Today is my last day in England, and wow, has this time went fast, especially this last month. Between trips, hanging out with the girls, doing final projects, and choir performances, I haven’t had much time to write, but despite all that, I have had time to enjoy it.
At the end of November, my friends, Emma and Caitlyn, and I went to Amsterdam. We left Thanksgiving night, unfortunately causing us to miss our Thanksgiving dinner that the school was throwing for us, but the trip was probably my favourite here; I realize that I keep saying things are my favourite, but now that I am at the end of my trip, I can say that this was my favourite.
Although Amsterdam is known for its legalization of drugs, while I was there, I didn’t notice that much, except when I would walk through random clouds of smell that I was told was from weed. What I noticed more was the atmosphere and the architecture and the history. The city is absolutely beautiful, between the canals and the old buildings. I loved walking up and down the streets, and taking the tram through the city, and never once did I feel unsafe. The food there was also fantastic. I had an amazing pancake pizza and a strawberry chocolate covered waffle that I am still thinking
The things to do there were also wonderful. On our first day, before we did our walk around, we went to the Van Gogh Museum. It was such an amazing experience to see over 200 pieces of his work and stand in front of it and realize that he had actually painted it, that it wasn’t just a reproduction of it, but that Van Gogh had actually touched it.
The quote moved me and I realize even more now that it is very much true, and that we need to do all we can to make the world a better place, and not let atrocities like those of the Nazis happen again, and to try to stop the genocides that are occurring currently in our world today. Following the video, we were able to sign a guestbook and write down our feelings, but I was feeling too much, and as I think about the museum today, I am still moved, as it was life changing, so I had to write it on their website when I got home. This is what I said:
For a long time, I have felt that I owed it to people who died in tragic ways to make a point and show that people are remembering their loss; I feel that society has that duty as well. In terms of the Holocaust, I believe that it is our duty to make sure that we do not forget, that we go out of our way to learn more about the horrific nature of it, and to learn about both the survivors and those who lost their lives and the courage that they showed in face of brutal hatred. That is why I had to come to the Anne Frank House. I have always been touched by her story and the fact that Anne’s diary captures a moment in time that for many is unimaginable, but with her becomes less so. Her story is representative of so many others and I am thankful that she wrote it down so we all can try to understand as much as we can about what they went through.
Walking through the house, and seeing the conditions that they had to live under to attempt to survive, I was moved by the courage of Anne, her family, and those who helped hide them and how they still had a life; they didn’t just give up. For me, it showed that no matter how unliveable the conditions may seem, no matter how terrible, life still continues, bringing both beautiful and tragic moments for us to bear witness to, and I believe that perseverance, that bravery to continue on, seen in the family’s resilience, and that of her father’s after, has enormous beauty and is a great source of hope for many, including myself. While I loathe the tragedy that had to occur for the museum to be there, I am grateful that the museum does exist and that through Anne, we can see all these things and remember and never forget and try to make sure that the tragedy of the holocaust, the tragedy of Anne Frank and her family, never happens again.
After we left the museum, we felt the need to do something a little more light-hearted, so we went in search of the bench from The Fault in Our Stars, as it is my and Emma’s favourite book and one of my favourite movies, and a search it was. We looked up and down the same street for three hours, using pictures from the film to help us find it, as I had the movie on my iPad, and asking people if they knew where it was. All the people told us the same street, which confused us further, because we thought it was the same one we had been on, since it sounded the same. Finally, after using Instagram to find a picture with a notable piece of architecture in the background, I took the picture into the place where we had booked our canal tour and asked the worker if he knew where the building in the background was. He knew almost right away and marked it on a map for us. It turns out that we had been on the wrong street the entire time, and that it was on another, one that was spelt almost the same way and sounded very similar. So, after taking our canal tour, which was a beautiful way to site see, we made our way down to the bench which had been 15 minutes from where we were, and took our picture on it, me doing so with The Fault in Our Stars book I had bought that was written in Dutch.
That night, we left, and almost immediately I missed Amsterdam and personally, I cannot wait to come back.
A couple of weeks later, the St. Mary’s University school choir that I am a part of got an amazing opportunity. This year in England, the BBC held the first ever BBC Music Awards and for the grand finale, they needed a choir. One of the members knew someone who had a professional choir, and the leader of it asked us to join it. Eight of our members were able to and we had to learn the song “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys, while being trained by professional vocal coaches, one of whom was the amazing David Grant. The day of the awards, we got to the venue, Earls Court, at around 10 a.m. and spent the rest of the day in rehearsals, practicing our entrances, our choreography, and especially our singing, during which we got to practice with who we were performing with: Paloma Faith and Sir Tom Jones. We even got to go and see of the preparation for the award show and watch the rehearsals for Take That and Paloma Faith.
When the show began, we all had to stay in one area and watch the show, but at one point, I was walking around and got to see Chris Martin and the rest of Coldplay walking around which was really cool; I had to do a double take at first. I was hoping to see Ed Sheeran or One Direction to take a picture for my friend at home, but I didn’t; I did get to hear them though.
At around 9:30, we all had to line up for our performance and as we waited, Will.i.am. passed us, adding another celebrity to my list. Finally, it was show time, and with our cue, we went on stage and sang for an audience of 13,500 people and millions around the world, including my family who was watching at home. It was amazing experience to be standing on a stage with fireworks, confetti, world-renown performers, and a screaming crowd, one that I will never get again and will never forget. "God Only Knows" BBC Music Awards Performance
Since then, it has been more about relaxing and finishing up school. After 10 essays, I finished my classes on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, we went into London for the last time, going to Piccadilly Circus, Covent Gardens, Harrods, and the Hyde Park Christmas Markets, enjoying the sites one last time with each other.
Now, as I sit in my room, my suitcase filled, my drawers and shelves empty, my walls cleared, I have time to reflect on my trip here and I can say that I am extremely grateful for it. I have done so many things and seen so many places that I never thought I would and may never get to again and I have made friends that I will miss dearly, ones that I am already crying over because I am going to miss them so much.
For a while in the summer before I came here, I was considering not coming, because I was afraid, and now I am so glad that I made the decision to come and meet people who have changed my life, people who I hope to be lifelong friends with. It was a life changing experience and I can say that I am now more independent and not nearly as afraid of the world, which was my goal. I have to thank everyone who was involved in giving me this opportunity; it is one that I will never be able to thank people enough for, and I have to thank the people here for enriching my life and teaching me things about life and the world that I may have never learned otherwise. It was a privilege to share this experience with you all.
Although, I will miss London and I will miss my friends, I am ready to be home and I am looking forward to when I get off the plane and see my family for the first time in over three months. I have missed them as well too.
So, all that’s left to say is goodbye London. Thanks for the memories. Here I come USA.
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived"-
OneRepublic "I Lived"