Saturday, 31 May 2014

Goodbye Beach!

It's the end of the month, and the end of one of the most incredible experiences of my life. This will be my last study abroad blog as I'm back in England, but I can assure you this won't be my last goodbye!

In my first post I set myself the goal to treasure every moment, embrace every opportunity, and remember each and every incredible feeling.

Looking back over the last nine months, I'm proud to say I've achieved that goal. I've taken opportunities that I could never have imagined, discovered countless new experiences, and loved every moment. I've left California with a heavy heart and priceless memories.

I've been struggling to write this post, as there is so much I could say, and many more things I won't be able to. Looking through my time abroad I see miles travelled, places visited, smiling faces and moments I'll never forget.

Studying abroad is an incredibly valuable experience. Whether you're discovering a new culture or your true self, it's a chance of a lifetime. There's no way to prepare yourself for the things you can find - from those you expect, to the ones you weren't even looking for.

My biggest thanks for my time goes to the people I've met. I'd like to give a special mention to my fellow travellers, the best room mate and the Hillside A-Team, the CSULB Underground Music Society, and the amazing musicians I met along the way. Alongside many others, you made my experience something truly special, and it could never have been the same without you.

Short of being dragged on the plane, I was reluctant to leave California behind. I found my place and the people I want to fill my life, so leaving was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Now I've set my sights on a new goal. This isn't the end and I'll find a way to return. When you think about it, it's pretty simple, wherever you are in the world... the dream.


Sunday, 11 May 2014

Final Farewell to The Two Tone Boners

So I've been dragging this one out for a while now, but here goes.

Since coming to California I have been open to new opportunities and experiences, and one of the most unexpected is my new found love for ska. Back in September at my first CSULB Underground Music Society show I first discovered The Two Tone Boners. 

"For the final act of the night The Two Tone Boners filled The Nugget with their smooth grooves and rhythmic ska sounds, enticing everything from toe-tapping to full on skanking. Keys, trombone, sax, guitar, drums, and an exciting trio of vocals created an intense and powerful penetration that leaves a funky echo ringing for hours." 

This short review found me an invitation to their next show at The Airliner in Los Angeles. I met with the band and travelled with them to the show. From all our escapades of the night, ending in drunken interviews in the Boner Cave, this was certainly a memorable one, and marked the start of a big part of my time in California. 

"The collaboration of different genres and influences shines throughout their set, The Two Tone Boners is an eclectic mix, filled with energy and enthusiasm. While the ska feel strikes through, there are also elements of punk and other influences contrasting with more chilled vibes."

Since then, I have joined The Two Tone Boners and their fans at countless shows and had many an enjoyable night with them. They introduced me to a world of music through those they've shared the stage with, including one of my new favourite bands Papafish. 

The Two Tone Boners performance is packed full of tastes of punk, ska, jazz and more. There's something for everyone and it definitely gets you craving a dance and joining the pit for some skanking. Each show offers something different as they draw on the various aspects of the band. 

They're no strangers to a challenge and the hardships of musicianship, yet somehow they always pull through and seem to come out stronger on the other side. This is an extremely close-knit group, who all share an incredible passion for their music. 

Recently, they've been working on a new EP which will be released soon. I've heard a few sneak previews and it's already full of promise. I can't wait to hear the final product and hope that it takes the band even further. 

My last two shows with the band found me sitting on the stage with them at The Slidebar and another night at the Old Towne Pub in Pasadena. I was so happy I was able to see you all again and say my (temporary) goodbyes. On so many occasions you've made me feel incredibly welcome and I'm glad to have met you all.

So for some great music and fun shows check out this El Monte ska group! 

I'm really going to miss joining you guys at shows, but as I keep reassuring myself, I will be back...
This won't be the last you hear from The English Bonerette! 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Last Chance Shows in California

 Enjoying a drink with Craic Haus
My last days in California are creeping up on me at an alarming rate.

I've had an amazing weekend catching two incredible bands for one last time before heading back to England at the end of the month, and wanted to take a quick moment to show my appreciation.

Friday night saw another appearance of shamrockabilly stars Craic Haus at The Auld Dubliner in Downtown Long Beach. We came across this band by chance and have been listening to them ever since. Guaranteed to provide a fun night and get you dancing - Although unfortunately not for me as I'm still stuck in a wheelchair!

Danny, Dylan and Julian are lovely guys and each incredibly talented. Thanks for the nights of happy memories and sing-a-long songs. As promised, come to England and if all else fails I'll let you play at my house!

Not content to stop there, the following day (after the delicious discovery of a full Irish breakfast back at the Dubliner), we headed into LA to catch one of my favourite bands, Papafish, at The Satellite.

I discovered this eclectic mix of ska-rock-reggae at the Slidebar in Fullerton with The Two Tone Boners in December, and featured them on The Music Xchange to share the love and spread the word of their outstanding music. Since then, I spent my days singing along with the incredible voice of Nancy Rae until I'd learnt almost all the words to every song in a matter of weeks. Needless to say, I love you guys and can't wait for the next release. I'm sure it will find its way to me in England!

My final thanks goes to Roberto, for helping me discover these bands and taking me to every show. Tuesday will mark my last show with you and to say I will be sad to miss the rest over the coming year is a huge understatement.

But fear not all - I will be back! 

At The Satellite in LA for Papafish

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Speakeasy Quest to San Francisco

I might have dislocated my kneecap last weekend at the LA Times Book Festival, but that wasn't about to stop me enjoying a trip to San Francisco.

Armed with a wheelchair and crutches we made the long drive from Long Beach to SF, arriving with moments to spare before midnight on Thursday, just managing a much needed beer before crashing out. 

Rolling down the hill to Fisherman's Wharf we enjoyed breakfast the next morning on Pier 39, soaking up the sights and sounds of SF, from old arcades, museums and of course Ghirardelli square.  

The inspiration for this trip was local Speakeasy brewery, with a tour and several hours spent in the Tap Room. We achieved our goal of trying everything, coming away with souvenirs and even the last crate of Scarlett red rye of the season. Really going to miss these beers back in England! 

Before heading home on Saturday I had a mission of tracking down everything English in San Francisco. From an amazing breakfast complete with real bacon and Heinz beans, a taste of shepherd's pie and traditional English style fish & chips. For anyone missing the home comforts while in California, I can highly recommend a trip to You Say Tomato, true kid in a candy store moment, coming away with biscuits, chocolate, Easter eggs and more :) 

A much needed break, this was just what I needed after a nasty injury and being stuck in bed for days.

Smiling non-stop and making great memories, I'll definitely be back! 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Spring Break Stories

You've seen the movies, and you've heard the stories, and I couldn't wait for my first American Spring Break. With most people going home or taking trips away, I decided to leave my week to chance and plan each day as it came to see where I ended up. Really living the dream and enjoying each moment to the full!

Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Friday (March 28) 
Spring Break started off collecting a friend from LAX after her gruelling long flight from Amsterdam, armed with a doughnut and a pineapple (don't ask!). Our surprise meal that night was even complete with an unexpected earthquake leaving Hoff's Hut shaking - California life! 

Saturday (March 29) 
Time for a night out with dinner at George's Greek Cafe and drinks on 2nd Street before heading our separate ways for the break. 

Sunday (March 30) 
A lunch date with the ladies reminding me how much I'll miss BJ's pizookies, and commemorating my time with a new helix piercing from New Flower Studio in Long Beach. I would highly recommend these guys - Professional yet friendly atmosphere, short walk from CSULB campus, and my piercing is healing nicely!

San Diego, Santa Monica & Venice 

Monday (March 31) 
A day of adventures, taking a road trip to San Diego with no plans in place. We started with breakfast in the Gaslamp Quarter, made our way to the bay to admire the boats and enjoyed some afternoon cocktails before moving on to Mt. Soledad and La Jolla to watch the sunset. This was my first time really seeing San Diego and it's a beautiful place that I would definitely like to visit again. 

Tuesday (April 1) 
Taking to the road again we headed up to Santa Monica pier for some sights and shopping, before moving on to Venice beach, a really interesting place filled with all kinds of people and entertainment. 

Wednesday (April 2) 
A boring entry: It was time to take a day off and catch up on some much needed sleep before heading out again!

Johnny's Saloon & Saturday in LB

Thursday (April 3) 
With a rare day off we headed to Huntingdon Beach and discovered a great little bar, Johnny's Saloon. I can highly recommend their sexy pretzels and great beer selection! Later that day with The Two Tone Boners playing in Long Beach it was time for the English Bonerette to make another appearance. It was great to see a much better turn out than their last Di Piazza's show and the sound quality was at a high. If it's possible, I have even more fun every time I'm with these guys!  

Friday (April 4) 
Another eclectic turn in my musical ventures is a recent find, shamrockabilly trio Craic Haus. Appearing at the Auld Dubliner in Downtown Long Beach, they're guaranteed to have the crowd drinking, dancing, and maybe even attempting an Irish jig. Lovely guys, they even dedicated a song to one of their youngest fans.

Saturday (April 5) 
An early start to head back to LAX on Sunday didn't stop us from getting in some farewell drinks at Panama Joe's. Our quiet evening turned into fishbowls, drinking games and non-stop laughter. Couldn't have asked for a better end to our Spring Break adventures! 

Sunday (April 6) 
6am start to say goodbye at the airport, an early breakfast (with some interesting choices!), followed by a relaxing morning in bed before getting ready for the rest of the Hillside A residents to return. Classes start again at 8am tomorrow - Wish me luck! 

Craic Haus - Mermaid (For Mia)

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Sunrise on the Beach and Smiling Everyday

In the spirit of embracing opportunities today I got up at the excruciatingly early 6 am to watch the sunrise on Belmont Shore beach. It was worth the tired eyes to enjoy the beautiful views with some of the lovely ladies who I've been honoured to meet in California. 

Yesterday marked a quarter of the way into my 100 Happy Days journey, and this was the perfect way to mark many more. So far, it's been a refreshing experience taking a moment every day to appreciate something that makes you smile. From new friends, old friends, and the small things that you can often take for granted, this is turning out to be the perfect way to celebrate the rest of my time studying abroad. Thank you to everyone who's been a part of it! 

Treasure every moment, Embrace every opportunity

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Days Out in Long Beach

In between classes and on those lovely long weekends we do our best to get out into the local area and make the most of our time in Long Beach, so I thought I would share a few pictures of my most recent excursions.

Belmont Shore Chocolate Festival 

Saturday 8th Feb saw the 10th Annual Chocolate Festival in Long Beach, which meant an outing with my lovely dorm friends. For the small price of $10 you received 12 tokens which could be exchanged for tasty treats from the various vendors partaking on 2nd Street. Frosted Cupcakes and Sweet Jill's Bakery are well worth another visit, and we even got a small taste of our favourite BJ's Pizookie!

Chocolate Fest with the best! 

Acoustic Show @ Royal Cup Café 

This day out was followed by another evening with the CSULB Underground Music Society, as we hosted our first off-campus Acoustic Show at the Royal Cup Ca. Showcasing sets of original and cover songs were local artists Justin Mitchell, Sasha Pyslarash, Jeffrey Allen, Mike Sanjuan, King Satan and Miguel Esquiviel. This event was a huge success for UMS and we hope to have many more like it in the future.

CSULB UMS @ Royal Cup Cafe

Wednesday Afternoon Adventures 

With a class finishing unexpectedly early +Emma Langschied and I decided not to waste the sunshine and to go out exploring. A quick Google for "Free stuff to do in Long Beach" resulted in this little find: The Skinniest House in America

Needless to say, in a moment of spontaneous randomness, we jumped straight on the bus and headed for the Skinny House. Finding ourselves near 4th Street we then took the short walk to Retro Row, stopping for pancakes in a quaint little Irish pub garden on the way. After browsing the vintage finds we had iced blended mochas in Portfolio, acclaimed as the best coffee house in Long Beach.

Beats being stuck in a stuffy classroom!

Afternoon Adventures

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Spring Semester Classes

Last semester saw me specialising in journalism, but now I’ve taken a change of pace and gone for more variety in my classes, crossing over into the paths of creative writing and women’s gender studies. I’m hoping that this semester will be more enjoyable while still expanding my experiences and building on my professional portfolio.

ENG 205: Creative Writing Fiction

Working outside the journalism writing style and delving into fiction, this class develops elements of fiction writing including: character sketch, plot development, description and dialogue. Taking a workshop format we will be developing short stories and giving class feedback, working towards a portfolio of manuscripts at the end of the semester.

WGSS 216: Hollywood and Beyond

This class explores the ideologies of gender, race and sexuality in the movies. During this module we will be looking at contemporary Hollywood films from a feminist perspective. This is something that has always held an interest for me through studying media, and I’m looking forward to taking a more specialised approach.

JOUR 305: Media Design

I’m hoping that this class will help to develop my very basic knowledge of InDesign, which is a valuable skill in the print journalism industry. This class gives us the opportunity to design newspapers, PR materials, photo spreads and reinvent logos.

JOUR 480: Magazine Production

Gaining hands on experience of magazine writing and production techniques by producing content for the monthly campus publication DIG magazine, and content and design for an issue of Beach Byline magazine. Hopefully the added experience of different publications will prove a valuable asset to my journalism portfolio!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Home for the Holidays

As my first semester at CSULB came to a close it was time to return home for the winter break. I had been feeling homesick and was missing my family, so I couldn't have been more excited to be flying back to England.

But it's funny how your new perspective can change the way you see things. Even once I was past the jet lag, I still struggled with an uneasy feeling. While it was incredible to see my family again (shocking to see how much the little ones had grown!) something wasn't quite right. California was calling me and I found myself counting the days until I could return to Long Beach.

Never the less, I had a lovely time with my family and some old friends. Christmas and New Year's Eve is a time for family and a tradition I am sworn to keep. With days out to Winter Wonderland, Secret Santa, leaving parties and more, this was family time at its best.

For many of my friends this semester will be their last. It's a strange feeling that I'll be seeing them graduate before returning for a final year without the people who made the first two years of my degree so memorable. But this is a small price to pay for a year at the beach, and I wish them all the best of luck!

Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity and sometimes it takes a bit of distance to realise it (over 5,000 miles to be precise). I never took my place for granted but now I know for certain how much the experience means to me. I've never felt a strong grounding in England and have always had dreams of travelling, and now that it's become reality my heart is set.

I have one more semester in Long Beach which I plan to enjoy to the full before coming back to finish my degree in Hertfordshire. But something tells me this won't be the end of my journey...