Wow! I hadn’t realized it had been more than a month since I had last posted. I am going to try to do my best to update you all on what’s happened, essentially since Thanksgiving.
After Thanksgiving began a crazy rush of Christmas activities—The first Christmas even was a Christmas party with the School of Education at the University of Leeds, where my professor dressed up like Santa and asked random Christmas trivia (I won a prize for answering a question!) as we stuffed our faces with delicious food from all over the world. After the School of Education party, our next Christmas event was a cookie baking extravaganza at my friend Hanna’s house. About 10 of my classmates and I spent the better part of a Friday baking batches of about 10 different types of cookies and 2 different German breads (recipe compliments go to Hanna’s grandmother). My next Christmas gathering was with my asylum-seeker/immigrant students at St. George’s Church where we played some crazy games, ate brilliant food, and sang Christmas carols. I’ll miss seeing them, as we’ll be taking a break until January 10. We also hosted a Christmas party at our flat where we made ginger bread houses, ate Christmas-y foods, and played Dirty Santa. In addition, we attended the Rotary Club of Leeds’ festive lunch with Melvyn and had a little taste of a typical British Christmas meal–turkey and gravy, roasted potatoes, brussel sprouts, winter vegetable soup, and Christmas pudding. It was pretty delicious! I also coordinated the Christmas party for the Leeds Rotaract Club– we had hoped for a bigger turn out, but the 6 of us that showed up enjoyed some delicious popcorn chicken, awesome crackers, and the fastest game of Dirty Santa I have ever played 😉
In the midst of all this Christmas-ing, I was also busy at work on two assignments I had to turn in on December 20, as well as attending class (my last class was December 15th). During the beginning of December up until Christmas we continued to get snow here–not as bad as the LOADS of snow we got in November, but it was snow nonetheless. I also had a nice surprise at the end of my last week of classes… I was able to “attend” a family Christmas party back home via Skype. I was SO happy to be able to see my extended family. I haven’t seen or talked to most of them since I left in September and it was so good to be able to see and talk to them at the same time. I wasn’t too happy about seeing the delicious food they were eating, though 😉
Then came Christmas, for real. Christmas Eve was a rough day for me. Ele and I were having a Christmas Eve party at our flat and we were busy cooking and cleaning all day, but I couldn’t get my mind off my family and how much I missed them. I had my mini break downs throughout the day, but by the evening I was ready to celebrate. We invited about 9 friends over (6 from Colombia, 2 from Spain, and one from the USA). We ate paprika spiced turkey, roasted brussel sprouts with parsnip, homemade mashed potatoes, Colombian empanadas, and a Colombian dessert. It was a fun evening and I am glad we had good friends to share it with. For Christmas Day, we woke up and opened the gifts mom, dad, Holly, Houston, mamaw, and grandaddy had sent us and then lounged around and watched cheesy Christmas movies until my Skype date with the family…
Around 1pm, my time, mom called and told me to get on Skype to watch Holly and Houston open their presents 🙂 I was so glad I was able to be there, if only on Skype. After I watched them open their presents, we took a Skype break until mamaw and grandaddy got there for lunch–then we Skyped some more! It was a good day… it was hard being away from home and family, but we all made it through it okay.
The day after Christmas, December 26th, is known as Boxing Day in the UK and is a national holiday. Melvyn invited me and Ele to go on their annual Boxing Day hike with them and some friends of theirs. We drove to Harrogate (a town about 20 minutes from Leeds), parked the car, and all headed out on the hike. After walking for about an hour we stopped at a pub and had a delicious lunch before continuing the hike back to the cars. There was still snow on the ground as we hiked and the scenery was wonderful. We had wonderful time… After that hike, we all went back to Pam and Melvyn’s for afternoon tea where we had our first crumpets, i.e. bite of heaven. They were delicious! I don’t know why we hadn’t eaten them before, but we will surely be eating more of them now 🙂 We had a blast celebrating our first Boxing Day.
Between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve we took it easy and relaxed. I don’t think I woke up before noon not one day. It was nice to take a break… For New Year’s Eve we went to my friend Fatima’s house where we celebrated with her, her husband, their two little girls, and a Japanese classmate and his English girlfriend. We had a delicious dinner of Portuguese chicken, Japanese curry, Portuguese croquettes, salad, and cocktail prawns. After dinner we chilled, talked, and played with the girls waiting for midnight. The girls had fun “practicing” with the party blowers and streamers 🙂 At midnight we watched the firework extravaganzalooza in London on tv, toasted with champagne, and blew our party blowers. We then proceeded to the backyard where we shot some fireworks, watched people light Chinese lanterns, and roasted marshmallows. It was a fantastic New Year’s Eve. After the marshmallows and a second dinner (really just leftovers from the first one) we all crashed. The next morning Fatima cooked a king’s breakfast for us—it was AMAZING… fried eggs, Polish sunflower bread, eggs with chorizo, sweet corn, bacon, and orange juice! Delicious… We all then went to our own abodes and enjoyed the rest of our New Year Day relaxing.
Since New Year’s, nothing particularly exciting has happened. I have been slowly making small progress on two more assignments I have due January 24th (first drafts due January 10th), as well as getting ready for a trip to Ireland (January 14-18), and some presentations I will be doing to some Rotary clubs around the Leeds area. I probably won’t update again until I get back from Ireland… Expect some awesome pictures and good stories!