Two months in: England

Today, I’ve lived in England for exactly two months — and my mom keeps asking me to write something, so hello, greetings from Brighton, and hi mom! I love you!

Within two weeks of arriving in Brighton I had found a flat. I lived in two hostels, the first one much grosser than the second, while I searched and then waited to move in. I also had a minor mattress crisis (in which my mattress was delivered before I had the keys to my flat!!)

For clarification purposes, this is the nice hostel.

This is also the nice hostel. If this is a 10 on the hostel scale, the other was like… a neg. 2.

I furnished mostly through online secondhand sites (dining table, chairs and couch) and also hauled home a toaster, blender and kettle from all over town. When my flatmate Ginny finally arrived after the most horrifying visa process, her mother rented a car and we went to Ikea and purchased the rest of the furniture and household items (coffee table, two beds that took us a whole afternoon to build, desk, pillows, throws, houseplants and kitchen supplies.)

Suddenly kind of fond of the “turmeric” colored couch.

Ginny’s room

Another balcony view

So… I guess I had everything under control pretty quickly? And I guess I managed just fine, like my dad said I would? Somehow even routines feel chaotic, and nothing ever really “settles”, but I get a sense that everyone just pretends that they are totally in control of their lives and the world keeps turning 🙂 Thoughts?

A few words about the University of Sussex and the program (Conflict, Security and Development) — it’s REALLY GOOD. I’m in two “core” modules now — Conflict, Security and Development and New Security Challenges — and in the spring I’ll take Politics of Disease and Biosecurity and Political Economy of Development. Some of our cohort just took a three-day trip to Geneva and got to speak to members of the UNHCR, the UN, the ICRC and the World Bank, and IRIN news and tour their headquarters or offices.

Outside the UNHCR

The room where the initial peace talks on Syria were held

Never skip this part…

The palm house in the Geneva botanical gardens

THIS happy to be back in Switzerland!!!!

A few words on Brighton: it’s quirky, a little shabby around the edges, dotted with cozy cafes and tiny bakeries, cool bars and unique local shops. The traffic is heavy and I haven’t gotten on a bike here because it’s too scary. It’s urban and a little dirty, but the ocean changes colors every day, and we can see it from every window in the flat. This really is the sunny south of England– we’ve had more fair weather than rain, and our balcony faces south. The sun traces big rectangles across our living room floor all day long, setting earlier and earlier into the Atlantic as the autumn wears on. I do like it here!

The North Lanes

Kemptown, where I viewed one apartment

Looking west off the Brighton Pier

Missing my other half a little extra these days…

In the South Lanes

Gail’s Bakery, a convenient 3 minute walk from my flat

Hurricane Ophelia’s trails sort of graaaazed us

from the Flour Pot Bakery, also less than a 10 minute walk awat

Another cozy corner in Hove

The West Pier, which burnt down some years ago. Note the birds!!

Liquorice beach hut 😉

A few words on British English: I kid you not– sometimes I cannot understand what people are saying. And I sometimes call cashiers “tills” and lines “queues” and I accidentally swallowed the “r” one time when I said “square” (“squaee”).

November is really the best month. My mid-term reading week is closing fast, it’s a crispy fall day, I’ve caught a cold but it’s an excuse to drink tea all day long, and I’m coming “home” home in just forty days. In that time I have whole books to read, essays to plan and a pre-Christmas visit to Finland on my agenda. See you soon, mom!



The theme is spring

Good morning! This Monday doesn’t feel so difficult, since the past weekend was spring-like and sunny. I left my heavy coat at home, biked into the city and took a walk around the “Lakes” in Copenhagen with hundreds of other happy people: couples holding hands, baby-stroller gangs, groups of joggers weaving in between the slower walkers, people lying on the grass tanning (please note that it was only 46 degrees outside… crazy, sun-starved Danes…)

Not long now...

Spring in Alsace, 2015

A neighbor from home mailed me the sweetest note last week. She’s someone who has watched me and my sisters grow up on Annry Drive. The middle school bus stop was at the corner of her front yard. On any given day, she’s taking a brisk walk through the neighborhood, with her silky-haired golden retriever and dainty Afghan hound, who know where we live, and stop mid-walk at our driveway to see if we’re outside, ready to play. She has been like our “cool aunt” and I’ve always had a sense that I can tell her about anything that scares or worries me. Her delicate southern drawl, the herbs in the wooden planter on her back porch, and the crisp American flag gracing the front porch–these things say “home” to me.

Who's who??

“Baby sisters”, grown up.



After school

On bare skinny legs

On the hottest days of late spring

We would bound off the roaring schoolbus, (spitting out hot, noxious clouds of fumes that mingled with the last of the dogwood and freshly mowed lawns)

We would skip straight into your backyard, stand at your back door, with a question in our eyes–and smiling, you always indulged us!

Our favorite playmates, leaping from the cool shades of the house, greeted us as if they had been waiting all day:

Warm animal-licks on our faces and knees,

followed by frantic chases after neon-green tennis balls…

Collapsing onto scratchy grass in heaps, sweet-smelling, sweaty tangles of fur in which we buried our noses, laughing and breathless

Under a white-blue sky, which gave way to folds of deep blue velvet where lightning bugs played tag, we did too,

Until the predictable, six-o-clock dinner-call rang out from another front door

a grill somewhere–sweet corn, and chicken?

and the promise of a weekend ahead.


That smell from the grill…