New Year Under Lady Liberty [New York City]

Personal Life, Travel, Work

Wrapping up 2011

Wow, what a busy end of 2011 it was. At work, we were preparing for advertisements to go live on January 1, and since our last day of 2011 was December 22, we had to have everything ready for day one of 2012. We spent several late nights at OMD to prepare for this. For the first time in 56 years, State Farm updated its logo, so we had to swap out all of the old logos with the new ones, so that took some time as well. When we arrived back to work on Jan. 3, most went well for what we planned, and now we are working toward moving forward for Q1. Though during our time off, I had the opportunity to travel about…

After work finished in December, I took an Amtrak train home from Chicago to Kansas City. Early in the morning, I boarded the train at Union Station in Chicago and went southwest toward St. Louis. The train went through many small towns like my hometown, many of which come see the train go by. Once in St. Louis, I had a four-hour layover, so I walked around, got lunch and later boarded to Kansas City. By then, the view out of the train was black on the Missouri River Runner train. The last stretch made me very tired, but thankfully my parents were at Kansas City Union Station to drive me back home.

Home for the Holidays

It was nice to get home again and have some time to rest. The first day back, I spent time helping grandma get ready for Christmas lunch at her place. The church Christmas Eve program was held on Saturday night, a program that has been going for about 70 straight years. For a rare occasion, Christmas day fell on Sunday, so we returned to church once again the following day. We raced home after service to open gifts before the big lunch. My main gift this year was an Xbox 360, something I’ve missed since leaving college! Clothes, headphones, hockey tickets and money highlighted the other gifts. The day after Christmas my sister Jeni and I helped grandma take down her holiday decorations. Grandpa’s birthday is soon after, so she has always made an effort to separate the holiday season and his birthday. The next day Jeni, mom and Jeni’s friend Kaila went on a trip to Knoxville, Tenn., to see a University of Tennessee women’s basketball game. I traveled with them to the airport in the wee hours of the morning to catch my flight, which was headed more northeast.

New York

To be honest, my trip to New York was a nightmare. My flight was slated to leave at 7 a.m. from Kansas City directly to the Big Apple. I boarded the plane, where we sat there for two hours waiting for maintenance to be completed. Then, they told us to exit the plane and wait in the lobby while they worked on the plane. Another two hours in the lobby area… The flight team then came out and told us that the new part wouldn’t sync with an older plane, so the flight was canceled. All rushed to the ticket counter to rebook a flight. My reroute was through Minneapolis. Unluckily for me, my flight to Minnesota was delayed because the sink was leaking in the lavatory. I waited not as long as the first attempt to flight, and finally got off the ground and out of KC. When I got to Minneapolis, I had to rush across many terminals to reach my next flight, which was just boarding when I arrived. I quickly got off the ground again and headed to my destination. Once we got near New York and started to descend, the plane went through some terrifying turbulence because of high winds and a storm. The plane behind us made an emergency landing in Boston, but we went ahead and attempted to get to New York. Nothing to me has been as life-terrifying as that flight. I have no problems with flying, but that was a bit shaking. I took a cab from LaGuardia airport to my friend Chelsie’s place in TriBeCa.

She lives in a large apartment that two older ladies use as their workspace. Rent, as you know, is ridiculously high in the city, so most of your income goes to rent. We chatted a bit, watched a movie and then went to bed. She had to work most of the week, so the next day I met her for lunch and walked around a bit. My friend Duane from KU also moved to NY recently, and he was just flying in from Kansas City. He was bringing home Chase, the dog I used to look after sometimes in college. Apparently Chase got loose on the tarmac and cars had to chase him down over the runways.. what a mess! I met up with Duane and the dog for dinner. The next day my friend Cherie, also from KU, met me in the city and we did a bit of sightseeing. We started out at Chinatown, went south through the Financial District and Wall Street, and walked by the construction of the World Trade Center site. The WTC site is still an eyesore, as walls are up for construction. The construction of Freedom Tower is also underway, but someone told me they are having trouble selling office space there because of the potential terror threat and the constant memory of September 11 right outside the windows. After that, we went down to Battery Park and caught the Staten Island Ferry, which has a view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Cherie and I did a bunch of sightseeing that day, and we ended our day at Times Square to check out the lights (and thanking ourselves for not going there for New Year’s Eve!)

                                

On the 30th, Cherie and I went to lunch at a diner close to the Empire State building. A new clothes store UniQlo was nearby, and I found the best fitting pants I’ve ever found! I got a few pair and called it good. Our friend Duane works at Columbia University in Harlem, so we met him to check out his office and later went back to TriBeCa to meet Chelsie and friends for drinks. New Year’s Eve Day we spent relaxing before going out on the big night. We got ready to go to Chelsie’s place for appetizers and drinks before leaving to Chelsea Piers. At 10 p.m. our yacht left the pier from Chelsea and went down to the Statue of Liberty for midnight. For the countdown, we went to the top of the yacht and counted down to 2012. In our view was the Statue of Liberty with a long fireworks show. Can’t get much better than that for New Year’s! Because of the chilling wind off of the Hudson River, we went back in the yacht and drank, had dessert and danced into 2012. At 3 a.m. the yacht docked and we got off. I was ready for bed after a long night.

                

On the first day of 2012, I slept in, had lunch at a diner and walked around Central Park with friends. It was a good way to end the trip and the weather was even more pleasant. My flight was that evening, so I packed up and headed back to LaGuardia. My flight home was not as bad as the previous experience, thank goodness. Gaining an hour based on time zone change, I got home to my apartment at midnight. Glad to be home, but loved every minute of New York!

    

Now my next break is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but I’m content with getting back into routine. Here’s to a great 2012!

Packing London and Bringing it Home [London]

Internship, Personal Life, Travel

Hi there,

I’m no longer writing you from six hours later time. I returned to the United States on Saturday evening to the welcoming arms of my parents and sister. Even though I’m back, I want to update you through my final days in the Kingdom.

Wicked: Right after I last wrote, I went to Wicked The Musical at the Apollo Victoria. The EUSA program provided us students with free tickets to random events across the City. I chose Wicked as my free event because I had heard a lot of good things about it, and why not see something that relates to the Wizard of Oz being from Kansas? Wicked is the preface to the Wizard of Oz and explains how Glenda (the good witch) and Elphaba (the bad witch) came to be, as well as the tin man, lion, scarecrow and Dorothy. Like the last musical I saw, the voices were outstanding and acting was spot-on. I still think that the original Wizard of Oz is better though.

  

Last day at M2M: Thursday was my final day at my internship with M2M. Most of the people during the day were packing up, much like me, although, they were heading to the floor above. The company has grown and expanded enough to add another floor. My last day consisted of pulling some final reports and chasing clients for documents needed to make deadlines. At the end of the day, the agency surprised me with a gift. Everyone had signed a card with nice notes. Along with the card were four movie DVDs, all Momentum Pictures productions, one of our clients. One of the movies was The Fighter, a movie that gained rave reviews. From there we went to a social at a park not too far away. Awaiting us was Pierre, a Frenchman who works in digital media. His job was to inform us how to play pentanquet, a game similar to boules. Each team alternates trying to throw a heavy ball near the “jack”. The closest team’s ball at the end of the round wins. My team did quite well to start out with, but was defeated on the last throw by the opposing team. It was a great time, and I got to know some people even better. Drinks were provided, and of course I had some Pimm’s.

Farewell party: From pentaque, the other intern Grace (from Buffalo, New York) and I went to our student farewell party located near King’s Cross station. The place was called Smithy’s, where we were served bangers and mash for dinner as well as free drinks. I spent the rest of the night watching British television at our place.

Friday’s class and field trip: I entered my last full day in Britain with a lecture about power and sovereignty. The final field trip was to Tate Britain, a modern art gallery. A lot of the modern items included objects, lighting, abstract art and perspective. One of the pieces was literally a trash bag with pink paint on it, although, the pink ‘paint’ was made of women’s products like toothpaste, cooking ingredients, cleaning materials, etc. My favorite item was an Native American headdress made of the metal from a wash bin.

      

Hyde Park picnic: Friday afternoon, Paige, Chelsie and I created a wonderful end to a great trip with a picnic in Hyde Park. The weather was near perfect, and the swans were out on the lake. Our meal included brie cheese, salami, baguette, English black grapes, beets, pasta salad, chocolate minstrels and boxed French wine. We all spent a while laying in the grass looking up to the British sky for a last time. For me, it was a time to collect my thoughts before the subsequent day of jet lag. From the park, you can also see Kensington Palace, an official residence of the Royal family.

    

Dinner in Soho: Not long after our picnic, it was time for dinner. We went to Piccadilly Circus and walked to Soho where we would find a nice Italian restaurant. I ordered a sausage pizza and olives with wine. After that, we went to none other than Snog, the recurring location for my late night frozen yogurt cravings. I needed to go home to pack, and so I did. I made a pile of what I needed to take home, things I needed to throw away and things I wanted to donate.

The day of departure: I woke up to finalize my packings and to clean up the room before I left. To be honest, I will not miss the room I stayed in because of its size, along with the bathroom for the same reason. I said goodbye to Chelsie, who was staying several weeks past the program to peruse Europe with her mother. My suitcase was quite heavy, but everything fit that needed to. Paige and I, who traveled together, made our way to our Gloucester station and headed to Heathrow Airport. We arrived in plenty of time and waited to board the plane to Minneapolis, our first and only stop. The nine-hour flight nearly drained me. First, the audio did not work on my screen, so I couldn’t watch the movie to pass the time. Second, I’m too tall to have sufficient leg room anywhere. I was able to doze off in 30-minute increments, but that’s about it. We arrived in Minnesota safe and sound, but goodbye in-shape people and British accents. The Minnesota airport greeted us with thick northern Midwest accents and unflattering clothing. There wasn’t much of a wait until we headed to Kansas City. The flight to KC seemed like a car ride across town, after surviving nearly half a day on the first flight. I sat near a baby once again, but the flight was short enough to keep my sanity. After walking off the plane, I was back home. My mom, dad and sister stood waiting for me, probably expecting me to look different. I don’t think I did, but I’m sure I looked a bit weathered. We left, got a quick snack, and after a while, I was back in my childhood home; back in my 6’5″-friendly bed; and back to rural life.

And welcomed by American debt politics on TV.

Lucky me.

The Old Man from Bristol and Racing for Pounds [London]

Travel

‘ello from London! I am winding down Monday as you finish up your work, and I just got back from the grocery story/market. The plane ride was about 6.5 to 7 hours, and I sat next to a old British man named John. He is a old man with no family, coming back after visiting the States at North Carolina to a friend’s. I’d describe him as one of those who likes to be included in everything, as an unmarried, childless, independent person would. He asks me the regular and I do the same. He happens to be a maintenance/handy man for a Christian church in Bristol, a city west of London. He helps out with adult bible school and services. He couldn’t keep still the whole flight, but the crying baby behind him was enough to drown that out.

When I first arrived in London, we took the Underground, also known as ‘The Tube’ to our living quarters. At first, flying into London and landing looked a lot like a wet Kansas City, but once we got on the train, we saw the old-style houses with backyard gardens. The backyard gardens were unique because each home had a section blocked off with their own mini tool shed. Immediately I got some currency, which didn’t last for long. I had to call my dad to reactivate my card because the bank blocked it; should be working now!

As far as living, I have one roommate, who I actually know a little bit from journalism. We have a small, but modern room with our own bathroom. The living quarters is dominated by KU students, all of whom seem pretty nice, or at least faking it. (Just took break for first fire alarm.) Anyways, seems like a great place to live. South Kensington is quite ritzy, as cars parked along the street are BMW, Mercedes, Ashton Martin, Lamborghini, Ferrari.. Got a cell phone today, just a cell phone here. My new number is +44 077-6118-9356. I hope that works.. basically got the phone to keep in touch with people here.

Dinner was at Nando’s, a rotisserie chicken place.
The language is harder to understand than you would think, and it’s also hard for them to understand us the first time.
The streets are a big crazy, as the street names are small attached signs to the side gates by the buildings. They are not up on poles for everyone to see.
Tomorrow we have an orientation in the morning, then a walking tour in the early afternoon.
Will have updates later! Going to go hang with a few folks down the hall..

MRF