Mackenzi vs. The End

22 May

I have made an executive decision, which is this: Today is the last day of Mackenzi vs. The UK.

The blog ends here.

Let me explain: Even though I still have a month of living here in the United Kingdom, the next week of it will be spent in Eastern Europe, followed immediately by three weeks of family and then home. So I’m not going to have a lot of time to be sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings with you people. And, in reality, my study abroad experience is over. Today is my last day of living normal life in Chester. So really, it only makes sense for the blog to end here.

I wish I had something deep and profound to leave you with. Some incredible story or insight or musings on the world. But, as I have proved time and time again through the course of this blog, I am hardly that clever.

So we’re ending like this; my father suggested I do a top five countdown on the things I have learned about the rest of the world and the things I have learned about myself. He requested that I submit it in the form of a one hundred thousand word novel. While that may be excessive, it is certainly a good thing to end on. So we are finishing this experience with lists about the things living in England for the past year has taught me:

What Living and Traveling Europe Taught Me

  • The British are a strange breed. There is a reason all the wackiest news stories on “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” always come from England
  • Any dish (with the glaring exceptions of ice cream and waffles) can be made better with the addition of tuna fish.
  • For women, pants are an optional item of clothing.
  • I want to be a writer, not an actress. (which is an only slightly more practical career choice)
  • Comfortable beds are not necessity for a good night’s sleep. Neither are pillows. In fact, mattresses aren’t actually all that necessary if you’re tired enough
  • Scarves automatically make any outfit look trendier and more put together.
  • “You alright?” means “How are you?” not “Are you okay, you look upset?”
  • I am proud of my religion and the fact that I don’t drink. It took me a while to move from mildly embarrassed about my mormonism to being darn right proud of it. But now I actually search for an opportunity to tell people I’m mormon. I want people to know because I’m proud of who I am and what I believe.
  • Why I don’t drink – it’s no longer just because God told me not to.
  • Squash juice MUST be mixed with water before consuming
  • Surname = last name
  • You don’t have to speak the same language to be nice to someone, or to communicate with them, for that matter.
  • The most important thing to do when handling any crisis from cancelled trains to missing assignments is not to freak out.
  • God exists. And answers prayers. And has definitely kept an eye on me.
  • Jeans can be comfortably worn for ten to fourteen days without washing them.  
  • People are pretty much the same everywhere you go. We all experience the same things, we just react to them differently.
  • There’s no such thing as “normal.” Whatever wondrous thing I was experiencing at any given moment is just someone else’s idea of normal.
  • There is nothing you can’t do without (with the glaring exceptions of things like food and water).
  • There are so many amazing things that are virtually right in my own backyard that I have never really taken the time to explore or enjoy. (i.e. Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Great Salt Lake, which I have still never visited…)
  • If you pay a bill with just one or two euros above the total, they’ll think it’s a tip, not change.
  • If you don’t take a risk, you will never get anywhere. Life is a lot more exciting if you do things that scare you every so often. It doesn’t have to be dramatic like jumping off a cliff or wrestling a cobra. I mean small things that are scary like eating raw sausage or dancing in a Greek taverna or making new friends in a hostel. Sometimes it feels like you’re stepping off a cliff with nothing below you but sky, but it is those moments where you either let yourself fall or learn to fly.  
  • There are good and bad people everywhere. Mean and nice, too. In every race, in every country, in every city, in every culture.
  • There is no wrong or right course in life. But it’s about picking a direction and committing to it with everything you have.
  • Pure dirt don’t hurt.
  • People are incredible. More specifically, the things people have accomplished are incredible. The breadth and depth of the human experience over the course of history is mind blowing. It is one thing to say you have an appreciation of this while sitting in a classroom flipping through a textbook. It is quite another to be standing in front of the Parthenon, craning your neck to see the spires of La Sagrada Familia, touring the Colosseum, staring down Michelangelo’s “David,” admiring Stonehenge, or hiking the tours of a castle. The variety and magnitude of the achievements of humanity over the last several thousand years makes you feel very small and insignificant.   
  • Cell phones are over rated, but convenient. Life is much better when you are less tied to them.
  • Home is a feeling.
  • Adapt. Adapt adapt adapt. There is no situation that cannot be adapted to if you are willing to be a little flexible. And you don’t get anywhere by sitting around and complaining how much things suck. Learn to adapt!
  • And on that note, complaining doesn’t get you anywhere. I have learned to make the best and see the positive in absolutely every situation. Including getting stranded in Ireland.   
  • I feel like traveling and living abroad has made me much more aware of where I fit in the world, and just what a small piece of that world I am. But I feel like more a part of the global population, more aware of people living far away from me, and give me more of a sense of humanity. Now when I hear stories on the news about earthquakes in Japan or floods in Australia or civil unrest in Egypt, I am more able to see these places not just as countries on a map, but communities made up of people just like me. It has made me more empathetic….I think that’s what I’m trying to say.  
  • And more than that, living abroad has made me much more aware of who I am, what I want out of life, and, more importantly, who I would like to become. Being completely on my own out here has allowed me to shed a lot of the things about myself that only were because I felt like they needed to be. I have let go of a lot of things about myself that I was holding on to not because I was proud of them or because they were a part of me but because I felt like I needed to fit in. I now have a much keener sense of what I want out of life, and who I am, which is going to help me figure out how to get there.
  • I am incredibly fortunate. My life is ridiculously comfortable. I have nothing to complain about.
  • But on that same note, there are always battles in life, no matter what your position. Everyone is fighting their own personal war, and it’s not our place to decide whose life is hardest.
  • You don’t really realise that you’re growing up. But then you read back over a year of your blog and realise from that first entry to now, you are almost two completely different people. It is hard to exactly explain just how I have changed, or even really put into words what I have learned.

And there you have it friends; the last year of my life in bullet points. And here we end. Not with a fizzle, but a bang, if you will. I have enjoyed blogging, and have loved having you all along for the ride. I’m actually rather melancholy about the fact that we are parting ways here. I will be back in the US of A on June 18th, and I am expecting every single one of you to call me or drop by and say hello! I have missed you all terribly and would love to see your beautiful faces so I can thank you in person for reading my blog. I really appreciate it.

And so it goes. On to the next great adventure.

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Mackenzi vs. The Interior Decoration

21 May

I have spent the entirety of today avoiding the one thing I need to get done.

This is a skill I long ago acquired and have since spent many years practicing, and I think I can safely call myself an expert in the subject of not doing what I should be doing (Malcom Gladwell says that in order to call yourself an expert on a subject you have to log at least 10,000 hours doing it. I am confident I have spent at lest this much time if not more avoiding doing things I needed to).

Today was a highly productive day. I treated myself to Chinese food in honour of finishing the school year (Pad Thai, and enough for lunch and dinner – calorie conscious and wallet friendly!), did some errands in town, wrote a letter to my favourite missionary, watched “Pushing Daisies,” read, listened to the organ at the cathedral, and enjoyed my last day of wandering the streets of my lovely little city (I realise I will still do this with the fam when they come, but I’m sure it will feel different when I’m with the *scoff* tourists from across the pond). And yet here I am, feeling unaccomplished, because I know there is something that needs to be done that I just can’t bring myself to do.

And that is take the pictures off my walls.

Let’s look over the agenda for the next four weeks, shall we? I leave for Eastern Europe on Monday. Arrive home Friday. Spend the rest of Friday cleaning the apartment like mad in a vain attempt to convince my mother that I am always neat and tidy and keep my floor vacuumed. Saturday she arrives and we tour England for a week, then father and the munchkin show up and we spend two weeks bouncing around the country ala Carmen San Diego, leaving a trail of chaos and stolen artifacts in our wake. (kidding.) Then I fly home. Meaning that between now and that dreaded date on my airline ticket, I am not going to have a whole lot of time to pack up, so I’m starting now.

I have already cleaned out my desk. That was actually awesome, because I threw out all my old school work from the year and felt very liberated. I have already made two trips to Oxfam to donate some things that I cannot take home. I have already stuffed a suitcase. But there is some part of me that for some strange reason refuses to strip my walls bare of the posters, pictures, and photographs that live there. Somehow it just won’t feel like home anymore without them.

But I know it has to be done. So tonight, before I go to bed, I am going to strip my walls of their decoration. As tragic as it is, perhaps it will be cathartic. I am hoping for closure, but expecting sadness. But it  has crept up on me, this departure. And perhaps I will choose to think of it, as the Pie Maker once wisely counselled, not as an ending, but a new beginning.

Now if you’ll excuse me. I have some tape to gingerly peel off of some posters.

Mackenzi vs. The Drama

20 May

Today we are celebrating. Because as of this afternoon around 1 pm when I walked out of the history department with a little green slip of paper, I am officially finished with my second year of university. Did I mention that I spent it abroad?

Friends, I’m officially done. Finished. Ended. Over. El fin. While I must admit it is a huge relief to get all these papers over and done with, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I am just a tiny little bit sad.

But why waste time on sadness? Tomorrow I am celebrating my new found freedom from academia by sleeping in and going to my favourite Chinese place.

But as for today, we are doing another countdown. But only one because it is late. I wasted two hours of my life sitting through “Thor” today (don’t go. Seriously.) so I’m hitting the blogsphere a little bit later in the evening than usual. So we’ll make this quicker than usual. I’m exhausted.

Top Five Most Dramatic Moments – Sent in by Gran

WARNING! Deeply troubling experiences are about to be related here. I am about to disclose the most distressing things I have experienced while abroad, may stories that have not yet hit the internet because they are so troubling. If you are my parents or prone to high anxiety (or both), this might make you worry about me. Which is why I have saved them for the last stretch before I leave. Less time for them to worry, see.

    1. Missing the bus to Shannon, Ireland – We have already discussed this one. But it was a pretty big deal at the time. It was looking like we might not catch our flight home. Fortunately I was with the calmest guy in the world, which made it feel like less of a big deal that it actually was. But in retrospect, it was pretty bad news. Stuck in a small town , the only ones staying in an old hotel with long creepy shadowy hallways…we could have easily been the next Stephen King novel.
    2. Once upon a time in Italy, Daniel, Johnny, and I went to a little cafe in Rome. We chose this cafe because the prices advertised in the window were super reasonable and we were super hungry. So we walk in and place our orders at the counter. However, when we tried to pay, the woman behind the till said “Sit down.” It wasn’t a question; it was a command. And since she was slightly diminutive and very Italian, we obeyed. What we did not know is that when you sit down in an Italian restaurant, the price automatically goes up. They charge you for taking up space. It is much more expensive than if you either take it away or stand at the bar and eat. In this case, the sandwiches advertised in the window as 3 euros for standing went up to ten euros if you sat down (and they were not even great sandwiches!). We did not realise this. And by the time we sat down, we had already ordered food, including drinks and dessert, because we were looking at the stand up prices and it seemed really cheap. I’m not going to tell you how much the final check was for, but I will say that it caused me to have a small cardiac incident. It might be the most I have ever paid for a meal. It is definitely the most I have paid for a mediocre meal, and certainly the most I have ever unintentionally paid for a meal. We tried to explain to the waiters that we didn’t understand and we’re dumb Americans and poor students, but they just smirked at us, which leads me to believe that we were taken advantage of. I’m not 100% sure, but their attitudes caused me to think we were taken for a ride (note: this is the only time I have been aware of being taken advantage of. Which either means I am incredibly good at spotting a scam or incredibly oblivious). So we did what we had to; paid the ridiculous bill and ran with our tails tucked between our legs. We laughed about it later….much later.
    3. Dropping my passport in Athens – Okay, this is the one that will make my parents freak out. And let me explain a few things before we continue; this is the ONLY time I have EVER dropped my passport, and it only happened because I took a different bag with me to Greece than I usually take when I travel. My normal bag has this little zip thing that I put my passport in so there is no chance it will ever possibly fall out. This bag did not have it. And just once, when I went for my wallet to buy camera batteries, my passport fell out. And I did not notice. And I walked away. Fortunately, there are good people in this world, and the dear, sweet, wonderful shopkeeper who did not speak a word of English is one of them. He left his shop, chased me out into the street, and returned my dropped passport to me. I might have hugged him, I can’t remember, it was all sort of a blur. I definitely said thank you at least ninety three times and I might have offered him my first born child. He just smiled and ran back to his shop. When I told him this story afterwards, my friend Kevin said the only adequate reward for such kindness would have  been handing him my credit card and telling him to withdraw whatever he felt was appropriate. After the nice, sweet, dear, kind, saintly shopkeeper left, I collapsed onto the nearest surface and was unable to speak, walk, or think clearly for about another twenty minutes because of the PTSD I suffered as a result of this incident. It has also made me even more obsessive about my passport than I already was (i.e. I now check that I have it on me every five seconds rather than ten as previously)(Kevin and I often make jokes about how neurotic we both are about our passports when we travel. And it’s hilarious because one of us will make a joke about it, and we will both laugh, and then both unconsciously reach in to our respective bags to make sure we have them.)
    4. Riding the bus in Athens –  We’ve already talked about this one too. Between the passport and this, Athens and I didn’t get along great.
    5. Rome Hostel/London Hostel – This one gets combined, because I have two horrific hostel stories. Now in general, my hosteling experience has been pretty positive. No bed bugs (well, some in Florence, but not in my bed). No thieves. No cockroaches. No serial killers or messages written in blood upon the walls. Plenty of dirty bathrooms, drunken foreigners, and sketchy sheets, but I’ve learned to live with that. There were only two mildly traumatic experiences in hostels; London and Rome. Let’s start with London, shall we? London was my first hostel experience, so of course it was the worst. Each floor of the hostel we stayed in had three rooms, and each room was about the size of my bedroom at home, which, for the record, is not that big. They were not big rooms. But how many beds did they have squished in there? Twelve. TWELVE! Meaning that these bunk beds were stacked three on top of each other. This means that the space between your bunk and the bunk on top of you was about two and a half feet, aka not enough. I could not sit up in my bed. And there was no where to store luggage, so everyone had just dropped their large suitcases all over the floor and most of them were left open or had things spilling out. This meant that it was like an obstacle course trying to get to your bed. Especially in the dark. And somehow it was always dark when I was in that room. Oh, and did I mention that for these thirty six people per floor, there were only two bathrooms, both of which were so small that you could not turn around in them and had a layer of grime at least six inches thick? Seriously. Since this was my first overnight/hostel experience in Europe, the conditions, along with a few other things, caused me to nearly have a minor meltdown that I kept under control with some Book of Mormon reading (really). It was very stressful. (In retrospect, it was definitely a bad hostel, but the stressfulness of the situation may have been a result of my nerves about my first overnight in the big, bad world).
    6. Alright Rome hostel. It gets its own number because I went on too long about London and I thought a paragraph would be easier on your eyes. The Rome hostel was less stressful and more just…..bizzare. We booked this hostel very last minute. In fact, the whole Italy trip was very last minute, since we were going to go to France but the plans fell through when the Parisian workforce decided to start lighting things on fire in the streets. We were in Rome on All Saint’s Day, meaning that we got to see the pope, but it was also apparently a super busy time to be in Rome. You wouldn’t have guessed this if you have seen my pictures of a completely empty St. Peter’s Square, but almost all the reasonably priced hostels were full. So, in an act of desperation, we booked a hostel that had a 60% rating on hostelworld.com. Usually this means that it sucks. My rule of thumb is that I will not stay in a hostel with less than a 75% rating. But we really had no other choice; it was cheap and we were desperate, so we booked it and pretended like we couldn’t read the bad reviews. The hostel ended up being in a part of town that I’m pretty sure was the little India section of Rome. There were no white people. And we walked through a market where dead goats were being sold. Really. Anyways, we are walking down this really odd street that smelled like curry, and we find the number of the hostel. Except there is no hostel; just a large, stark building with a big iron gate in front of it that is locked and ominous. We press the buzzer. Several times. No one answers. We wait a few minutes, press it several more times. Then, a small door we had not noticed before to the side of the large gated doors open, and this little Indian guy sticks his head out. “Hostel?” he croaks darkly at us, unwiling to leave the protective shadow of the doorway. We nod. He extends a hang and beckons us mysteriously forward, and whispered, “Follow me.” Then, with a swish of his cloak, he disappears back through the little door. We all gave each other the “this is weird” look, and then followed him through the door to find a long, winding staircase leading….downward. Friends, the hostel was underground. Like seriously underground. It could have been an evil villain’s lair, that’s how underground it was. And it was seriously sketchy. Especially because the beds had comforters with Strawberry Shortcake on them, which is just so profoundly wrong for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on. I’m not sure if the hostel was actually sketchy, or it I was just super weirded out by the fact that it was underground, smelled like mold (and we could hear water dripping!), and had creepy cartoon sheets. And small clusters of Indian men would come and go sketchily. (Once, when I came out of the room to take a shower, they all stopped talking and just stared at me as I walked across the room to the bathroom, and then started mumbling again as soon as I shut the door)….okay, yeah, it’s not just me, it was seriously sketchy. And they told us on the website that “breakfast was provided.” Their definition of “breakfast” was three slices of the Italian equivalent of wonder bread (one for each of us) laid out for us in the morning on a counter that looked like it hadn’t been wiped down since it was installed in 1870. I was not impressed. But we survived.

Alright, there you have it. Drama drama drama! But I survived. And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! And smarter! And gives you better stories that can later be blogged about!

Mackenzi vs. Anglia

19 May

Today, we are talking about….England!!!!

Top Five Places in England – sent in by Mum

  1. Chester – I am loyal to the end, friends. Chester is the most beautiful city in England. I love it.
  2. The Lake District
  3. The Yorkshire Moors
  4. Bath
  5. North Wales

Top Five Things I will Miss in the UK – sent in by Magna H.

  1. Trains. Trains are the most incredibly easy and convenient way to get around. I love, love, LOVE trains. They have made my traveling around England so much easier.
  2. The scenery – coming from Utah, where everything is sort of a dingy brown colour for most of the year, the greenery here is a looooovely change.
  3. The chocolate – oh my lanta I can never go back to Hershey’s. English chocolate is superior in every way. It’s like having a party in your mouth.
  4. Being able to travel to Europe on a whim. Also the ten pound airline tickets.
  5. ….ah I really can’t think of just one thing to put here. Can I just say everything!? I love England.

Top 5 Differences in the Education System – Sent in by Marv

  1. Tea breaks – This one may seem kind of silly, but since every lecture is two hours long, the professors break about halfway through for coffee or tea. It’s great. I’m a big advocate, even though I don’t drink coffee or tea.
  2. The biggest difference is that lectures really have nothing to do with what you’re graded on. I could have not gone to a single lecture all year and still done just fine on my papers. What you learn in class is relevant to the subject, but you’re expected to do your own research for you assessments.
  3. Your entire grade is based on two essays/tests, depending o the department.
  4. The grading system. Which I still can’t quite figure out. A 70 and above is an A….but the professors don’t give higher than 70 usually. Or even a 70 for that matter. It has to be really extraordinary to merit a mark above a 70. Which doesn’t really make sense to me. Why have a grade if you’re never going to give it out? I discussed this with Graham one time and he said he didn’t understand it either. He told me he tried to award a mark of 90 once and was told that he couldn’t because no student could have written a paper that merited that score….which I just don’t understand.
  5.   The lectures are designed less to give you information and more to get you excited about going out and doing more research on your own. The biggest thing this meant for me was that I spent a lot more time in professor’s offices saying “I don’t know how to do this!!!” Fortunately, they were all awesome, and this outside help is expected to get a decent mark on your essay.

Top Five Things about Coming Home that I am Excited About – sent in by Magna H.

  1. Hamburgers! Oh my lanta I have not had a good hamburger since last September (yes, September, because I was sick all Christmas break and didn’t really eat anything.) All hamburgers in England consist of a stale role with a dollop of meat. That’s it. You might get one sad piece of lettuce on the side. Maybe a few onions. I have been craving a messy, dripping, flavourful American hamburger since I stepped off the plane.
  2. Not having to convert every price tag from pounds to dollars in my head
  3. I’m excited to once again live in a country where the roads have shoulders. In England, the cars and busses drive so close to the sidewalk that I have actually have groceries knocked out of my hand by the wing mirrors of a bus,a nd more than once have almost peed my pants in shock as a bus whizzed by about a foot from me. I have more than once almost died.
  4. I will not miss military time. I am excited to be back in a country where nothing is written in military time, and the date goes month then day. Not the other way around.
  5. I’m excited to be back somewhere where I know which direction traffic is coming from. My strategy here is look both ways several times, then just run.

 Tomorrow is my last official day of school stuff and I am done. Done. Freedom! Summer! ….home.

Mackenzi vs. Culture

18 May

And our countdown continues, as today we discuss food, culture, and oh my lanta can we just talk about the fact that we are going on 11 straight days of rain here? I have actually forgotten what the sun looks like. Is it possible it just burned up and no one’s realised it yet? I’m thinking about starting to build an ark. Today I am going out on a quest for two of every local animal; two sheep….two pigeons….two ferril wild cats that lurk on the walls and scare innocent joggers….done.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, food and culture.

Best Restaurants/Things Eaten – Sent in by Shanice H.

Unfortunately, I don’t know the names of hardly any of the places I am about to talk about. Bear with me.

  1. In Italy, Johnny, Daniel, and I had one big amazing splurge of an Italian meal. The restaurant we chose was one Daniel knew about from his last trip to Rome. It is run by a tiny, ancient Italian woman out of her home; she lives on the top floor, the restaurant is on the bottom. She maintains that Julius Caesar was assassinated on the very spot where her restaurant now stands. There is no menu, you just eat whatever she is cooking that day, and you are not brought more food until you finish everything on your plate. Did I mention it’s eight courses? It was divine. Absolutely heavenly. The best food I have ever put in my mouth. We were served a variety of cheeses, lentils, olives, fish, bread, plus the most amazing pasta I have ever tasted. I even took a picture, which absolutely does not do it justice. But it was the kind of food that ruins all other food for you. It was so good. 
  2. The World’s Best Pizza, also in Italy, which I have already blogged about. You can find an account of it aqui. How did it taste? Imagine the best pizza you have ever eaten. Then stop and accept the fact that not matter what you have eaten, you will never experience a pizza this good.                                                                                                                                 (I am not responsible for this terrible picture. I was just trying to show you the sign).
  3. In Norway, I was privy to split a bowl or reindeer soup with my two traveling companions. I was skeptical about eating reindeer; I was slightly concerned that come Christmas time the Macy’s Day Parade might be missing their Prancer in front of Santa’s sleigh, and then I will be crippled with guilt for the rest of my life. But one bite and I was hooked. I would have personally slaughtered Rudolph in Time Square on live TV in front of millions of horrified viewers just for another bowl of this wonderful stuff.  
  4. In Germany, we walked into a restaurant where everyone spoke very limited English, and asked for the most German thing they had on the menu. Seriously. They brought us this; 
  5. And I would be remiss if I did not include this in the list of best things I’ve eaten abroad. It was certainly the most entertaining thing I have eaten. And it didn’t taste too bad either!  

Top Five Songs – Sent in by Shelbi A.

I wasn’t super sure what was meant by this request, but I decided to interpret it like this; you know how there are songs that for the rest of your life will make you think of one specific moment or place? I have picked the five songs that I will forever associate with England for the rest of my life for no reason other than I heard them and fell in love with them here, and at the time they meant something special. They are all amazing, and you should go look them all up immediately.

  1. “I Was Walking Far From Home” – Iron&Wine
  2. “Jump Rope” – Blue October
  3. “No One’s Gonna Love You” – Band of Horses
  4. “Kiss with a Fist” – Florence + The Machine
  5. “If You Ain’t Got Love” – Mason Jennings

Top Five Plays – Sent in by Shanice H.

  1. “Hamlet” – National Theatre
  2. “Romeo and Juliet” – Royal Shakespeare Company
  3. “The Tempest” – Royal Shakespeare Company
  4. “Les Miserables” – West End
  5. “King Lear” – Royal Shakespeare Company

Poor Les Mis…all on it’s own amid all those Shakespeare plays.

That’s all from me today. See you tomorrow where we will be talking about jolly old England!

Mackenzi vs. People

17 May

And so it begins; a period of reflection upon my travels and time spent in Europe in countdown form.

Let’s start today by talking about something a lot of you sent in requests to hear about; the people I have met while I have been here.

Top Five Crazies – sent in by Briana S.

  1. Woman in the French hostel who asked me to stop breathing (see Mackenzi vs. the Sniffle). Did I also mentioned she muttered/sang to herself in French all night, swore at a girl when her alarum went off, and did these creepy weird breathing exercises all night with a little bit of yoga posing thrown in. After she left, the girl sleeping in the bunk across from her confessed that she didn’t dare turn her back to her all night for fear of what might happen if she did.
  2. Jane – Jane was my drama professor. Though professor is a very loose term. She was rarely in class. And when she was, she managed to put together a crazy ass piece of “theatre” (another term I use rather loosely) that was thoroughly uncomfortable for everyone involved. She would always complain how we never got anything done, then would disappear for hours at a time and come back and let class out early, promising that next week we would work really hard so be ready. She made us pretend we were bingo numbers. She wouldn’t let us use the song “Proud Mary” in the piece because once she caught a boyfriend cheating on her and threw a plate of spaghetti at him while that song was playing in the background. I made a very valiant attempt to like her….but she was just too much for me to handle.
  3. Turkish shopkeeper who grabbed me off the street, pulled me into his shop, then proceeded to kiss my hand, spin me around, pester me about whether or not I had a boyfriend back home, and then eventually proposed on bended knee. Awkward with a capital A….
  4. Middle aged man in Rome who tried to chat me up while Johnny and Daniel were buying their Forum tickets. He gave me his phone number and everything, and made a valiant attempt to get mine. I lied about my name, age, and home town when he asked. I did not lie about the fact that I had two very tall men with me and one girlish scream from me was all it would take for them to go into full combat mode.
  5. Agent X- I am not actually going to name this person because I know there are some British people who read this blog who know him, and I don’t want to be mean, because even though he was definitely insane, he meant well. However, Agent X was pretty much as wacky as they come. I ran into him through the drama department. You could not have a conversation with Agent X without him apologising for at least seven things during the course of it. He was deathly afraid of offending someone by something he did. Once he tried to imitate an American southern accent, then remembered I was American and literally apologised to me for two days, even though there was nothing offensive about what he did and I told him so. He was also notorious for inserting himself inappropriately in other people’s conversations, usually in the kind of way that made everyone stop talking and just stare at him. And he was very, er, intense. Uncomfortably so. But bless him, his heart was in the right place. But he was just a bit…well, you know.

Top Five Kindest People – sent in by Gram/Holly C.  

I could go on and on about this one. I have encountered slathers of some of the kindest people I have ever met in my life here. I could talk about the pub owner in Lisdoonvarna, the National Trust clerk in Disley, Nadie the Romania billionaire in Venice, Chris, YSA coordinator extraordinaire, at Chester institute, Margaret the Famous Author, the ticket clerk at the RSC box office, the family that I stayed with in Scotland, the missionary from Colorado, the bed and breakfast owners in Stratford, the girl I sat next to during “Romeo and Juliet”….and I could go on. It was very hard to narrow it down, but I picked these five because they either stood out the most or were the most impactful through their kindness.

  1. Sue – Sue is the secretary at the International Student Exchange office here on Chester campus. She is a dream. Also possibly a superhero. There is no problem Sue cannot solve with a smile, no question she cannot answer with her double screened computer, and no five minutes she can’t spare to have a chat about the latest travels and adventures of her American charges. She is patient, kind, and just all around amazing, and just an absolutely genuine and kind hearted person.
  2. Eve – Eve is my flatmate from Leeds. She could possibly fit under the crazies list as well, but in a good way. Eve was the best flatmate I could have asked for. She is intelligent, sweet, hysterically funny, and just all around wonderful. Some of my favourite memories of Chester Uni will involve her, from drawing Christmas cards at midnight to throwing plastic tomahawks and shooting each other with plastic dart guns to riding a scooter found in the park and naming it Passion (innuendos ensued) to sitting on her radiator and talking for hours to buying a mug with a picture of a man whose clothes fall off when you put hot liquid in it (she did this, not me. Just for the record). Eve has lent me trousers, she has lent me shoes, she has lent me her hair dryer, she has lent me food, and she has given me so much friendship. I will miss her dearly, and owe her boxes of twinkies to say thank you for all that she has done for me.
  3. Kevin – Kevin is an American exchange student (and closet blog reader, as I just learned!) who I didn’t really befriend until earlier this year when the two of us went to York. This trip went so well that we followed it up with Ireland and Oslo. Kevin is the most level headed, easy going guy you will ever meet. Nothing phases him, not missing busses, not biking cliffs, not paying 60 euros for a cab, not sleeping in the airport – nothing. To Kevin, everything is just part of the journey. This guys just goes with the flow and loves every crazy minute of it. Kevin has filled the role of a big brother for me over here, offering me scores of good advice and plenty of laughs, and he watches out for me. I could list pages and pages of the small kindnesses Kevin has shown me, from opening doors to offering his jacket, and I will miss him very much. He has been my best traveling companion.
  4. Graham – Graham was my English professor who helped stage As You Like It. He has filled the role of my mentor over here. He helped me with everything. Everything. There are the big obvious things like As You Like It and essay help for my Shakespeare class (which he taught) – that was his job.  But then there things that he did for me just because he’s a great guy; gave me travel advice when I went to Italy, always made sure I was settling in to Chester life alright, bought me Diet Coke, baked muffins for the As You Like It cast, bought me books, gave me a lift to town in the rain, lent me videos of various Shakespeare productions, wrote a letter of recommendation for me on very short notice that helped land me an awesome job for next school year. Graham is an awesome professor – one of the best I’ve ever had – and always went out of his way to make sure I was doing alright.
  5. The Red Headed Lunchroom Lady – I never learned her name. But my, was she a darling. She’s the kind of woman who would slip you an extra piece of pie or an extra scoop of baked beans if you looked like you needed it that day. She came and saw As You Like It. She posed for photos for my friend Dane’s photo project, which he chose to do on the canteen. She always asked me and all the other Americans about our travels and then always remembered where we said we were going and asked us about it when we got home. She complimented me on my fashion sense and noticed when I cut my hair. She never called anyone by name – everyone was “my sweet,” “my love,” “my pet,” or “my dear.”  She was understanding when I didn’t have my ID card and gave me free food. Basically, she’s the nicest lunchroom lady you will ever meet.  

Top Five Men I’d Marry to Get a Green Card and Stay in the UK – sent in by Michelle S.  

Since Chester itself seems to have a lack of desirable men (except for the GreenPeace guy who stopped me in town today. I never stop for the charity people but him….oh I stopped for him.) I decided to take an alternate route with this one.

  1. Ewan Mc Gregor
  2. Jude Law
  3. Rupert Grint
  4. Prince Harry
  5. Cole Barker

Stay Tuned! Coming tomorrow, we reflect upon music, culture, and (my favourite!) food.

Mackenzi vs. Defining Home

16 May

Last night, I started packing.

For moving.

For leaving England.

For going home.

I think the only appropriate expression to describe how I feel about this is WTF!?!!?

Where did this year go? Didn’t I just get here last week? I swear, I haven’t even finished unpacking yet, and now you’re asking me to start putting my life back in suitcases?

This is my last official full week in Chester. My last week as a student in Chester, that is. Next week I’m going on my last (damn I hate that word!) trip of the year to Eastern Europe. Then my mother arrives from the US, and we have a week of day tripping around Cheshire and Wales. And then the father and the MT arrive, and it’s all downhill from there.

My slow surrender has begun; I’m coming home.

It’s odd how much Chester feels like home. When I first arrived, I remember distinctly a moment standing beneath the clock, looking across the Tudor street and feeling that, no matter how long I stayed, I would never feel like I belonged here. I could not imagine a time when I would not look down Eastgate Street and not feel I was in a foreign place full of strangers. I didn’t think I would ever think of my small, damp flat as fitting any definition of “home.” I also remember once thinking that the purple pictures of the queen would never feel like anything but Monopoly money. And yet, here I am, ten months later, and things that are once strange have become familiar. More than familiar, they have become home. I feel at home here in Chester. And, aside from my parent’s house that I grew up in, my flat in Chester is as close to a home as anything has ever felt like. When I am sitting in an unfamiliar airport, waiting to catch a return flight after another adventure, when I think of going home, it is my white washed walls and radiators that I long for. It’s my army cot and airline pillows. It’s my Iron&Wine poster and Motel 6 curtains (which still make me throw up in my mouth every time I look at them). It’s mini refrigerators and stoves that set off the smoke detector. My definition of home has shifted.

I think that means I’m growing up.

….Wow, something amazing just happened. I  spell checked this entry and there were ZERO mistakes. Philosophy AND accuracy. Score.

Tomorrow, I’m going to begin thetop thirty country countdown on KBull 93. There’s still time to submit suggestions! (and you all should.) See you then.