A Travellerspoint blog

Please Mr. Postman

This posting is somewhat belated since the election is well over, but I thought I would just mention how interesting I think it is that Europeans are so much more interested in our politics than we are in theirs.

When I went to mail my ballot, the Friday before it was due, I told the postal worker that I needed to send it to the U.S. While he was printing out the postage he looked down at the envelope, looked back up at me, and asked, “does it say Obama in here?” When I said yes he smiled and nodded in approval, so I guess that was the right answer! I wonder if he would have tossed my ballot if I’d said no. Well probably not, but I bet he’d have wanted to …

Posted by ecfong 15:51 Archived in England Comments (0)

In My Life

sunny 12 °C

After having so much fun in Greece, it was finally time to get back to reality and back to work. For my remaining eight weeks in London, I worked Wednesdays through Fridays at Clear Creations for the internship part of my study abroad program.

On my first day I had the easy but fairly monotonous task of hand finishing the already printed cards. They needed glitter, Swarovski stones and pearls, and googly eyes, or some combination of the three. It was actually a lot of fun to just sit down and glitter for a while because I hadn’t had the chance to do anything “crafty” for a long time. The googly eyes were somewhat difficult though because they required the use of a hot glue gun and some fast hand movements. I never really mastered placing the tiny eyes on even tinier dots of glue before the glue dried, so I just stuck with the glitter and pearls instead. One thing I enjoyed about hand finishing is that although it became somewhat tedious after a while, it also did not require much brain power, meaning I could just sit and listen to the radio and chat with my coworkers.

I really enjoyed listening to BBC Radio 1 because I learned all the new, popular songs as well as getting my daily news. Another aspect I really enjoyed about that particular radio station was their involvement of the listeners in the show. For example, the DJ would ask a question or play some sort of game, and the listeners did it as well and then texted their responses to the station. The DJ read out many of the responses of course, and it was absolutely hilarious what some people came up with. We listened to the station online, so if you’re interested in hearing some British accents I certainly recommend tuning in!

Fairly early on we did a retail show called the Spirit of Christmas Fair. It was one week long, and we had a booth amongst many other crafty people trying to sell their products before Christmas arrived. Unfortunately, however, our location within the fair was terrible and we did not get as much traffic as many of the other booths down on the main floor. Even so, it was nice to be out of the studio for a few days and I got a bit of Christmas shopping done too! I liked the decorations as well … very festive …


Other than hand finishing and working at the fair, most of my internship time was actually spent designing! I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first began working there, but I was very surprised and happy to realize that I was trusted enough to work on the newest collection – men’s birthday cards! We spent weeks on them, much longer than usual, but the extra time was necessary because my boss had never done men’s cards before and we had to develop a completely new style. (All of her previous collections use watercolor elements and are very feminine, so more masculine designs didn’t come very easily.) We persevered, however, and slowly but surely developed a collection of twelve new designs, all involving musical elements. Looking at the designs all together, I think they just look so cool and I’m incredibly proud at how much I contributed to their creation.

And finally, a little mention about food in the workplace … Most of my friends at other internship placements often went out to lunch, but I brought mine every day in an attempt to save money. On one of my first days I brought some crackers I was trying to finish up, and in order to make them slightly more palatable I made peanut butter sandwiches with them. My boss asked me what I was having for lunch, just making friendly conversation, and when she heard about the peanut butter she burst out laughing! I must have looked slightly confused because she finally explained, “that’s so American!” It hadn’t really occurred to me before, but considering how difficult it was to find the few tiny jars of peanut butter at the grocery store, it makes sense that peanut butter isn’t as much of a hit in Europe as it is back home.

By the end of my eight weeks at Clear Creations I was very proud of both what I’d learned and how much I had contributed. I was also happy that I was more immersed in British culture, just by working closely with actual Brits and occasionally even drinking tea! I really enjoyed my time there, and if you’re interested in seeing the cards I worked on, keep a lookout for the music collection at http://www.clearcreations.co.uk/ - hopefully they’ll be available soon!

Posted by ecfong 11:33 Archived in England Comments (0)

Eight Days a Week


Day 8
Our feet are tired, but our cameras are full.


We went to a museum in the morning, and since Frommer was wrong again we had to wait half an hour until it opened. It was much smaller than the museum in Athens, but Margaret didn’t realize that so she rushed me along. We got run over by a tour group of students at one point, but other than that we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

At the end I wanted to go back and get a picture with the Sphinx, specifically for a couple of my friends. When we went back I handed the camera to Margaret and moved towards the statue. The lady sitting there said “No posing.” But with a smile. We both thought she was joking because we’d never heard that before and she sounded like she was about to laugh in that teasing sort of way, but when I kept moving towards the statue she kept repeating “No posing! No posing!” in a singsong voice. I said "I thought there was just no flash allowed," and she said “Yes, you can take picture but no flash and no posing.” What kind of logic is that!? So we just left, but I still say it’s a dumb rule.


We caught the bus back to Athens and had an interesting time trying to catch a cab to the metro station. The taxi stand was busy and we couldn’t figure out how the drivers chose their next customers. There wasn’t a line – people just sort of stood there and spoke rapid Greek to each other. Obviously, Margaret and I were at a distinct disadvantage. I think people told the driver where they wanted to go, and if anyone else was heading in that direction then they hopped in too – but who knows. Like I said, it was in Greek. Two women finally took pity on us when they realized we only spoke English and had been standing there for a while. They motioned us to the next cab. Our driver didn’t speak much English, but he told us to be careful in the square because there were thieves, and once again that Greeks are crazy. Good to know. From there we successfully made it to the airport to sit for many hours until our flight, but I didn’t mind the wait. I was just happy that we’d made it.


Margaret: For those that don’t know me, I love to go to new places. Not just because it is fun but because I like saying that I have been to more countries than my current age. (I am at 24 countries at age 23, if you were interested). Before I left for Greece I was a little disappointed that I would not be able to add a country to my list since I had already been twenty years before. Looking back, I was stupid to think this because it was a great trip, no matter what my list says, and I was glad I got the chance to experience it again with Emily.

Overall, the trip was a good one – definitely a success for our first venture alone in the world. There were lots of fun times, and there were other times that were really only funny in retrospect, but overall I thought it was a great adventure and I’m thrilled that everything went so well. I definitely want to go back someday, especially to spend more time in the ancient sites in Athens and to explore Santorini a little more fully. And ride the donkeys!

(P.S. Never again will I go anywhere with Frommer’s. I will return to Greece when Rick Steves has written a masterpiece. And next time – there will be posing!)

Posted by ecfong 18:01 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Eight Days a Week


Day 7
Room with a View

We got kicked off the boat bright and early, but not before having a last meal with our favorite trio. Then we caught a taxi to the bus station and remembered to ask how much before we got in, definitely an improvement over Patmos. However, I was not pleased to learn that it was going to be €30 when Frommer predicted €10. Our driver was funny though. He talked about the traffic and told us that everyone drives in Athens instead of taking public transportation, which is why the traffic is terrible, and his excuse was that “all Greeks are crazy!”

We arrived at the bus station and bought our tickets for Delphi, but then we had a bit of a wait. I was entertained by the “free smoking” sign in the waiting room and the woman underneath it lighting up.


I was not quite as entertained, however, with the bathroom. I knew that the toilets in Greece weren’t always up to U.S. standards, but I was hoping that since it was a bus station there’d be “acceptable” facilities. Well. FIRST I had to pay for toilet paper. That was annoying because all week I’d been carrying around extra toilet paper for just such an occasion, but then I’d finally thrown it out on the cruise since I hadn’t needed it so far. But - you can't not have toilet paper. So I paid for it and went into the bathroom. And then I saw the hole. The hole in the ground that resembled nothing like the toilets I have grown to know and love, and yet it still managed to have the same function as said toilets. Turning around and leaving, although my initial instinct, was not an option due to the three-hour bus ride ahead of me. I had enough sense to realize that a trip like that would be highly uncomfortable on a full bladder. AND I’d already paid for the toilet paper. So use the hole I did. (TP = €0.50 if you were wondering – a little pricey but it was a decent sized wad.)

When we finally boarded the bus, we decided to sit in the front row so that we’d have the best view during the trip. Margaret then noticed that we were in seats 3 and 4, which happened to be the ones assigned to us on the tickets! We’d completely forgotten that it wasn’t free seating, and we thought the coincidence was hilarious. Maybe you had to be there though.

Towards the end of our journey, we drove through an adorable little town – Arachova. There were a bunch of ski-rental shops, so I have a feeling there’s lots of snow during the winter, and we saw many little shops that sold bags and big fur blankets and Davey Crockett-esque caps. It was so strange driving up to the town because all the buildings are perched on Mt. Parnassus in the way that homes are in Santorini or the Cinque Terre, except that here rather than a view of the sea they are looking at huge and beautiful and very close mountains! It was strange, but very cool.

We finally made it to Delphi, and I was thrilled to see that it looked very similar to the mountain village we’d just passed through. We found our hotel easily (and yes, I did just say hotel and not hostel), and discovered that we had a balcony and an amazing view of the mountains and water below. Nicely done Margaret!


Margaret: Yea… that was an accident. I was actually looking for a hostel online but could not find one in Delphi so I chose this hotel because I was told from more than one site that is was the best value in Delphi. When I booked online they gave me a choice of which room I wanted (numbers 1-9) but failed to say what the difference was between them. I used my best judgment (5 is a pretty number) and booked the room. We received the keys and started to walk down the hall and I realized that room one was on my left (street side) and nine was on my right (the side with the view). I started getting nervous because I wasn’t sure where room five would be so as I slowly approached I was relieved to find that I had picked correctly and ended up with a view!

We went to the Temple of Apollo first, and (because Margaret forgot Frommers’ back at the hotel,) when we didn’t know what something was Margaret made up a use for it and we moved along. The setting was absolutely beautiful – Apollo did good to have his people worship him there. It was very peaceful and I felt somewhat isolated, but in a good way. I loved the fresh air and the quiet, especially after a week of first Athens’ smog and then constantly being surrounded by cruise ship tourists. So it was a nice change. The only damper on the site was the one, stereotypically loud, annoying American family.


After that we went down the road to check out Athena’s temple. It wasn’t extremely exciting, but the pillars made me laugh. They had giant spots on them and reminded me of a cow.


Another thing that amused me was that today, after complaining all week about how many pictures I’d been taking, Margaret finally (and subconsciously) just stopped walking whenever I pulled out my camera and waited for the sound of the lens cap being replaced before moving again. I guess I trained her well! (Pavlov anyone?)

In our hotel I was thrilled, although not surprised, to see a toilet. I was rather confused however about how to flush it. Margaret was actually the one who discovered the secret though – the tank is up high on the wall and there is a chain hanging down from it that you pull to flush – NOT obvious at all. But at least there’s someplace to sit!

Posted by ecfong 17:28 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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