28 = super great

Tomorrow is my 29th birthday (and the four year anniversary of starting this blog!).  As I thought about my plans for the next year, I realized how momentous 28 has been for me.

During the last 365 days, I:

  • Rode in the front of a plane
  • Flew a plane (yes, this finally happened!  Full report later this fall…)
  • Watched a Red Sox game from the Green Monster
  • Learned to shoot a gun
  • Celebrated my best friend (aka my sister) and her husband as they got married
  • Hosted bachelorette parties for Kat and Prithu
  • Taught a crafting class at my grandma’s retirement home
  • Took a French class
  • Kissed a lot of frogs
  • Flew through the air on a flying trapeze
  • Hosted a high school reunion
  • Joined a feminist book club
  • Captained my softball team
  • Started playing volleyball again
  • Saw some amazing live theater
  • Went to Europe by myself

WOW, 28.  You really outdid yourself.  And all that is on top of the work adventures, the hikes and kayak rides and delicious meals, the friends and family who I got closer to or met this year and celebrated life with.

It’s been a good – no, great – year, and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.  Onward to 29!

Things I forgot I knew about London

In the last seven years, some things about London have changed.  They hosted the Olympics and adjusted the traffic pattern on Oxford Street. They closed some tube stops and opened new ones.  Harry Potter ended and Sherlock started, and the fan zones adjusted accordingly.

But some surprising things stayed the same – small but important things I totally forgot about until I got back into the hustle and bustle of this city:

  1. English isn’t the most common language.  Everywhere I go, and I’ll admit that I tend toward touristy spots, people are speaking languages other than English.  French, Spanish, Russian, Italian, dozens of other languages I can’t even recognize specifically enough to name, fill the air.  And the people speaking them aren’t just tourists – they live here, in the melting pot of the UK.  It’s fascinating, and adds to the international vibe of the city, as well as making my American accent stand out a little bit less.
  2. Food is super cheap.  Sandwiches at local grocery stores are around £2.10 (less than $3.50) and way too many sweet treats cost less than a pound.  Obviously this balances out because city restaurants are quite expensive, but it’s still nice to see that you can get a solid meal for a reasonable price at a grocery store.
  3. Escalator rides are a form of entertainment.  They have these posters and video boards on the side with all sorts of coordinated ads that play off each other. I seriously used to use them as my newspaper when I was here before, and the memory came back like a flash when I got back on the tube at Heathrow and saw them again.  Also, EVERYONE KNOWS TO WALK LEFT AND STAND RIGHT. Which is ironic, because that’s not even the way traffic moves here, and yet people are better about it than in most cities.
  4. The bus system is AMAZING.  I can get basically anywhere in London within 40 minutes thanks to a combination of the bus and tube, and since I bought a monthly pass, it’s super cheap.  Plus, the routes are so scenic – my ride home goes straight past Parliament and is worth the entire trip in and of itself.
  5. Cars are confusing.  It will never not freak me out to see someone stopped at a light just hop out of what I think of as the driver’s side door.  I can’t rewire my brain quickly enough, so it just seems like all cars are being driven by ghosts.
  6. Gambling is everywhere.  Seriously, everywhere.  There are betting shops on every corner, and ads all over the place.  What could possibly be worth spending your money on like that?  I’m glad we don’t gambling and mini casinos in the US like they have them here, they add nothing of value.

Now I’m off for a morning of adventure and planning a fun long (birthday!) weekend.  More later!

Cheers from London!

Ahoy from the other side of the pond!

I made it here all in one (sleepy) piece, including all my luggage.  My flights were easy and somewhat boring – Icelandair is not a fan of free things and hence only had paid food both times, though I was riding for more than 8 hours.  (A little rude if you ask me!)  Here’s hoping that Turkish Airlines has a better deal on the way home, but I’m not really worried about that yet.

Mostly because I’m having a BLAST here.  In the second half of day one, I unpacked every so slightly, then decided to prove to myself that I was really here by seeing a local (no, national… no, international) landmark with my two eyes, so I walked all the way to Big Ben.  It was even better than I remembered – this tower is quickly becoming my favorite thing in the city, now that I’ve seen it in all weather (helloooo London fall!).
IMG_5472I also wandered around Westminster a bit, trying not to get hit by a car.  More on that later…

Today, I did even more.  I started my day with the local tapas bar’s version of a vegetarian English breakfast – all for £4.10, including the coffee (and the required British side dish of secondhand smoke – coughcoughcough).  Still, it was delicious, though I don’t think I need to eat mushrooms for breakfast every single day.
IMG_5509Then I walked around my ‘hood a bit to see what was up. I discovered that Oval “park” is a cricket pitch, not a place I can sit and read a book.  Good thing there are enough other places that meet that criteria!

In the afternoon, I explored Covent Garden, Charing Cross, etc. taking in the sights and trying to stay out of the rain when possible.  No matter where I went, it was just so good to be back in this weird and wonderful land.  And then the ride home was incredible, as it took me past Big Ben.  I don’t know if I’ll ever take the Underground if I can help it, the bus is so great!IMG_5510Finally, because it was Mountain Day, I met up with some MoHos for ice cream and college reminiscing.  Perfection!

So far, everything is great, but there are definitely challenges ahead:

  1. Not walking too much – I logged 16,000 steps today aka 7.5 miles!  Great, but also could be extremely exhausting on days when I actually have to do something, so I need to find some activities that don’t all involve walking or standing.
  2. Remembering to eat – I got so excited today that I kind of forgot to eat for way too long, which doesn’t go well with #1 and resulted in getting a bit lost.  Snacks all the way, and just generally eating good food when I find it.
  3. Not spending all my money - I WANT EVERYTHING!  Seriously, everything.  I didn’t even stop walking at Jubilee Hall because I knew if I did, I would spend all my money.  I have a while to be here, so I have to remember to pace myself.
  4. Not getting hit by a car – this one is non-negotiable, and it’s slowing me down but I’m never crossing without a light because the traffic here is making my head spin.  Sidewalk – sorry, pavement – traffic is rough enough, but the streets are out of control.  I saw a grown man almost get hit by a bus but his friends pulled him out of the way by his backpack just in time.  Not I – I would rather be the silly person waiting at every light while others run just to be on the safe side (literally).

I think if I can do those four things (and maybe also remember to sleep), this adventure will be top notch.  It’s certainly off to a smashing start! Stay tuned for a few more updates this week!

(All photos are my own)

Top 10 reasons I would lose at Survivor

My name is Sally and I’m addicted to Survivor.  It started when I was training for my half marathon and always did my long runs on Wednesday nights at the gym. Watching their crazy challenges inspired me to keep running because my workout wasn’t nearly as strenuous as what those contestants were going through. (Ironic, no, because I was training this race as a cancer survivor?)

The 29th season, “Blood vs. Water” starts tonight.  To prepare/fill the immunity idol-shaped hole in my heart during the off season, I’ve been watching lots of old episodes.  As I did so, I’ve realized that I would be TERRIBLE at Survivor.  Here are the top ten reasons why I should never go on Survivor:

  1. hate snakes.  I can’t even look when they’re on the screen, and they’re a required accessory for every Survivor island.
  2. I get really grumpy when I’m cold.
  3. I’m a leader and since I’m a woman, people would probably label me “bossy” and vote me out quickly.
  4. I have the world’s WORST poker face. Don’t ever play poker with me. Or do, but make sure we’re not on the same team.  I wouldn’t be able to lie to anyone.  (This alone immediately disqualifies me from being on Big Brother.)
  5. Did I mention how much I hate snakes?
  6. I also hate spiders. And scorpions (but does anyone like them?).
  7. I would immediately get a headache from all that sun (and I believe sunglasses are banned for cinematic reasons).
  8. I would burn to a crisp on day 1, and never stop worrying about it.
  9. I am the worst at slide puzzles. If my life depended on it, I would probably keep working on it until I died with it still unfinished.
  10. I would quit the game over a jar of peanut butter.  I’m in love with peanut butter here, where there are unlimited quantities to be had.  Put me on an island and I’ll sell you my buff in return for a spoonful.

I also have my talents.  I know the basics of building a shelter, I’m a good swimmer, I can start a fire (though I’d need to learn how to use flint).  But I think those other items will keep me from sending Jeff Probst my application.  Instead, I’m content to have civilized adventures and see how this drama unfolds from my couch.

Do you think you could win the title of Sole Survivor?

One week more

One week – 168 hours, or 10,080 minutes – is all that separates me from adventures across the pond.

In this last week, people keep asking: are you ready?

The answer: as ready as I’ll ever be.

I’ve already packed my bag twice “just to see if stuff fits”.  My list has been made for months.  I have my passport next to my bed, my peanut butter stowed away in my suitcase (American > British), my itinerary printed and confirmed with my hosts.  I’ve joined my alumnae organization’s London network on Facebook and confirmed that the exchange rate is where I budgeted for it to be.

I’m trying to be realistic while keeping my usual optimism about – sure, I’ll be tired when I get off the plane at Heathrow.  Sure, I’m going to miss being around my Boston friends on my birthday. Yes, I’m positive I will get sick of these clothes.  But all this planning and dreaming has put me in a place where I’m so ready for this adventure, no matter what shape it takes.

Keep following my blog to see what happens next – I’ll be posting at least every few days while I’m in London!

A love so strong…

It’s worth becoming a zombie for rather than give it up.

That’s the gist I got from this poem by Tim Pratt that was read at my friend/coworker Theresa’s wedding this weekend as she married her nerdy partner in crime, Matt.  It’s the first time I’ve been to a wedding where zombies were referenced and court rulings were read as part of the ceremony (Goodrich vs. Dept of Public Health, specifically) and it was magically dorky. 

The entire celebration was great – the sunny courtyard at the Liberty Hotel (formerly the Charles Street Jail), the delicious oysters and Italian-inspired dishes (hello veal!), the energetic dancing skills of young nieces and nephews, and the friendly folks all around who were glad to be there to share in the live music, the endless amounts of chocolate, and the overall love that filled the room.  Not to mention the fact that there were 4 Sallys in the room – an all-time high for me, and a joy to dance “Mustang Sally” alongside.

Congrats, Matt and Theresa!  I hope you never have to find out what you’d actually do if you were lost in the multiverse, but even in that eventuality, I know you two will be great together.

Read Tim Pratt’s poem “Scientific Romance Redux” here (I didn’t want to copy it and thus risk it being shared without proper credit!).

Time after time: GHS 10 years later

Cross one more grand item off the list: I have succeeded, along with class president Jimmy and some enthusiastic classmates, in throwing a blast of a 10 year high school reunion.

GHS reunion group

My goals for this reunion were simple, and we accomplished them all:

  1. DO NOT go into debt.  We had leftover class money to spend if we needed to, but I’d heard that the organizers for the prior year had paid a pretty penny for their party, and I wanted to avoid having the people who spent the time planning the celebrations from paying the cost, as well.  Conclusion: we ended up 90 cents short of breaking even, including decorations and promotions.   
  2. DO make sure people outside our usual network hear about reunion and have enough notice to attend. Conclusion: we got a sign up a local marquee, shared the event with hundreds of people on Facebook, and a good mix of people attended (about 36 total)!
  3.  DO set ourselves up to have a lot of fun, and not stress out.  Once we realized that it was going to be a small party, Jim and I decided that if it was us and the DJ (a classmate), we would have the time of our lives, and the rest wouldn’t matter.  We decided not to put a ton of extra work into things like decorations, and just enjoy ourselves before and during the party.  Conclusion: setup was finished in 10 minutes and we all had a blast.

In short, it was a huge success.  It had everything a high school reunion should – gossip about who wanted to go to the semi-formal dance with whom, shots of Fireball at extremely low NH prices, old yearbooks, a 2000’s-tastic playlist, amazingly friendly chats with people I haven’t talked to in years (and now want to be best friends with again!).  The DJ, our classmate Tim, really killed the night with some key choices – “Time after time” at my request, “Stairway to Heaven” so we could slow dance as though it was our last chance of the night, “A little help from our friends” to remind us where we came from, and then “My heart will go on” to really set back the clock.  Later, as the general public filtered in, we danced to “Summer Lovin” and “Footloose” in an homage to our high school productions.  People stayed until the end, then took the afterparty to the one bar in our actual hometown and kept the party alive until well after midnight (for the uninitiated, midnight in NH is like 4 AM in NYC).

The whole experience left me incredibly grateful for my great childhood, my loving community, my smart and kind classmates.  For every person not there, I imagined the wonderful adventures they were up to instead, and all the amazing places we’re going together and apart.  But they know who they are and that they better be there next time (AHEM AHEM).  Until then, I’ll pack my band uniform away, hold my friends close, and remember all the good times behind and ahead.

Onward to the next adventure!  Check out the other items on my five year plan here >>