I can open the door. It's not like I have First Born Child syndrome or anything! Ha ha!

FRIEND: Do you want help with that?

ESTHER: Psh, sure, if you want to.

So the girl went to fiddle with my lock, but I had somehow kind-of-sort-of jammed my key in there. After a few moments of frustration, I finally managed to unlock the door all by my lonesome.

So take that, unfaithfuls.


Dinner was at the cafeteria. I had a sausage stew, lasagna, and tater tots. I know, sounds weird, but it was pretty good.

'Tis my food.

'Tis the cafeteria
So after that, we hopped on the bus yet again to meet with our Full-On team. Full-On is a group from New Zealand that focuses on building leadership and confidence in teens, and they have a particular relationship with People to People. It was a short trip, and we all loaded into a gymnasium-like place. I don't have any pictures because we all took our lanyards off and I had my camera attached to my lanyard. But, she said dramatically, I will have the experience in my mind forever.

Today was basically an introduction class for what we were going to do the next day, which was rappelling down a castle. We had a lot of games and lessons though, and I learned so much. I really can't tell you all of what was discussed, but I feel like I changed a little after it. We talked about the differences between being a reactive and proactive human being, what excuses really are, and it was all suprisingly deep and not cheesy. A lot of the ambassadors came in thinking it was one of those, "You can do it if you just believe classes", and it was, but it was more than that.

After our egos were pysched up, boards of wood were introduced. We were to break them in half with our hands. We all were separated into three groups so the wood-chopping madness would go faster. We were given the option to "soft break" or "hard break" the wood. I chose the latter. Hard break is slamming the lower half of your hand through the wood, standing up. Soft break looks really cool: it's a quick movement were you sort of slap through the wood. However, our full-on coach said to pick the one that seemed the most difficult for us, so I chose the hard-break.

While everyone was taking turns, we all supported each other and cheered each other on. It was really fun. Some people were nervous, but they all mananged do it on their second or third try. (you only got three tries) When my turn was up, I was ready to break stuff. I was the only one to choose the "hard-break", so I got the tutorial, ha! So after going through all the steps, I took a deep breath, and popped through the board on my first try. It collapsed under my hand so easily and quickly that I hadn't even processed that I broke it until its halves were lying at my feet. So much fun! I think only two people were unable to break the board, but I felt like a super-human. We all got our boards signed: I still have mine in my memory box. After that, we went home to our nice, soft, beds.


And so, I settled on my bed, wrote in my journal, read a book, and drifted off to dream land. And so goes day fourteen!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day Thirteen

This was a day full of huzzahs and hurrahs, dramatic battles and victories, pidgeon armies, avengeful peacocks, balls of fire rocketing through the sky, tours of age old castles, tempermental captains, and lessons on queen's beauty products. So yeah, a very fun day. I can't wait to tell you about lucky day thirteen.

I slept great, and this is fortunate because I would have a very active day ahead of me, full of resplendent birds and faux violence and such. Our breakfast was a massive buffet, and it had these delicious cinnamon pastries (not cinnamon rolls, I think) that I devoured vigorously. Best cinnamony things ever. I ate three.

It's my breakfast! Eatin' up my BREAKFAST. Gotta eat my cinnamon thingies, yeah..

We hopped on our bus, for which I am grateful. I loved walking London, but bus rides provide the much-needed breaks to preserve your mental integrity. We had a small bus tour of London. We hit a lot of the Harry Potter filming sites, such as Diagon Alley and the bridge in the Deathly Hallows that got attacked by Death Eaters (or was it dementors)  and that was a lot of fun. We learned some cool fun facts, too. One I remember in particular is about Queen Elizabeth, who used a lead hair paste to style her hair. It caused her to go completely bald, and so she had to use fake eyebrows made of rat skin. Dandy.

We went to see the changing of the guard next. It was very crowded by the time we got to our viewing site, but it was exciting. Soon the music started to play and we could hear the uniform footsteeps of the guard marching before we could see it, and then we saw the guard stomp right past us.

The whole process is incredibly detailed, so we didn't get to watch it all. We watched as the guard marched past the Buckingham Palace gate, and out of view. Past our line of site would be the old guard preparing to switch places with the new one, and then the old one would depart.
We took our bag lunches to the park, which was a two minute walk from where we were standing. It was ketchup sandwiches and chips. I like to try new foods, but the sandwich was really gross, so I could only eat half of it. We sat under the trees, eating quietly, until I sensed a disturbance in the force and looked to my left. A giant group of pidgeons had amassed near our group, eyeing us like we were lunch. I took my ketchup sandwich and tore off the bread, and lay the bread around my feet, and soon a massive pidgeon army had become mine! Needless to say, I became drunk with power. I was laughing maniacally and spreading crumbs all over the place. Oreo, my general of my pidgeon army, stayed loyally at my side until we had to go.

Myuahahaahhah! My loyal army!
Oreo, my pidgeon general, and Tim, the envious pidgeon who longs for Oreo's position -- and his ketchup bread.
Next stop, Warwick Castle! I don't remember the journey there at all, but I still remember what it looks like. Warwick is breathtaking. We got an hour of exploration to ourselves, and I had a blast.

I'd show more pictures if it didn't take so long to upload them, but seriously, if you ever go to England, go here. It's gorgeous. So, after we had been walking around for an hour, we were suddenly acosted by an angry captain and his very pointy spear. He commanded us to line up and follow him, and his fellow soldiers started up from behind us and waved their weapons around.

It was awesome! I doubt anyone would have taken this situation literally, but for your information, this wasn't a real scenario. It was all a part of a training exercise. For the next three hours I would be a part of the Lancaster army, HA HA HA.

The first super militaristic thing we did was . . .

Eat food!


We had chicken and potatoes, which are much better than ketchup sandwiches. We ate outside on picnic tables, which was very peaceful. Peacocks hovered around us, indirectly asking for food, since actually asking would have been too much for their poor, pampered brains. I don't have pictures from that moment, but I snuck up behind one and took a picture later. (Peacocks are finicky)

I remember one guy giving a girl a peacock feather that he said he found on the ground. We were later warned not to try to take feathers from peacocks, because the lovely creatures are capable of making a sound capable peeling the bark off of iron trees, which would immediately alert the security guards, who would bring you down, which would put you in jail and paying a large fine.

After lunch, we went to archery lessons. Our guy taught us the structure and the firing capabilities of the longbow, along with basic examples of armor from that century. We have a delegation member who has the magical ability to be chosen for every volunteer situation, and so he was chosen from the crowd of 50 students (many delegations were there too) to put on armor and be stabbed. Lucky guy. . . Our teacher was delightfully lewd, and talked jokingly about every terrible thing that could possible happen to the male anatomy. He was interesting and fun, although he scared the heck out of Gabe (the lucky one) with his various demonstrations.

We had sword fight training next, where we learned basic sword fighting forms. Gosh if I remember them all. It was a lot of fun cause we got to fight with real swords! Well, they were dullened in case one of us got the idea to murder someone, but they were quite real. We had the pleasure of a young and somewhat hunky sword master helping out that day.

Me demonstrating not-so graceful form. I got better.

I steadily improved, although it took me a while. It is possible that someday I will become a swordsman. . .Or maybe I'll stick with sharpened butterknives.

After that, we formed ranks and learned how battles were fought. For the front of the army, it kind of works like this:

1. Everyone in the front line dies.
2. The line behind them, which was previously unarmed, pick up their fallen allies' weapons and continues the attack. They are called the reserves.

We played both one and two. When I was front line, I died spectacularly. I watched someone near me be trampled as someone took his weapon. I placed mine gingerly by my fallen corpse, because I didn't want to be trampled. Just because I was dead didn't mean I didn't have feelings.

When I actually got to kill people, that was a lot of fun. Our instructor said our group was the most uniform when it came to marching. I waved my ten foot pole around and murdered thousands.

After that, we all relaxed and sat by the river as we prepared to watch the trebuchet launch a fireball into the sky.

After we said our goodbyes, we boarded our bus and began our trip to Ireland. Out of all the countries, I looked forward to Ireland the most, and I was right to. I'll see you in the next exciting installment of Take Esther to Europe!


Da da.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day Twelve

Day twelve was another one of my favorite days, but it is also quite a blurry one. By the end of the day, I was so delirious with exhaustion that I couldn't remember a lot of it. I'm going to try and recall as much as I can, though!

I slept very well because our beds were amazing! I took a few pictures of the hotel room, but all after we made a mess of it, and I can't locate them on this computer, so a loss.

We started our day with a walk to the tube, the part of the London train system that is mostly above ground. It was about a fifteen minute trek through the city and road construction. It was a very pleasant day, though, and the walk was equally so. Because our group was so large, we had to wait for the "Walk" street signal to pop up twice to get our whole group across.

We arrived at our train with perfect timing, courtesy of our wonderful delegation manager. We didn't have to wait for more than ten minutes. We each grabbed a train buddy, so we could keep track of each other. Mine was a girl named Crosby, and we spent a lot of the day together.

A train going through the station.

We rode the train got on a few more trains like this, and then we hit the Underground station, where we rode for about thirty minutes on several different trains. It was a little difficult keeping track of everyone, and making sure they all got on the same train. Sometimes we didn't succeed, and some people got left behind! In the event of that happening, we would just wait at the boarding station until the next train with our buddies arrived. The system is so efficient, that we don't have to wait very long for each train. London, I must say, has a much more efficient train system that Washington D.C. At least in my experience.

And so we arrived where we were meeting with a former member of parliament. I can't remember the building or the street, because I was in Sheep Mode. But I remember it was a rich district that . . . had to do with COLLEGES. I'm not going to say more because I'll sound like an idiot. But anyway, we went in a building, up several flights of stairs, and into the the meeting room.

I was expecting that we would be the only delegation there, but there were tons of delegations. Texas was the majority population, but there were several others.

Our meeting was about an hour and forty-five minutes long, and our MP talked about how he got his position, what his position entails, and how the government works. It was very fascinating. I was surprised to learn how chaotic parliament meetings are. Ideas and suggestions are thrown around rapidly from any member that has some, and yet it is somehow contained with strict rules of propriety and rituals. I doubt I would be able to learn how it works in an hour and a half. No pictures, because somehow I thought that would be rude.

We went to lunch at Medieval Banquet (that's its actual name), complete with its own King Henry VIII! They had gowns that you could try on, but I decided not to. Surprisingly, it was the guys that actually tried stuff on. We had a sit down with Henry, who had decided to take a break from his grave and talk to us humble folk. It wasn't an actor or anything. Seriously.

Looking slightly creepy in the natural, purple, medieval glow.

Some of the building.
We went to the Tower of London next! We grabbed a few trains and walked the rest, and then we were finally there. I never actually knew what the place looked like, and when I saw it, it wasn't what I was expecting. It was a hodgepodge of different structures, a beautiful, but irregular hodgepodge. It has had add ons, things removed, things remodeled, and so it was very large. It was impossible to take a picture of the whole thing at once.

Tower entrance.

We were all sent off, with buddies of course, to explore on our own. My group was the smallest. It was just me and Crosby, but that meant that we could do what we wanted on our own time, really, so it was nice.

We saw a lot of really cool things. One of my favorites was the exhibit of the suits of armor worn by the kings through the ages. It was interesting to see the differences in style as time went on. We also so reconstructions of the horses that the kings rode.

King Edward VI's armor. He was a child king.

This particular horse stared through my soul and petrified me with its unusual smile.

Time flew by, and we soon only had thirty minutes left. I suggested going to see the crown jewels. Crosby, being ever practical, said that with the line, we might not get through in time.

"Nah," I said, with a wave of my hand, "we have plenty of time."

So we hopped in line. It was very, very slow going through the building. You didn't even get to see the jewels at the beginning, just a walk through video presentation that took fifteen minutes to get through. By the time we were out of there, we had 2 minutes to get back! We didn't get to see the jewels for more than thirty seconds, but they were gorgeous. I don't regret it, and I'm glad that we were in a short line, or else we would have never gotten out of there.

I had a blast there. It was full of history, and there was so much to see and do, that I couldn't name it all.

Next to the River Thames with Daisy and Luke.

China town was interesting. You walk five feet, and then all of a sudden everything changes, and you are in a totally different area.

 Guess what kind of food we had for dinner!

It's Chinese! I bet you guessed wrong, eh, eh?

When we got inside, there was a wedding ceremony going on, which I found very odd, but it was really sweet, too. The couple was lovely. We headed upstairs and got our food. I had the best sweet and sour chicken ever! I want ALL of the chicken! I want some right now...Mid dinner, I went into the bathroom and changed into my dress. We were going to see a play, baby!

The play was Million Dollar Quartet, a long walk from China Town, indeed. I had changed my shoes from tennis shoes to five dollar flats. I forgot to bring my comfortable dress shoes, and so I had to buy mine at a French supermarket! They went with my dress, though, polka dots and all.

The play was really, really, good. It had the best Johnny Cash and Elvis impersonators. The music was fantastic. Mid way through, they started singing "Down By the Riverside", and I started crying a little because it's a song that we sing a lot back home. Kind of uncanny, huh?

It was great, but when we got out I was so tired I could have sleep walked. By the time we got on the train, I was delirious. I started to babble. I put a flower hair clip in my hair (like an actual, 3-d, large flower clip) sideways on my head, and I turned to my seat mate/friend and said, "Do I look pretty?"

"Yes, yes, Esther. You look pretty."

I turned to my delegation LEADER and said.


And Kathy said, "Hi Esther! Are you tired?"

"Oh yes, very very tired. DO I LOOK PRETTY?"

"You look very pretty Esther."

Such good people. My friends carried me some of the way, like I was a drunkard. It was a lot of fun, though. As soon as I got to the hotel, I was out like a light. And that was my day!

Monday, August 1, 2011


I wrote in my journal,

I slept like a rock last night; like a rock that developed human needs and decided it needed to sleep.

I need to work on my similes. Anyway, today was the day that I would say goodbye to UKSA. A very sad moment, because I think UKSA was my favorite part. It was a great bonding and learning experience, and I will remember it forever. One bad thing that did happen was a real shocker, though. I unloaded my suitcase from their storage room, and to my up most horror, the wheel had broken off! The people that had handled it had snapped it off on accident, and they even put the broken wheel in my suitcase for some twisted memento. Well, there was no way that I could fix the wheel, or afford a new suitcase, so I was stuck with carrying a forty pound black monster around for the rest of the week. Not fun, but at least I had a suitcase!

We said goodbye to our instructors, a sad moment indeed. I will especially miss Freddy, the adorable one who was willing to kick himself in the butt for 50 pence if he was "in the mood".

We had a very long walk uphill to our ferry. I would rather not relive that, because, well, it was very hard. I was so thankful by the time I got to the ferry. One male delegate carried my suitcase to the storage room. I love men with their arm muscles and their chivalry . . . of course, that kind of thing happened twice in the trip.

The ferry ride was about an hour. I occupied my time by reading Water for Elephants. It was pretty good. I might write a review about it someday in my other, much less updated, blog. We landed, hopped on our bus, and headed to London! London is my favorite city that I have visited. It's smaller than I thought it was, but it's really cool.

Parliament building!

We went to the Imperial War Museum.

It was so interesting! Very, very informative, and really big. Like all others, I didn't get to stay and look at all I wanted, but what I did see was very cool. There was one exhibit dedicated to the life of children during WWII, and it was a real eye-opener. One fact I found interesting was that children were given the biggest portions during the war. They were given meat and vegetables to promote growth. Grains were not recommended because they were harder to digest, and were only given as supplements. I would really like to visit the place again and see what I missed.

Next up, London Eye! I think it's one of those things that everyone wants to do, and it was so amazing! The line didn't take long at all, due to our P2P privileges, but I think that it would have gone fast anyway because the people working the lines are efficient and the capsules are massive.

London Eye from a distance.

We got into the capsules in no time, and we were soon enjoying the wonderful view.

Me in the capsule.

Shortly after this picture was taken, someone said, "Esther, you are so funny!" And I was like, eh? And she said that she thought it was cute how I always smiled so wide. I don't even notice that I smile so wide.

Me and my gal pals!

We got to the ground too soon! Although the ride was about thirty minutes long. The London Eye is the largest Ferris wheel in the world after all!
We had dinner at a fancy pizza place. The food was delicious, but I could have eaten even more! It started to rain as we left for our bus, and I forgot my rain gear. I got wet, but it was also really fun walking in the rain.
Our hotel was a Hilton, and it was wonderful! My roommate and I got a whole room to ourselves, and the beds were big and comfy, and the bathroom was spacious and clean. We were so excited that we opened up a bottle of water as a toast to our happiness. Shortly after drinking the water, a girl came into our room and pointed out that the water was 4.99 . . . Huzzah.

Another great day.

Thursday, July 21, 2011



It's odd, even though UKSA was one of my favorite parts, I took like a single picture. It must have been due to the fact that I was on water all the time, and I didn't want to lose my camera in the ocean. It happened to a poor girl while she was boarding a boat, and ever since that I was ever cautious.

I had a marvelous 5 hour sleep. I woke up surprisingly refreshed! We were now in England! We got off of our boat, hopped on a bus, and then walked to a dock where we waited for yet another boat to the Isle of Wight. We took some pictures.

Me feeling like Doctor Who.
It was cold near the water, so we made a barricade of suitcases and sat in it.

Nice and toasty?

Our small boat came shortly after that. It was half covered, and half uncovered. Everyone made a mad dash for the uncovered part...except me. I grabbed a seat under the covered part, and thus, by the end of the trip, I was among the few who were actually dry.

I love this girl with all her preparedness.

We arrived at UKSA an hour later. We were greeted warmly by the most handsome boating instructors to grace the ocean. With that serenade gone, we were leaded to the campus where we were shown around. I got a dorm that I shared with four or five other girls. Our dorm was also the only one that had a wi fi to the world. People often crowded outside our room for wi fi.

We headed straight to our first adventure, raft building. Seperated into four teams of five, we were given two wooden logs, a barrel, two waterboards, lots of rope, and thirty minutes. Boy, those minutes went fast. Apparently I can't tie a knot because a friendly yet incredibly blunt (I think it's the English way) young man came up to me and said, "That's one shoddy knot!"

Yes, I loved these guys. Anyway, our raft turned out pretty well. The instructors said that they were the best they had seen yet, yay. We had series of races, which my team all lost. Whichever team I am on during the whole trip lost. At this point I am pretty sure I'm either really unlucky or highly unskilled! The people with the most points won something at the end, and my team got last place. We tied for first with our team cheer, though! We couldn't think of anything, so when our turn came, I led my team in an operatic song of triumph. It must have struck a sweet note, because afterwords a guy came up to me and said, "I didn't know you could sing opera!" My "moment" was brought up a lot after that.

We had the rest of the day off, thank goodness! I was really tired. The below freezing water and the five hours sleep got to me at last.

We hung around and just partied. I contacted home, and had a nice long chat with my family, which was wonderful. Dinner was really good! I retreated back to my dorm for some needed R and R.

The next morning we had a delicious breakfast! I think it was my first warm breakfast on the trip! I had ham, and hashbrowns, and oh, it was so good.

 We went kayaking. I had trouble finding my wetsuit, so I had to go ask for another. Luckily, it fit me. I got really scared for a second there though.

We went for our kayaking lessons! I was lucky enough to share a kayak with a good friend. We picked it up pretty fast, and soon we were off kayaking down the coast. It was so wonderful, and I did pretty well. Our kayak stayed consistently in second place. (We were behind two speed demons) We kayaked for two hours. We encountered a deserted boat, crabs, and fish. Our instructors, being adventurous lads, went crab hunting. One got his finger pinched! It was a wonderful experience. By the time we were done, my arms ached, but I felt great.

We had a bag lunch, and it was sandwiches. I enjoyed my chips, but egg and mayonaisse sandwiches just don't do it for me. Because of the uncertain water, sailing lessons were canceled. I am sad I missed the opportunity, but I was so tired at the time it didn't bother me so much. Because we had to use up the free time, the Is took us orienteering in the forests.

I didn't accomplish much there, and my team got last place. It was fun, though. And a good memory. One unfortunate guy, while running through a treacherous path down a hill side, tripped, fell into a series of thorn bushes, and then rolled into a patch of stinging nettle. OUCH.

Later that night we went for our recreational activity. We treked uphill through suburbia for fifteen minutes. My legs went numb, but when I saw the park in the distance I became very happy. I forgot my camera, unfortunately, but the image is still clear in my mind. It was a large green field, and the air was crisp and cool. We did relay races, lots and lots of them, until my legs felt like they were going to fall off. We got to choose between playing soccer and rounders, and I chose the latter.

Rounders is a lot like baseball, and it was so much fun to play! I really wanted to play more, but the others didn't feel like it. We sat and talked with Dan, one of our instructors, instead. He was a funny, quirky red-head, that didn't know a whole lot about America, I think. His eyes bugged out of his head when we told him America has frozen waffles. He had never heard of such a thing!

Back to bed with us! It was a great day, one of my favorites. I worked long and hard, and made some new friends too. One of my favorite moments in all the trip.



Today would go down as the most emotional day of the trip -- at least for me. I can't speak for my other delegation members, of course.

I woke up sleepy because we had to get up at 5:15 or so in order to get ready in time for breakfast. There was another delegation coming to eat right after us, so we had to eat and clear out. Breakfast was almost warm, with slices of ham and fresh milk and scrambled eggs. I had a really bad experience with scrambled eggs somewhere along Europe, and after that they all tasted nasty, so I avoided them like anyone would avoid a toxic egg. I had a ham sandwich, but had to scarf it down too quickly because I had to go upstairs and grab my suitcase. Since we weren't allowed to use the elevator, I dragged down my suitcase five flights. Better than the drag upstairs yesterday!

We hopped on the bus. I was excited, for today, but also wary. Today was going to focus on D-Day, and so I knew I was going to weep.

 Grey clouds knit closely together, and rain began to sprinkle us as we stepped off of our bus. I am glad that I took precautions and brought my rain gear, or my fun would have been "dampened". (HAHAAHAHAA) We walked to a cliff side where Germans had been encamped on D-Day, about twenty miles from Omaha beach. Destroyed and ruined bunkers littered the area, along with ones that were still in fine condition. We saw turrets and fox holes and a stand where a massive gun would have stood, being able to shoot over 5 miles if I rememeber correctly.

The spike in the center is where a giant gun would have been.

We toured a bunker, which was quite interesting indeed. We learned that bunkers were practically invicible structures, and the only way to destroy them was to blow them up from the inside. An example of this stood not far away, where a massive stone more than ten feet tall stood many, many yards where it was originally before the bunker it was a part of blew up.

A bunker intact.

A destroyed bunker.

We also saw the cliffs that American soldiers scaled on their way to capture the German base.

We went to Omaha beach shortly after that, where I filled a bag (that was previously filled with delicious fruit snacks) with sand. We didn't stay long, since a delegation was coming for a ceremony.

We went to the Normandy American Memorial Cemetery next. It was a great experience, but I really don't want to tap into the emotions that require me to write about it. It's just too sad. I'll just be weak and take it from my journal.

The rain was pouring by the time we got on the bus, and it still was as we arrived at the cemetery. I think it's kind of symbolic that it was raining. I didn't know beforehand, but we were doing a memorial service for our fallen troops. We stood in a line and recited the national anthem. Some were chosen to place a wreath on the monument that stood overlooking the graves. When I stood there singing, I was pummelled with sadness, but with pride, too.  The tears didn't hit until we walked the cemetery. I just wanted to sit in the rain and cry my eyes out.

I remember that my voice was strained when I sang, and afterwords I just stayed silent. If I talked I would have burst into tears. It is truly something to stand before those who have given their lives for you, indirectly or not.

We went to Caen's memorial museum after that. It was fantastically informative! And of course, I cried here too, but not as badly. I wish I could have stayed in each exhibit longer, but my fellow delegates blazed through each room so fast I could barely keep up! It was like that with all the museums I went to, but at least I got a taste of them.

Standing in the Caen's memorial museum

We set off for our ferry to England! While we were at the building where the bus picked us up for the ferry, I had time to relax. I played some games with my friends and had a really good time. Then we boarded our pick-up bus to the ferry. It was HUGE! Massive, gigantic.

We had a quick orientation about the place, and then were sent to our rooms. Because we were welcome guests, the ferry was going to hold a private disco just of us. I'm sure it would have been fun, but I decided not to go. We were only going to get five hours sleep, and if I had gone it would have been cut down to four. Instead, I went to my room. One of my friends stayed behind too, so I wasn't alone. I put on my PJs and let the ocean lull me to sleep.

Getting ready for sleep!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


(Can't upload many pics, sorry)


Today was the first day of exploring Paris. Exciting, right? I looked forward to visiting Ireland most, but the city I looked forward to most was Paris. From our trip from Belgium, we stayed at a French hotel called Relais de Chartreux, which, without traffic, is about one hour from Paris. But there is always traffic in Paris, so it's more like two and a half!

When we got to the Relais the day before DAY SIX, we had a few surprises. First, there was another delegation sharing the hotel, which was something I wasn't expecting! It was a middle school delegation. We met a lot of middle school delegations on the trip. Second, was the hotel itself. It looked like a fancy hotel from the 80s that looks okay superficially, but it was actually kind of run-down. One set of girls had their room completely flooded, and my hotel room had a lamp that was supposed to be screwed in the wall, but was hanging by a few wires. At first, I thought it was some artistic choice, but when I saw the wires, I checked for other suspicious things that weren't quite right. Good thing I didn't find any! I shared my room with two other girls.

My hotel room. My bed is the blue thing on the right.

After spending the night, we set off for our tour. It took a long time to get there, so I occupied my time by taking pictures of graffiti on the highway, ha! Too bad I didn't get to watch the beautiful French country side. It's the third prettiest country side I've seen, yup!

We finally got to Paris. On our way to our meeting point, we saw amazing places like the modern art museum. It looked like it was constructed of pipes!

And we got to see the Eiffel tower in the distance. It is easily spotted from lots of places in Paris. We arrived to our tour over and hour late, but our tour guide didn't seem to mind. I'm sure it happens to a lot of tour guides who live in Paris! Our meeting spot was just outside the Arc de Triomphe, and it was beautiful. The Arc is truly an amazing monument, and it struck a chord with me for some reason, so I took a lot of pictures.


We got in a little bit of trouble, actually. Our bus parked right in front of a vantage point for the Arc and some photographers got really mad when our massive vehicle pulled into their shot. An Indian man waved his arms animatedly just like the man at the Amsterdam Burger King. It was actually kind of funny. Our tour guide was a young woman with a very soft voice. She was very polite, and ended most of her sentences with a soft, "Okay?". She was adorable. Some people fell asleep to the peaceful tone of her voice, not that she was uninteresting.

After that, we had lunch. It was flam, which is like a very thin, and very soft pizza. (Thanks to my delegation leader who told me what it was!) The pizzas were about a foot by foot long, but we still ate like four of them. One friend ate a whole pizza by himself.

Said friend with his amazing hitch-hiker's thumb.

Said flam.

During lunch, our delegations were separated into teams that would tour the Louvre later on. It would be kind of like a scavenger hunt for famous pieces of art.

We had a short drive to the Louvre, which is the largest museum in the world, and it's impossible not to tell. The whole place is massive, and you couldn't fit the whole thing in a picture unless you took it from high in the sky.

We started underground, meeting at the famous glass pyramid that you see in the pictures. It serves to refract light throughout a lot of the underground area. After being warned about pickpockets, we were slapped on the back and set off on our journey.

It was great! We only got to spend one hour there, but it was one of the best parts of the trip. To spend such little time there was torture. I would have been fine staying there all day, and then coming back the next. I was looking forward to the Louvre more than anything (except cutting peat, duh) and so I was a little disappointed on how little I got to see.

We set off to find the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, and many other classics. And we found them!

I have tons more where that came from, but I can't upload them all on here so...hurray.

When we were done, a good friend of mine came up to me and announced she had been pick pocketed. 10 euro gone! I'm glad I kept my money around my neck. I got a few things for my loved ones, and then we departed.

We went to Montemartre next. It's famous for being an art district, and being on a very high hill. Somehow I managed to keep my pep for the ten minute wall up-hill, and skipped up the stairs occasionally and hummed.

Me at the top of the hill!

I lost my pep during shopping time. . .I had already used up all my Paris money and couldn't afford anything else. Basically, I just wallowed around. I tried not to complain too much, but my frustration came through every now and then. My friends were really good about it though. Painters completely filled the square, and everyone except me and two others got their portrait done. I remember a moment where I was walking by, and I was approached by a painter. His eyes glittered upon seeing me, as if I was a long lost relative. Opening his arms, he said,

"You there, miss! What is your name?" He grabbed my lanyard and flipped it over to the name side. His eyes flickered across the name before focusing on me again. "Ah, Esther! I like you already! Would you like your picture?" He proceeded to tell me the costs for different sizes, all completely out of my price range, but he said it with so much boisterous energy that it was hard for me to tell him no. I said I couldn't afford it, and he frowned. Then his eyes lit up as had an idea, and then he grabbed a pastel and drew 20 on his hand. He motioned me closer and he held his hand to my face, pointing to the number drawn on it. "How about for 20? Hmm? 20 for you." I started to feel uncomfortable, and though I wanted my portrait done a little, I realized I should save my money for emergencies. I spun around without a word and started to walk away. I looked back, and the glitter in his eyes was gone. He drew back a moment, put his pastel back, and looked around. When he saw another woman he drew out his arms and grinned. "You there, miss! What is your name?"

After shopping hour was done, we went to dinner. We had escargot! It was delicious! It had the consistency of a gummy bear, but it just tasted like garlic and butter, and it was really good. The frog legs had too much bone, though. We had cod, as well, which was okay, and for dessert we had flan. I think I actually gained weight over the trip, ha!

And so Day Six was over. It was a good day. My favorite part was the Louvre. Which part seems the most interesting to you?


DAY SEVEN (yeah, there's more!)

I fondly look back at day seven. It was a full, but not exhausting day like the one before. I slept well in Relais de Chartreux, but I slept well pretty much everywhere! All of the beds seemed like heaven to me, so I didn't understand why girls complained of uncomfortable mattresses, because that never happened to me. They must all be princesses, and I must not be able to feel the pea that's under my own bed. Breakfast was cereal and bread. No meat at all. The bread was stale, and the milk was warm, so needless to say I am glad we left that particular hotel. All the others were just fine to great, though!

Traffic to Paris was bad yet again, but I actually don't mind too much. I enjoy long car rides. I made a note to myself: If I ever live in Paris, I'm going to own a bike.

We arrived at the amazing Notre Dame cathedral! It is simply the most beautiful building, and my favorite Parisian land mark, I believe. It was started in the 12th century, and took over 200 years to build! Can you imagine? There were workers that spent their entire lives building just one cathedral. The thought blows my mind.

It is so incredibly detailed, that pictures cannot do it justice. This is a picture of the arch over the entrance...

And inside was just as amazing. I liked the windows and the arches best.

We were told to meet outside in an hour. I was the last to leave, one, because Notre Dame is amazing, and two, shopping time was coming up. We walked around a bit. I didn't get anything, even though there were some really cheap items that were also cute.

Our lunch took place on a ferry tour. It was really nice. I got to sit next to a friend I got to know online, and she is really kind so I enjoyed myself. The tour was interesting. We had microwavable noodles for lunch, which were for some reason AMAZING. I wish I remembered the brand. I could eat them every day. My friend Josh bought me a crepe, which was delicious. Bless his little rich soul. We saw cool sites, like the world's thinnest building.

It's also a museum!

Next up, Eiffel tower! It's a really amazing structure. I wouldn't say that it is beautiful, but there is something about the way it's built that makes it stand out in a pleasant way. I said in my journal that it was "imposingly elegant".

We had free time, so we toured the park next to the tower. We saw ducks! I love ducks!  It was a really pretty place. Charlotte our DM (unintentional DnD reference) got our tickets, and we went up! The view was gorgeous, and that was only half way up!

It's a shame we couldn't reach the stop. There was a ticket mix up and ours didn't have the authority to allow us to go up to the top. A shame, but I still had a good time.

After that, we went to our hotel, Le Grand Hotel de l'Esperance. It was a very nice hotel. Our hotel rooms felt like actual rooms you'd find at home, only classier and not covered with posters of Hugh Jackman. Dinner was leg of lamb with roasted vegetables, with apple tarts for dessert. And that was the end of day seven!