Sunday, January 21, 2007

London Visit Boiled Down (to the tune of "London Bridge")

I've been back in school for a week now, and busy out of my mind. But it simply wouldn't be fair to ignore my trip to the other side of the pond, so for anyone who cares to see, here is a summary of my experience.

People/Places/Things I saw in London (by category):

  • Tower of London (where lots of people were tortured and died, before which they carved some pretty depressing ancient graffiti on the walls)
  • The Crown Jewels (talk about shiny…makes Stern girls’ engagement rings look paltry and cheap--and that’s saying something)
  • Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace (during which, to my bafflement, the Royal Band, bearskin hats and all, played a medley of Gershwin—a good American composer)
  • Covent Garden (upscale shopping area, where we also saw a pretty good string quartet playing famous classical pieces in an open square…while very adeptly guilt-tripping observers into giving money)
  • Leicester Square (lots of theatres, yet nothing like Broadway)
  • Trafalgar Square (which contains a lot of famous stuff, like huge stone lions and Nelson’s Column, about which my ever-useful friend knew absolutely no history—but at least I can say I’ve seen it, even if I don’t know why it’s important)
  • The National Gallery (from the outside only)
  • Camden Town (a little like Greenwich Village, English style)
  • The Tate Modern Museum (which was hosting a really cool exhibit that consisted of huge twisty metal tube slides that came down from each of the 5 floors, and which visitors could ride for free! We went down the one from the fourth floor, and it was well worth the visit.)
  • Waterloo Bridge (great view of the city)
  • UCL (University College London—not really a tourist site, but I was there nevertheless, and even attended a statistics lab without being asked whether I was actually a student there or not)
  • The Tube (aka the underground—Mind the Gap!)


  • 2 high schools
  • 2 shuls
  • R’ Tatz
  • R’ Sheinberg
  • One women’s learning program (organized by my friend)
  • Extensive tours of Hendon and Golders Green

Just Plain Fun:

  • Wicked (with British accents, for half the price of tickets in NY—what could possibly have been better????)
  • Kasamba (‘nuff said)
  • My friends’ families (English people are lovely!)
  • A clip of an Iraqi TV talk show with subtitles (I wish I knew the link…but take my word for it, it was one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my entire life)

Things to know before going to England:

  • They drive on the other side of the road! (I knew this, but it wasn’t on my mind when I got there…so the taxi driver looked perplexed when I tried to get in on the wrong side, and I narrowly avoided getting hit by cars several times after not knowing which direction to look when crossing the street).
  • When they speak about “green men” they are not referring to extraterrestrials, but to the lights at crosswalks. (That took me a while.)
  • There are no hechshers on food there…so if you anticipate getting hungry, you better pick up a Kosher Food Guide first…or carry an English friend around with you wherever you go. Also, learn some terminology or you could be very confused (crisps, biscuits, etc.).
  • Things are more expensive there. Period. In order to avoid extreme frustration, pretend the pounds are dollars.

And there you have it, folks: SJ's guide to London! Now in (sort of) the same vein, it's time for me to head back to good ol' Survey of English Lit fun!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Weekend in Baby Heaven

This weekend, my aunt and uncle and two little girl cousins who live two states away came to visit us for the first time since my brother’s Bar Mitzvah 1.5 years ago. I had the most loveliest time playing with my 4 and a half year old and 2 year old cousins. I wish I could record all the cute things they said and did, but there were far too many to count. This afternoon, a family friend and her kids came over to play as well…she has a boy who is 6, a girl who is nearly 4, and a 14 month old drop-dead gorgeous baby (and twins on the way!). With all the kids around, I felt like I had died and gone to baby heaven! Mmmm, delicious! I was so tempted to hide one in my suitcase and take it to London with me, but I thought they might stop me at customs for baby smuggling.

Before my family left for the airport just a few minutes ago, my 4.5 year old cousin came over to me and announced with a grave face that she’d miss me a lot. She then asked her Daddy for her phone number, which she recited to me, telling me to call her whenever I miss her.

Why is she so delicious?? I want one!!

Anyway, all the company just left for the airport or their house, respectively, and now my house is quiet once more...and I have to start packing for London! Since I shall be away until next Sunday night, it is likely that you won't hear from me over the coming I hope you have a wonderful week--I know I shall! Toodles!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tata and Cheerio!

Hello old Chaps! This fine, damp evening I am in high spirits, as I shall soon be departing to a far off location to whence I have never before hearkened! Can anyone guess where? And no, I don’t really think they speak like this there! That’s right, Poppets, I’m off to Jolly Old England! And I am quite excited about it too! (In case the overabundance of exclamation points didn’t tip you off already!)

What brings me to visit our stuffy old cousins over there, you ask? Well, first off, I will take great offense to your slanderous appellation—who says English people are stuffy? They have rollicking good fun over there! (I love Brits!) And then I will answer your question—I am going purely for pleasure, which, after all, is the only reason to go anywhere (how Oscar Wilde-ish of me). I have always wanted to pay it a visit, and now life (and my parents) have finally afforded me the opportunity to do so! Not to mention that two of my very favourite people in the world happen to hail from the neighborhood (and that’s not even including Kasamba, one of my very favourite bloggers out there, who, incidentally, is not originally from England anyway!). I shall be imposing upon the hospitality of these two wonderful lovely incredible young ladies, who I was privileged to meet during my (not so) long ago days in sem in the Holy Land, and shall be forcing them not only to endure my company, but to show me around their fair city! I can’t wait!

Of course, the thing that excites me most is the prospect of being entirely surrounded by people with fantastic accents! In fact, I plan to come back with one myself (a fantastic accent, not a person). After all, I’ve always considered myself English at heart…my English friends tell me that I certainly don’t sound like most of the other vulgar Americans with their horrid accents, and I am a fan of Oscar Wilde and P.G. Wodehouse, and I’m quite accustomed to gray, drizzly weather (though I wouldn’t eat Marmite if you paid me, and I don’t drink tea…but disregard those piddling facts for now).

So, you ask yourself, when is this girl going to stop blabbing and leave already? Ha! Well, I’m afraid you are not so lucky, my friend…I’m not leaving till Sunday night! All this is just preparation! Because I am psyched! And what else is a blog for but to vent one’s thoughts and feelings, hmmm?? So, with that deep philosophic question to ponder, I will bid you farewell for now, for I have visiting relatives shortly to descend upon the house. However, worry not, for I shall return!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Red-Hot Topic

The color red has been much under discussion recently. Yediot Achronot reports that the latest in the charedi war for tznius includes not only a ban of any red garments, but a call for women to purchase clothing only from a list of 30 approved stores. In reaction, Hot Chanie defends RaggedyMom’s red hair, and RaggedyMom discusses being a redhead. Never having been one myself, I can’t weigh in on the topic (though I’ve been an admirer of red hair ever since I read Anne of Green Gables in 3rd grade), but I will give my own take on the controversial issue of whether a frum girl should even think of wearing red.

I am personally a huge fan of bright colors, and usually wear nothing else (orange being my personal favorite). However, there are situations where I will think twice before donning an eye-catching sartorial hue. While I don’t believe that wearing red is inherently abhorrent and untznius, if the color of your clothing will cause others to look at you askance, you do run into a tznius dilemma. The bottom line is that if your clothes draw undue attention to your appearance, then they are not tzenua. For the most part, in today’s world, wearing red or any other bright color will not call more attention to oneself than wearing black or blue. However, to a certain extent, I believe that tznius can be relative. What I would wear to class is different than what I would wear on a visit to Meah Shearim (that’s an extreme example, but even in less extreme cases I would think twice). There are places where wearing red will make people stare, and if people stare, that is not tzenua. So while I don’t believe that wearing red is the equivalent of wearing a tight-fitting tank top (which indisputably calls attention to your body, no matter where you are), I do believe in following the minhag hamakom and not causing yourself to stand out. And if the minhag hamakom is too difficult to keep—then perhaps that makom is not the place for you.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Sunny Side of a Rainy Day

With finals finally behind me, I am home once again, and, as usual, a little bored. Today it is rainy and stormy and pouring and gray...which doesn't really help improve the state of one's spirits. But as I sat here bemoaning the uncooperative weather, I remembered something I wrote for an assignment back in ninth grade, so long ago. I went back to my files and looked it up, and since it cheered me up, I figured I would share it with you, in hopes that it might also help anyone else experiencing the rainy day blues.

So here it is, my descriptive paragraph of days of yore:

There is nothing that gives me more of a sense of comfort than a rainy day. The rhythmic patter of the rain on the roof has a hypnotic quality. Sitting in front of a blazing fire, I feel its warmth as the flames make patterns on the wall. They are shadows, leaping up and down in a harmonious, never-ending dance. I hold a steaming cup of hot chocolate in my hands, and as I sip it, my tongue is filled with the taste of its warm, rich, sweetness. I swallow, and it soothes and calms me. I sit curled up on the sofa, and pick up a good book. I eagerly turn the pages, and as I lose myself in tales of strange lands and people I will never meet, I know that I am free from harm, safe and secure, warm in my house. Outside, the rain gets harder and beats mercilessly against the windowpanes. But it does not affect me because I am sheltered, protected, comfortable. The sound of the rain does not wane, and soon I can no longer keep my eyes open. As I fall asleep, a deep sense of satisfaction and happiness envelops me. Home is bliss, on a cold, rainy winter’s day.

Enjoy the rainy day, everyone!