How to Be Aca-Awesome

I want to be like Kay Cannon.

Longreads

Jessica Gross | Longreads | May 2015 | 13 minutes (3,345 words)

After getting her start in the Chicago improv scene, Kay Cannon went on to write for 30 Rock—where she was on staff from the very beginning—and New Girl, for which she was also an executive producer. Her debut screenplay, a quirky a cappella comedy, became the hit film Pitch Perfect. The sequel, Pitch Perfect 2, is in theaters now. Cannon and I spoke by phone about why a cappella is so uncool, the movie’s treatment of weight and race, and Cannon’s feelings about her own teeth.

You first got the idea for this movie while you were at 30 Rock, when someone wrote a line about Toofer having been in an a cappella group in college. You thought it was a complete joke. When you found out that nope, a cappella is real, you…

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Americans…. (smh)

[Author’s Note: This is a post about Copenhagen and it’s a week late…. but the Paris post will be coming soon!]

It’s amazing how snobbish of a traveler I have become. I hate to stand out. I cringe every time I feel the desire to whip out my camera (mobile phone) and snap a quick pic. I get bothered by the loud Americans yapping away on the tube, buses, cafés and pavement. I am fast to forget the fact that yes, I am one of those loud-mouthed, picture-taking, fascinated-by-everything tourists. I try so hard to blend in (and it helps that all I ever wear is black).

I experience these feelings mainly in London, and probably primarily because I am so willing to call this place “home” and therefore don’t want to include myself as one of those foreign outsiders that plague the city with their selfie-sticks and union flag t-shirts (though I do in fact HAVE a t-shirt with a union flag).

Being in Copenhagen (or København), however, I found myself to be much more forgiving. Of course, I didn’t run into all that many tourists. Turns out Copenhagen is a very much homogenous city. 98% of the population is tall, gorgeous, fair-skinned with blue eyes and speaking Danish. So naturally – I fit right in! Ha! #sike I’m neither tall nor do I speak a lick of that fascinating Nordic language (though I so wish that I did now!)

But it was always quite funny to me that whenever I was in a transaction (shopping or buying clothes or food (MOSTLY FOOD)) the sales person would always speak to me directly in Danish. And now I’m not totally convinced it was because my slight Scandinavian attributes – I think it was more likely because Copenhagen is actually just full of the Danish! They don’t expect you to not know their language! Luckily though, once they realize you don’t speak Danish (because you’re staring at them like they’ve just asked you to recite Shakespeare’s entire sonnet sequence backward) they’ll quickly switch over to perfectly fluent english with a smile and a friendly chuckle.

I could go on and on about Danish (the language) and how it’s so fun to eavesdrop on a conversation, trying to pick out similar words or English phrases but I’ll stop now because I can’t imagine it’s even half as much fun to read about as it is to experience and remember first hand.

Instead, I’ll switch gears and just tell you how absolutely wonderful Copenhagen was!

It’s a bikers world over there. Many many more bikes than cars that’s for sure! And parents will ride their bikes with a cute little cart attatched to the front with their children inside. Once your kid is about 4 they’ll be riding their own bike next to you! Before you know it, that kid is off training wheels and cycling on their own infront of you… I mean seriously, who needs a drivers license when you live in a small flat city with EXTREMELY cycle-friendly laws and road ways?! The KIDS are even “driving” themselves from a young age. If I lived in Copenhagen I’d never drive again. EVER. And that is reason #1 why Emma and I decided Copenhagen is so happy.

Bikes = no driving = no stress = no waiting in rush hour traffic = no sedentary sitting for an hour or more a day.
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Bikes = exercise = endorphins = happiness and healthiness = even MORE happiness!

#math.

Reason #2 we believe Copenhagen is so happy is their diet. Markets and fresh fruits and vegetables ARE EVERYWHERE. And the seafood is to die for! Seriously the fish – sooooo yum! With a light/lean diet and he plethora of water that all of those Danish cyclists are no doubt guzzling you KNOW they are happy. Yes the markets/grocers do sell sweets and processed goods, but as we walked through a local grocery store (solely as an anthropological experiment – because Emma is awesome) I couldn’t help but notice, most people stick to the perimeter! I only saw a few people breech into the center (and two of those few were Emma and myself…. though we didn’t buy anything – just appreciated looking at the Danish chocolates)!

Way to go Copenhagen. Eating clean. Way. To. Go. (AMERICANS ARE YOU TAKING NOTES?)

Reason #3 in my humble opinion why Copenhagen is so happy: colors. The little houses and businesses and sometimes totally random colorful buildings pop up and make me smile. Purples and pinks and yellows and green and oranges and blues. More than once we found ourselves peeking down side streets and stopping just to snap *one more* picture of the colorful houses though I had taken at least 23 that looked identical…….
But anyway, the colors are just so whimsical and friendly and you can’t help but smile when you see them!

All in all, Copenhagen exceeded my expectations. It was small enough to do everything on foot, the markets were soooo much fun to check out and the food was amazing (I got a gyro & apple lemonade at one market and a cinnamon roll & fish and chips at the other!), the Karlsburg beer was delightful, the sun was shining, the people were friendly and talkative and smiley.

If Copenhagen was not on your list of places to visit before – it should definitely be on your list now!
(And if you need suggestions of things to do or places to stay – I’m your gal.)

“GO EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD AND TELL THE GOOD NEWS TO EVERYONE.” Mark 16:15

I’m Walking on Sunshine…

Whoa yeah! And don’t it feel good!? (Seriously so much sunshine over here! Yay!)

I can’t believe how much I’ve done and seen and experienced and changed already just in the short time I’ve been here and in the past two weeks particularly!

I left you last on a Saturday night – the Saturday before Easter to be exact. And let me just tell you, easter was AMAZING. Started my morning out right by doing an Easter brunch at Bill’s with 8 of the girls in my program. I had a proper English breakfast (of course) and right after breakfast we all walked toward Covent Garden market. Before we reached the market I stopped by a little bakery right across from the Theatre Royal that Kelsey and I had visited before attending Hillsong for our first time last summer and ordered the most delicious latte and chocolate mousse ball filled with ooey gooey caramel – Absolutely delicious!

[I tell you these little details with the intention that should you ever come to London you’ll follow my suggestions of good places to go and get food/sweets/coffee/etc].

At the market, there’s a variety of things to buy and try and I wound up walking away with two homemade extra jams – “Gooseberry with Elderflower” and “Blackcurrant with Sloe Gin” each of which is absolutely delicious and I enjoy on my toast in the morning (if I ever happen to wake up early enough to not just sprint out the door with a banana in hand).

Easter service was easily the highlight of my day. There was a queue winding around the Dominion Theatre, down the block, down another block, and maybe ANOTHER block, and around the corner….. but we (myself, Elisa & Eunice) made it in for the 3:30 service in balcony seats and after an awesome worship service, we sat back and enjoyed watching the Easter story unfold as if it were a actual show at a theatre.

(I apologize right now for the number of times you will read “awesome, amazing, beautiful, wonderful, seriously, !!!,” etc during this post).

I’ve tried typing out and explaining the Easter service nearly 5 times but my words can’t really capture how mesmerizing and heart-gripping and beautiful the service was. There was singing (more like SANGing), acting, dance battles (Stacey Jones if you are reading this I was thinking you would have LOVED it!). I wanted to get up and dance! I wanted to sing praise at the top of my lungs! I was moved to tears several times, and am constantly amazed at the heart of Hillsong church in London and the lengths that they go to in order to reach people and win them for Christ.

At the end of service, the pastor said something about how Jesus came and obliterated YOLO (you only live once) but through Him we get a different YOLO – You Obviously Live On. I am so thankful for the love of Christ, His sacrifice on the cross and His amazing resurrection. The curtain was torn from top to bottom and we no longer must be separated from Him! #hallelujah #praisejesus #whoopwhoop!

I ended up attending the service again, this time from the floor “priority seats” with Elisa, my roommate Emma and another girl (Rebecca) from my program because we were smart enough to get in the queue about 1.5 hours early. I was equally moved the second time through, and a different pastor wrapped up service, this time expanding on the grace and love that Jesus extends to us ALWAYS. It’s a love that changes you. Or rather, it’s a love that’s changing me. I’m experiencing His provision and care and guidance and joy in new ways and I’m so so so crazy in love with God. I hope you all had as good of if not a better Easter than me. I know I’m a bit late in proclaiming it but HE IS RISEN!!!!

Oh and did I mention Easter was a beautifully sunny day? Because yeah, it was a BEAUTIFULLY sunny day. And come to think of it, I haven’t remembered much rain or cold since…. it’s been an early summer – lots of sunshine. I even have a Toms tanline on my feet! (Don’t worry mom – I finally caved and bought sun screen.)

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In my Contemporary Britain class I’ve taken a few strolls through London parks and roads. We went through Hyde park and visited Hyde park corner to look at monuments and see the types of things that they like to memorialize in London. I was particularly moved by the memorial to the tube bombings (photos available on my facebook). It was a tragic series of events planned for maximum death and the memorial is actually quite nice and interactive. Even with the knowledge of all those tube bombings, I have never felt unsafe on the tubes so don’t worry about me! (But keep praying for my safety if you so wish).

This week in that class we walked around the east end – sort of – and noticed how a lot of the old is making way for the new. Docks are closed. The City is right next door. The east is getting built up and revamped and while progress is a good thing, some historical markers as well as local quirks are being sacrificed for the new develpments. This is particularly unfortunate when you take in to account all the street art in London – if they took a vote (and if I were allowed to vote *where’s my husband at?!*) I would vote to preserve the art!!!! Some of it is seriously amazing and the east end will be losing a lot when they start to tear it down!

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In my Art, Architecture and Society class, we’ve thus far visited St. Paul’s (just the outside), the London Museum, Hampton Court, Stourhead and Avebury Henge.

The paintings I’ve seen! The ceilings I’ve seen! The stained glass I’ve seen! The chimney pots I’ve seen! [Seriously the chimney pots are cool]. The gardens I’ve seen! THE UNDENIABLY AWESOME GARDENS I HAVE SEEN!!!

I mean, the estate at Stourhead is imho the most aesthetically pleasing place to visit in all of England **on a nice day**! (Hampton Court comes in second, I’d say a close second but I am really so enthralled by the Stourhead estate right now – though HC had a lot of really interesting things about the monarchs and different types of gardens and the world’s largest grape vine…)

Still, Stourhead (though a much farther distance away from London) is superior. The air at Stourhead is fresh, the walk through the grounds is spotted by “beautiful, picturesque and sublime” images [and yes those are technical terms], there’s a number of cool things to see: a pantheon, gothic church, massive man-made lake, spooky grotto, neoclassical villa (used in the filming of Pride and Prejudice) that has an awe-inspiring personal library, Apollo’s temple (with ahhh-mazing acoustics — I got my little mermaid, my sound of music, and my phantom of the opera on in that temple and it was a highlight of my day)!!! Keira Knightly also apparently leaned against one of the pillars of Apollo’s temple for the P&P film, and it was set in the rain so they made it rain for her since it had actually been a dry day lol. #pointsEngland

Avebury henge was cool too, though the stones here were not as large as Stonehenge – the whole experience was much more rewarding tha a trip to Stonehenge would have been. At Avebury we were allowed to touch or lean against the large stones, get right up next to them and walk around the whole village, where as at Stonehenge you can never really get THAT close. Still, I did snap a quick pic of Stonehenge as we drove by!

I’m so thankful for this A/A&S course because it has allowed me to see things I would have never known to plan on my own and I’m seeing London (and England) in brand new ways 🙂

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I’ve also seen two more plays for my Theatre course since we last spoke: “A View from the Bridge” starring Mark Strong who was just awarded the Olivier award for his performance and a semi-fringe production of The Royale starring Nicholas Pinnock.

Both shows were minimalist and highly dependant on the ability of the actors and I thoroughly enjoyed each one. As a general rule, if you’re ever in London I would definitely definitely (ps have I said definitely yet?) Go see at least one show in the west end and one fringe production. The classical training, artistic culture and variety of shows available in London make this lovely city a dangerously exciting place for theater lovers like me.

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As for my Englishes course, I’ve been observing the people (foreigners and locals alike) and becoming in-tune with the unspoken rules of conduct and behavior – whether that’s on the tube, in a restaurant or while I’m out for high tea! It’s interesting to try and approach London from a linguist’s perspective, especially considering how diverse the city is and how many tourists (not speaking English) are ALWAYS there.

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And that’s just my course work! I haven’t even mentioned my *fun*!

I’ve gone out with my cousin Nicole a few times and it’s great to see her and hear what she’s got to say about living here. She took me to this great little spot called the Cereal Killer Café where I ordered a bowl of Hershey’s Cookies & Cream cereal topped with Nutella and served with chocolate milk. YUMMM! Another spot you MUST visit if you ever chance upon London.

I’ve joined a connect group through Hillsong and met a ton of cool people – and through that I was told about a cool filming opportunity for a new show that you can find out about by searching the hashtag #FearlessTV or looking up @FearlessLondon on instagram. I was a part of the audience for a number of musicians/bands which meant from 9AM until nearly 6PM last Saturday I was jumping around, singing along, clapping, dancing, waving my phone in the air like a lighter, moshing and praising Jesus. The show airs in London on TBN in June and I doubt my face will ever even be seen (which honestly isn’t the point because it’s all about introducing new/up-and-coming artists from the church) but I had a REALLY great time. I got to hang with some friends I’ve already made at Hillsong and also meet some new people, too. Apparently everyone else that was there was a leader in some way and they all knew each other so at times I felt a little out of place by not knowing EVERYONE but that didn’t deter me from having a great time! My calves hurt the next few days from all the moving I was doing but I’d say it was worth it — Funny note: before we began the director (I’m assuming) came up and whispered to the crowd “Hey guys, you know this is for tv so you’ve got to look alive. And I know we’re doing this for TBN but I want you to go crazy. Forget it’s for TBN. I want BET.” LOL

At the end of this post  [and once I get my back to my laptop] I’ll try to add links to a few of the artists I was supporting. They are all EXTREMELY talented and a blast to sing along with/groove to.

Other than that, I’ve been hanging out with my roommate and the other girls in my classes, visiting a local palace, Notting Hill, Kensington Gardens, the Southbank, Covent Garden…. still having a blast!

Thanks for all your prayers and if you’ve made it through this entire post, you are an angel.

PS. I wrote this on my phone on my flight to Copenhagen! I can’t believe I’m headed there!

PPS. Plans for my “midterm break” are official. Paris and Rome here I come!

PPPS. Though I wrote this on my flight, I’m posting it after now being in Copenhagen for about 7 hours. This place is lovely and I’m so blessed! (Though I don’t understand their money….)

PPPPS. I have just officially applied for entranve to the Creative Writing program at UW. Prayers and well wishes are appreciated!

xxxx

Go everywhere and tell the good news to everyone.” Mark 16.15

[Videos coming soon.]

Don’t Blink.

I can’t help but smile/chuckle when I think about the title of this next post. Partly because of how big of a nerd/Whovian* I am, partly because of the song** that immediately pops into my head, and partly because of how silly it is of me to be sitting here, having not even written anything yet and to be cracking up at myself… alone in my room…. in London…. on a chill Saturday night.

Yup. You heard me right. ALONE IN MY ROOM ON A SATURDAY NIGHT IN LONDON. And you may call me foolish, lame, boring, etc. but I actually am so relieved to finally just be sitting here with my computer and my words.

I’ve been rushing around so much this past week and a half, it’s hard to find time to just sit here and write – and I LOVE sitting, and I LOVE writing and so, yes, I have found myself here on a Saturday night and I honestly couldn’t be happier.***

It seems like a good idea to update you all – and as I said in my first [or was it second?] post, I won’t be boring you with every little detail and thought that has gone through my head. In fact, that would take me a ridiculous amount of time to write out and try to remember – much more time than I have or would be willing to spend – and a girl needs to sleep, amiright!?

PS. It’s before midnight here, but only just and….. OH DEAR.
I HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT MY LAUNDRY!
BRB.

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(OK so I can’t prove it to you, but 22 minutes has gone by since that laundry related revelation of mine and my laundry is now all hung up on the rack to dry and I’m once again settled into my writing trance and it is now past midnight here but I will press on.)****

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Right where was I? Rambling? Ok. Let’s move on.

I haven’t given you really any information here since my FIRST Sunday and seeing as I have since lived through an entire 13 days beyond that post, I have quite a bit that I’ve learned and experienced that I haven’t told you about. The lucky ones of you that get to be my facebook friends, or that happen to follow me on instagram or Twitter [insert shameless plug for @christelvtucker] get little updates of my trip through my witty comments or the vast amounts of pictures that I’ve been periodically uploading, but my (very infrequent) tweets, updates and pictures can only say so much…

So I’ll let you know in writing that in the past 13 days I have:

1. Wrapped up my time at “The Manse” near Putney with my lovely friends Kirsty, Laura and James (but I didn’t leave before I cooked them a meal and let’s just say it was a big success making “Taco Pizza” for them!)

2. I have met [again] my roommate and moved into my homestay in northern London, in Zone 4, very near to two separate Piccadilly line tube stations. Now I know that Zone 4 is not SUPER close to the central city, but being out here in Zone 4 definitely has perks (mainly the fact that I am close to some of my favorite hangouts and also that my school transit pass reaches this far out and I will therefore not have to pay extra to go out into this zone if people wanted to hang out here in the boonies). My home is nice and comfortable and has the cutest tiled front and inside walls. The family is very kind and Caludio and Sara make the most EXCELLENT dinners (SALMON! STEAMED VEGGIES! POTAOES! HOMEMADE PIZZA! PASTAS! WINE! PUDDINGS!*****). I live with quite a few people and now that I’ve been here for about 9 days, the initial awkwardness that might have existed has evaporated and we all get along quite well, talking about travel and work and music and film and television and food and we get on as if strangers living in your home were just the most normal thing ever. (Which by the way for this family, it is. They’ve been having students live here with them for more than 6 years – my sister Elise stayed with them back in ’09). Oh and did I mention that I am so happy I am with the roommate that I’m with!? She’s super cool and I can tell we are gonna be having a lot of fun together! Shopping and trying new restaurants and going out and *cough Copenhagen cough* lol

3. I’ve been soooooo very fortunate to have spent time with KELSEY RACHAEL TAYLOR finally!!! We met up last Wednesday – me, Kels and her mom, Nancy. Then we met up again Thursday evening. Then we met up again Friday afternoon. Then again Friday evening. Then again Sunday morning. Then again Sunday evening. And that’s when I had to say goodbye to my beautiful best friend and her generous/kind/funny mother. We packed a lot into those brief moments we got to spend with each other: A bottle of Prosecco, a walk through our favorite area (Hampstead Heath), a meal at our favorite Thai restaurant (The Little Thai), a pint at our favorite pub (The Flask), a Tom Butler Band gig, a visit to Hillsong, another bottle of Prosecco, some delicious kettle corn (thanks for getting me hooked Nancy!), some fun stories and laughs and youtube videos. I was so happy to see her, and it seemed as though we hadn’t lost any time these past 6 months. I wish she were staying here with me, but I will grudgingly relinquish her to you all for the next 9 weeks. Give her a big welcome home for me!

4. I’ve officially begun my actual “Literary London” program and course work (we are done with the first week now). We had two days of orientation (some classroom time and some exploring the city with Peter Buckroyd) and I knew from the start that my classes would be an absolute blast and that I’m gonna be learning SO MUCH over the next 2+ months. I have 4 very passionate, smart, funny professors, a boatload of interesting course material, and a beautiful city in which I am studying.
I wish I could pass on to you everything that I have already begun to learn, but it would honestly be kind of hard to explain everything without you HERE to SEE it all. A lot of what we do is walking around and truly observing the city around us: the art, the architecture, the language, the unspoken social rules, the many identities that are rooted in this place. It’s fascinating and eye opening and it’s making me fall in love with London even more (uh-oh).

5. I’ve seen my first****** play in London! It’s called “The Nether” and it was thought-provoking and visually very unique and beautiful to watch. The subject matter was a bit edgy, but almost in that over-the-top borderline annoying way where the writer was trying TOO hard to be edgy, ya know? So, of course, it deals with morals and sex and family and….. the perils of the big bad INTERNET (dun-dun-duuuuun). Still, an interesting production to watch, and it is available to read if you are curious. Warning: it deals with some seriously not very light subjects….

6. I’ve met a ton of people, I think I’ve got almost every person’s name in my program memorized (big emphasis on the ALMOST but hey! I’m working on it….). Everyone has been cool and we’ve all seemed to gel really well. We’ve already started impressing our professors and I’m pretty sure this group of students will keep that up. [We were the first group in a while to not call one of the professors our first weekend here with concerns about broken bones, falling down stairwells, etc!]

7. I’ve started making plans for my breaks! Two words: Copenhagen. France. #watchoutworld More plans will be in the works soon…. Dublin? Scotland? Italy…..? We shall see and I am open to suggestions from experienced travelers!

8. I’ve gotten more settled into the church. This particular fact brings a big smile to my face! God has been answering my prayers (and I bet the prayers of my sister Valerie and my Oma. For some reason I think that their specific prayers have had particular impact on my situation….). I have some friends that are part of various Hillsong teams, and I’ve introduced them to two of my school friends (Eunice and Elisa). They are including us in their community and I seriously could not be any more grateful. Hillsong is something else, guys. I’ll be going to a Hillsong connect group on Thursday night with Elisa and Eunice, and the three of us are also planning on doing a little bible study together! I never imagined that I would meet people from HOME that would actually want to go to church with me each week, let alone do a bible study! I’m so thankful for everyone’s prayers and I’m now looking even more forward to the next 9 weeks. God is providing for me in so sO SO many ways!

Before I leave this post I figure I should explain the title, huh?

I’ve already been gone 20 days. That just completely baffles me! It’s felt like a breath. So I’m reminding myself to not blink and not take any of this for granted. I won’t get to live through this specific experience ever again and I want to soak in every single second!!!

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GO EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD AND TELL THE GOOD NEWS TO EVERYONE.” -MARK 16:15

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*Blink and you’re dead.

**Every now and then, I love me some Kenny Chesney.

***Actually, I would be substantially happier if I had a cup of tea with me right now, but alas, I do not. #BritishFail

****Since it is now past midnight I have every right to wish you a Happy Easter!!!! YAY! Jesus is risen!

*****Pudding refers to all desserts in general here, jsyk.

******Technically my first play was Richard III last summer….. #brilliant #martinfreeman #bilbobaggins #wasthatreallife?

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Happy spring! Hope you enjoyed my update! More to come soon*******!

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*******Within the next 13 days lol.

YOU ARE ALIVE!

SO – seeing as it is nearly Sunday again, I figured I should all update you on what happened LAST Sunday (as I promised).

Well, in order for you to get the full story I should provide a little background, yeah?

So back on the 20th of November 2014 I found out that I was accepted to both the Rome and the London spring study abroad programs for Creative Writing and Literature respectively. In fact, I had been personally contacted from the director of the Rome program – before I got the official acceptance – with this email:

rome acceptance

Seeing as 1. I was personally welcomed into the program and sought after 2. I am intending upon pursuing Creative Writing within the English major 3. I HAVE been to London and have NOT been to Rome — it would have possibly behooved me to choose Rome over London.

I spent a lot of time thinking on my own and discussing my options with people I trust have my best interest at heart. I only had about a week to choose between the two and though Rome seemed the obvious choice to many, I’ve obviously picked London.

Why?

Well for starters, I ABSOLUTELY ADORE LONDON and will spend the rest of my life finding any opportunity to get back here. I truly fell in love with the city and the people here last summer – it’s so different from home, and I don’t have to drive anywhere – HALLELUJAH! London has played a large part in my life in making me more independent, more self-sufficient and at the same time more completely reliant upon God and his provision.

However, those reasons weren’t the only things to sway me – in the end, I spent a lot of time praying and was inspired to pick London due to the realization that I didn’t want to be separated from the church though I would be separated from my own church back home during my time away. You see, I KNEW that I had a church in London that I loved and that I felt at home in. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a good church in Rome and I knew that going nearly 3 months without attending church was not going to be a viable option – I’ve spent time away from the church before and it has never led me anywhere good! When I’m not surrounded by people who love the Lord, it’s easy to slip, to make decisions I normally wouldn’t, to live a lazier life, and to compromise myself.

Here in London I knew I had Hillsong church – and better than just attending a church, I knew that I would be WELCOMED right in and growing in my walk with God, with other believers, and I wouldn’t allow myself the opportunity to just take a break from church for a few months.

So, with my decision finally made, I told myself – and many others at home – that my first Sunday in London I would walk straight into Hillsong and get connected immediately.

Great idea right? Let me tell you, it was easier said than done.

I DID go to Hillsong on Sunday. Yep. I walked right in those doors and with purpose walked right PAST the connection desk. Ha. So much for confidence, right?

I passed by multiple people with smiling faces saying “Welcome to church!” – literally at least 6 people looked me directly in the eye and said that to me as I worked my way to the front of the Dominion Theater, and found an usher to help me find a seat (just for 1) in what was basically the front row — the actual front row was filled with pastors/pastors wives and such – like you’ll find in most churches.

So there I was – 10 minutes to start time, sitting in a lively church, feeling simultaneously totally welcomed, totally at home, and totally annoyed with myself. I had become my only set back – deciding to try and blend in rather than being BOLD like I had told myself (and others) I would.

The worship was so fun – everybody was singing and dancing and jumping and clapping and praising the Lord together. The service was amazing: Charles Nieman from El Paso, Texas preached a great word on how God uses humble beginnings – exemplified by the life of David.

And then it was over and I walked with purpose into the lobby, knowing full well where the connection desks were and confidently went straight…. OUT THE DOOR TO THE STARBUCKS NEARBY.

Yep.

Confidence: 0. Cowardice: 2.

After sitting there with my white mocha and diminished self-confidence for about 3 minutes, I left the Starbucks and walked back to Hillsong….. straight through the front doors…. past the throng of people once again smiling with a hearty “Welcome to church!”…… all the way into…… the auditorium. I decided “hey, maybe if I sit through the service again I can garner enough confidence to actually get connected.”

Within 30 seconds though, silly and self-conscious me took a step back and my rational side finally took over. I did a big loop through the theater, BACK OUT into the lobby for the FOURTH time and finally walked up to a “Connection Point” where I stood without saying anything to anyone for a good minute or so.

Confidence: 1/2. Cowardice: 4.

Eventually, I turned toward two friendly looking guys at the connection point and asked to be put into a community group. After chatting for a while one of the guys said “hey you’ll be living kind of close to my leader, we’re going out to lunch right now, would you like to join us?” to which I emphatically said,

“YESIDONTHAVEANYPLANSFORTHERESTOFTHEDAYIWOULDLOVETO.”

So finally after all of that struggle and silliness there I was, invited out to lunch with the greeting and connection teams from Hillsong London. At lunch (at a delicious Brazilian restaurant) I met several really great people, talked for a few hours and got at least 4 phone numbers of some people my age and a few leaders! Looking back at all my failed attempts I realized it was, in the end, better that I had waited – otherwise that lunch would have never happened and I wouldn’t have met Jenifa, Chloe, Catherine, or the other people from Hillsong that had welcomed me with open arms.

AND THAT WASN’T EVEN THE BEST PART OF MY DAY.

I went home (to Putney) because we were planning on just having a chill night in and it would be one of my last two or three days staying with Laura, Kirsty and James.

When I arrived home – shortly after the others – they asked me about my day and I got to tell them all about how kind and cool the people at Hillsong were and Kirsty perked up when I mentioned the church and asked me to play their music for James.

[I had played my Hillsong Young & Free album for Kirsty my first day in London and she really loved it – saying it was not at all what she expected of “church music”]

The rest of the day, Hillsong music was blasting through the house. James, Kirsty and Laura all liked it, deciding as a group that it was most definitely unexpected and after I showed them some photos of the theater where church was held and told them about how worship is basically a fun concert where people are jumping and clapping and all singing together they said they’d like to give it a shot with me one of these weekends.

It got me thinking (and posting to twitter) a lot:

It’s no secret that only around 4% of the population in the UK goes to church. And of that 4% most are elderly and in “traditional churches” in old, small buildings with organ music and choirs and hymnals and the like. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is not exactly appealing to people – particularly young people.

The problem I’ve noticed in London in particular is that NOBODY KNOWS that there are churches like Hillsong which are fun, and full of youth. Now I know, “having fun and meeting cool young people” is not the primary reason why a person should go to church. BUT if it is a thing that will GET people to church in the first place, it at least provides them with the opportunity to have God’s heart and Word revealed to them – a revelation that will never happen if they think churches are only for old people who like organ music.

Now I’m under no illusion that I’ve changed my friends lives by introducing them to Hillsong music, and I’m not going to PUSH them to go to church. I AM however praying that if (when) they do attend Hillsong with me that they’ll have a good time and maybe be interested in going once more.

I never anticipated that I would be taking people to church WITH me – I just assumed I’d be going on my own for the next 11 weeks but maybe God has a different plan than the one I’ve come up with on my own.

I’d love it if you’d all pray for me for the next few weeks. Also, please pray for the hearts of all the young people in London that don’t know the beauty of grace and love that is found in Jesus and the community/family that is found in His church. I ask that you’d pray for Hillsong London and the work that they are doing in this beautiful city. Thanks xxx

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GO EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD AND TELL THE GOOD NEWS TO EVERYONE.” -MARK 16:15

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The Pavement is My Friend

The past couple of days have been really SO fun and SO busy and SO MUCH WALKING.

I honestly can’t believe how much I have done from Wednesday to today (nor can I believe how much I’ve walked…. many many miles!)

I’ve been keeping a journal of my events throughout the day, but it is much much much more detailed and personal than what I will be exposing you to over the next few weeks — which I’m sure you will be happy about because in the past 6 days I have already filled 25.5 pages of said journal with writing about this trip (granted, the pages are only about 7″x5″ and my hand writing isn’t minuscule)!

Still, I promised that I would share my adventures, and so here I am.

Where shall we begin, eh? (Oh wait I’m not in Canada…)

How about the day I left:

Tip for travelers to the UK from Seattle:
BECU does currency exchange, but ONLY into Canadian money! [THIS IS HORRIBLE NEWS TO A PERSON ON THEIR WAY TO THE AIRPORT]. Luckily, papa tucks and I found that out with about 40 minutes to spare and made a quick loop around town until we found a Wells Fargo in Burien who would exchange money for me. (Side note: exchanger was a fellow Whovian and also on her way to London soon. Huzzah!)

On flying to LAX:
I honestly don’t remember anything. I must have been asleep the whole time…. o.O

On navigating LAX:
Two words for those of you who ever have to transfer across different airlines in LAX – GOOD LUCK MATE.

On American Airlines:
Oh boy, did I love this international flight! Would definitely recommend them for all your international flight needs. Personal entertainment system with games, flight info, etc. etc. and ALL THE FRIGGIN OSCAR FLICKS. Let’s just say I may have not slept a wink and instead done a few crosswords, dominated at Bejeweled, watched The Imitation Game followed by The Theory of Everything (accompanied by a delicious hot inflight meal including dessert) followed by Gone Girl [and I totally predicted every single thing that was gonna happen – does that make me a psycho?]…. ok, ok, then I slept WITH MY FEET UP BECAUSE THERE WAS AN OPEN SEAT NEXT TO ME (Huzzah again!)

On arriving in London:
I felt overjoyed and a huge sense of belonging. I knew how everything worked, several people (tourists) asked ME for help! It felt like coming home in a way, and I don’t at all mind that London is my home away from HOME.
Lucky for me, my friend Kirsty (who I was temporarily moving in with) took a sick day, and though I couldn’t reach her on her mobile I decided I’d just head on over anyway and I didn’t even need directions or help and she was there when I arrived (10 points Gryffindor!)

Sitting on the couch and chatting with Kirsty that afternoon was a great way to unwind and relax after being cooped up in a plane. We caught up, talked about loads of different things, somehow wound up talking about my faith and then listened to Hillsong music together (more on that in a later post), and as the others arrived (Laura + Aaron + James) throughout the evening I gave and received many big hugs, felt so welcomed and even more excited to have decided to fly over to London 10 days earlier than was strictly necessary.

I’ve missed all of these people SO MUCH, and random points throughout the day when I remember where I am, I just can’t help but burst into a stupid grin.

That night we popped in a film (Exodus) but nearly everyone began to fall asleep with still an hour left – in my defense I hadn’t REALLY slept in over 24 hours – so we called it a night. This same thing has happened several times since I got here: pop in a film and about halfway through everyone realizes they’re tired so we pause it and all go to sleep (or at least 1-2 people are sleeping through the film as the rest of us watch), and in a hilarious way it’s beautiful and wonderful and I fit right in!

Day 1 in London: definite success.

*One thing I almost forgot to mention: Kirsty cooks very good food – seriously yum – and makes good coffee. THANKS KIRSTY! xxx

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Days 2-5:

Started my first morning in London by running for an hour through Richmond Park (beautiful, filled with wildlife – seriously like loads of deer and stuff – a sunny day, Annie Mac’s 2012 playlist blasting). It was a great start to my trip, maybe not a great start for my feet though.

The rest of my day I spent IN the city. Walked from Waterloo up to and along the Southbank (by the London Eye) to my favorite burrito stand, then walked by Big Ben (my favorite sight in London), then up northwest to Oxford circus to get myself a SIM card (very good decision and super cheap from EE), then just wandered south-ish along the pavement until I hit Marble Arch and finally hopped back on the tube (my feet and legs were tired and I was late to meet up with some friends).

I caught up with Sarah and Hillary (UW and former UW student) who I met [and had already coordinated to meet up with here] back when we were all in Seattle.

Since meeting up with them on Wednesday I had spent the following 3 days showing them around the city (NEARLY ENTIRELY BY FOOT).

We hit places like the Globe, the Tate Modern (hello Dali and Picasso originals!!!), Big Ben and Parliament square, the National Gallery (hello Van Gogh, Monet, and many more!), SOHO by day, Leicester Square (caught the Cinderella premier and saw Lily James being photographed), St. James Park by night, the British Library (and it’s treasures), Regents Park, Baker Street and 221B (and the Sherlock Holmes museum), the spot where they film the fake 221B for the BBC Sherlock, Carnaby (and had afternoon tea at Carmellia’s – would HIGHLY recommend), Covent Garden and their little market, Ye Old Cheshire Cheese (old pub where famous writers used to frequent like Dickens, Twain, etc!!!), and the Jack the Ripper Tour.

{If you have any questions about any of those places go ahead and comment or msg me I’ve got loads of tips & suggestions.]

It’s been a lot a lot a lot a lot a lot of walking and even more fun! I can’t believe how much I’ve seen already – both stuff that I’d already visited and even more that I never experienced last time I was here!

Now I know you’ve already been reading for a while, but I promise this is the last bit of this post…

If you are ever in London GO ON THE JACK THE RIPPER TOUR [yes that is hyperlinked] and make sure to REQUEST the guide called Johnny DeChambre.
[[SERIOUSLY REMEMBER THAT NAME]].
Tell him that you were referred by one the the Seattle girls who went out to the White Hart in Whitechapel with him and his mates after the tour and I’m sure you’ll immediately be endeared to him.
He [I’m 100% positive] is the best guide that the tour office has to offer – funny, kind, theatrical, respectful and in a FANTASTIC costume – also, he’s a Whedon fan (esp Firefly) and a Whovian, so you can’t really go wrong by meeting him. He’s also full of tips about East London, and if you drop his name at some restaurants, you’ll get discounts!

The past couple days have been loads of fun with Hillary and Sarah and my nights with my mates back at “home” near Putney have been fun, chill, filled with good chats, good music, good stories, good eats, good films and good drinks (mostly coffee).

And the journey is just beginning! xxx

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GO EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD AND TELL THE GOOD NEWS TO EVERYONE.” -MARK 16:15

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SORRY THIS POST WAS SO LONG!

Inspiration for title:

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NEXT POST WILL BE ALL ABOUT SUNDAY BECAUSE I HAVE MANY FEELINGS,

I Think I’ll Move Out of State….

…Don’t worry – only for a short while. I will be back before you’ve even noticed I’ve gone:

Anyway, this is my already established blog (that honestly I am terrible at ever updating but hey maybe this trip will be me turning a new leaf) and I’ve thus decided I will be updating this one randomly throughout my study abroad trip rather than creating a blog entirely for travel.

For those of you curious, I am settled in quite well (for the moment). I’ll actually be moving out of this home and into my permanent home for the rest of my trip in 3-4 days. Which is bitter sweet – I’ll be leaving my mates’ home here near Putney (bitter) and meeting my host fam in north London (sweet esp. because I am VERY EXCITED to meet them and get properly settled/unpacked and also because it’s not too far from my favorite pub and restaurants).

For anyone who is still reading this and curious about the beginning of my trip it’s been wonderful! I won’t bore you with all the details but I will write another post summing up these past few days with all the highlights.

As for me right now, I’m sitting at home, wrapped in my exploding TARDIS blanket, I’ve just finished a rather excellent cup of coffee and am now working on a plate of scrambled eggs (courtesy of James – THANKS JAMES!) and I’ll be writing away for a while because my feet hurt and I need a wee bit of rest.

xxx

Go everywhere in the world and tell the Good News to everyone.” -Mark 16:15

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Inspiration for title of this post: