Sweet Home Alabama

Posted on 16/09/2011


Picking up where I left off…

One Saturday, after we came back from Scotland, Pam and Melvyn (my host Rotary counselor and his wife) took Ele and I to a beautiful park in Leeds–Golden Acre Park, where we got to take a lovely walk, have some pre-lunch tea, and see some extremely beautiful flowers. After a wonderful morning in the park, they took us to lunch at a really neat pub with amazing food. In preparation for leaving the UK, I had fish and chips-had to get them while I could. They also gave us a super fab painting of one of the first areas of Leeds Melvyn took my mom and I, too, when we first arrived there last September. It will definitely go in our next place of residence. It was a great day out, as it always is with Pam & Melvyn.

With Pam & Melvyn

Ele and the lavendar

On Friday, August 19th I gave my final talk as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar at my host Rotary Club in Leeds. It was a bittersweet talk, as I was talking to a lot of people I came to appreciate and love during my year in England. I will especially miss my amazingly wonderful and fantastic host counselor, Melvyn Sumroy and his wife, Pam, two very special people.

Me and Ele with Pam & Melvyn

With Tina (2009-2010 Ambassadorial Scholar in Leeds)

With Gwyneth–the new Leeds Rotary Club President 🙂

With Brian Skidmore–District scholar coordinator!

In preparing to leave Leeds we had several goodbye parties–at one we cooked Colombian food with our good friend Eliza, some of her Greek friends, and our friend Carolina. For another, we had dinner at a wonderful North African cafe with my fellow TESOL students, and our last goodbye party was with our Colombian friends, Carolina (who we went to Scotland with), Maria Consuelo, and Erika. Here’s some visual memories from the parties:

Eliza with the giant avocados

The food!

Goodbye party with the Colombians!


TESOL goodbye party

The whole gang.

After having said many goodbyes, we spent our last Monday in Leeds celebrating a UK bank holiday and going to the Carnaval parade in Chapeltown. It was pretty spectacular, and definitely got me excited about the Carnaval celebration in Barranquilla (whose only rival is that of Rio in Brazil).

I finished my 4 weeks of teaching with CLA on Wednesday, August 31, the same day we had to turn in the keys to our flat. We had already taken a load (and by load, I mean a HUGE amount) of clothes to a charity shop, but somehow still had things we were unable to sell/give away. Our neighbor, Hannah, was nice enough to volunteer to take them to a charity shop later–saving us time and stress. That same morning, I went to print out the final copy of my portfolio and turn it in.

After turning my portfolio in & cleaning out the rest of our stuff from the flat, we headed to campus to have an afternoon to say good bye to Leeds. We walked around my uni campus, did a tour of downtown, and walked back to our friend Lisa’s house (where we spent our last night in Leeds). That night we had a wonderful lasagna dinner with Lisa, our good friend, Hanna, and her sister Eli Sa (who was visiting from Germany).

At the Leeds University Student Union

Outside the School of Education building

Thursday morning, Ele and I caught the 6:34am train to London St. Pancras. We arrived to London around 10:30am and proceeded to try and take the tube to our hotel (close to Heathrow Airport). Right as we reached the tube part of St. Pancras, one of my suitcases decided to break–the handle totally broke in half and stabbed me in the leg, which prompted me to drop all my other luggage to the floor, while everyone looked at me and Ele decided to take a picture to capture the moment forever:

Our initial plan was to take our suitcases to the hotel and spend the rest of the day in London–which we eventually did after an excruciating trip on the tube with 4 suitcases that we had to lug up 8 flights of stairs at the last tube stop close to our hotel. We decided to leave the broken suitcase at St. Pancras, and buy a new suitcase while we walked around London–best idea of the day. As Ele hadn’t been to see Tower Bridge, we headed to that area of London, found a suitcase on Oxford Street and had our last official fish and chips with mushy peas and Bulmer’s before heading to our hotel for our last effort at packing/re-packing.

Last fish and chips

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

More Tower Bridge

Friday morning, Ele and I both flew out of London around 11am–Ele headed for Bogotá, and me headed for Birmingham, Alabama!

As of tomorrow, I will have officially been home for 2 weeks. I am pretty much adjusted to the weather, the accent, the time zone, the food, etc… and I am fully enjoying getting to spend time with my friends and family.

I got home the Friday before Labor Day (one of the few American holidays where people don’t actually go to work). I spent Saturday unpacking and organizing my belongings, and getting to see my Aunt Christy, her husband Alan, and my cousin Mitchell who came up to see me. On Sunday, we did some essential shopping and had dinner at my maternal grandparents’ house.

Monday was Labor Day & most of my extended family came over to celebrate with good Southern barbeque, baked beans, chips, dips, sweet tea and lots of desserts. We got to talk, catch up, and play chicken foot (an awesome & old domino game that has become tradition at most family gatherings). Thanks to tropical depression Lee, we also had a flooded basement on Labor Day & lots of rain. Although my brother & younger cousins ventured out into the pool, most of the sane members of the family stayed indoors. Here’s a few pictures from our Labor Day celebration.

About to eat lunch!

With my papaw (grandad), papaw Poole (great-grandad), and 2nd cousin, Carter!

Playing chickenfoot

The crazies, swimming in the pool.

Tropical depression Lee wreaked a good deal of havoc on a number of the schools in Jefferson County on Labor Day, so my brother and sister were out of school on Tuesday. My brother, Houston, and I had a healthy breakfast at McDonald’s and then we all hung around the house for the rest of the day. Wednesday and Thursday I was in Tuscaloosa speaking at two CIP (Global Studies) classes and two IHP (International Honors Program) classes. It was fun to speak to undergraduates and try to inspire them to keep up with current events & study abroad, while also trying to show them the benefits and awesomeness of both! Of course, while I was in Tuscaloosa I got to see a lot of people dear to me including, Caroline–who came to visit in England & was kind enough to let me stay with her AND treat me to a DELICIOUS dinner at DePalma’s (best vegetarian pizza of my life), Frannie James & Steve Bunker (two amazing former professors of mine), the CSC (Community Service Center) crew, and my latina girls–Carolina, Monica, Laura, and Gaby who I had dinner with at my favorite Mexican restaurant–Jalapeño’s.

Going to Tuscaloosa was also a bit of a heart wrenching trip. Everything appeared normal once I got off the interstate at McFarland Blvd, but once I got to 15th Street I became immediately aware of the gravity of the April 27th tornado. It was both sad and eery to see the destruction.

University Blvd. in Alberta City

Alberta Baptist, where Ele took English lessons

Where the Krispy Kreme used to be…

Off 15th Street

Back home in Hueytown, I spent Friday soaking up some sun at our pool—hoping to not be called “Snow White” anymore! It was nice to layout, but it would have been better if the pool water wasn’t like liquid ice 😉 Friday evening, I got to catch up with one of my favorite people, a wonderful history teacher from high school, Jeff Clayton (the same teacher I saw in Madrid, Spain). Saturday, I treated Houston to breakfast at Waffle House, since I had coupons for free waffles AND it was waffle week–who knew that even existed? After breakfast, I spent the remainder of the day by the pool, and had a lovely dinner & conversation with some great people.

Penny hanging out at the pool with me

Sunday, my paternal grandmother, her husband, and my younger cousin, Shannon came over for a visit. We hung out by the pool and watched half of Monsters vs. Aliens while we talked about my plans. So glad I got to see them.

Monday was a day of shopping with my mom and mamaw (maternal grandmother). We visited some shops in Leeds that my mamaw wanted to see–Monkey’s Uncle, ate a true Southern lunch at Joel’s in Trussville (love that place), and then did some serious summer clothes shopping at the Summit. I think I have pretty much been able to find a good deal of summer clothes–most of them at really good prices. I was really worried when I came home, because I didn’t think I would be able to still find a lot of summer clothes, which I’ll really need in Barranquilla, Colombia (it’s pretty much 85-90 degrees fahrenheit all the time, all year long). I have also successfully purchased a professional set of clothes and messenger bag (with matching lunch box, compliments of mom) for teaching at Uninorte! That said, hopefully, there will be no more major shopping or major money spending…

Mom & mamaw at The Summit

Menu at Joel’s

Tuesday, mom and I went to the gym, where we saw another person I love very much–Ellen Denham (one of my best friends from high school’s mom), and then we headed to run some errands across town. Wednesday, I spent the morning with my mom at The Hut Stuff (my maternal grandparents’ gift store/framing shop) & had a delicious lunch with my mom and grandaddy at Habañero’s Mexican Grill–got to get my share of Mexican food before I set off for Colombia. Wednesday evening, mom and I watched some episodes of The Middle and Modern Family, in preparation for the season premieres that start next week–can’t wait! Pretty pumped about the premieres of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Glee, but promised Ele I’d wait on her to watch those, since those are our most important favorite shows.

Today, mom and I hit up The Foundry thrift store in Bessemer where I was able to score some summer clothes as well as some really awesome Diego Rivera prints for $1–proof that thrift stores are awesome. After that, I spent the afternoon drinking some delicious chai in downtown Birmingham with my amazing friend, Rynnie! We did some amazing catching up. Can’t wait to hang out with her, again, since we still have a bit of catching up to do, and since a visit to see her exceptional parents is over due!

This weekend I’ll be heading to the Hueytown vs. McAdory game with the family, hanging out at the Dixie Reptile Show, working on my final Rotary report, and, hopefully, laying out by the pool on Sunday.

Before I leave y’all… I’ll give you a quick update on Colombia:

I don’t have a definite leave date yet, as I am still waiting on some papers from la Universidad del Norte in order to apply for my work visa with the Colombian Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia. The application process to receive my work visa only takes 24 hours, and as soon as I receive my visa, I’ll be able to purchase a plane ticket and make more definite plans. FOr now, I am just continuing to enjoy my time in Dixie.

I guess that’s all for now… Happy weekend to everyone!

Posted in: Alabama, In the UK