Dear Homebound Frannies, this is your friendly Franny from far away! In thinking of how to write this column, I realized I am simply writing you all a letter without a written address, so here is my letter to you! I am not even in Austria yet and I will not be by the time I send in this column, but I have already experienced new and exciting things in this past week, some of them in our own, beautiful country!
My adventure started on Friday, Jan. 17, in Florida, where I stayed with a household sister before we flew over to London together on Sunday. We did the typical trip to the beach and the atypical air-boating excursion. I loved the feel of the wind on my face as we slid across the St. John’s River spying for alligators, cows and herons. I even ate gator tail for lunch afterwards!
My last day in Florida began with awaiting a rocket launch, which was unfortunately covered in clouds, followed by Mass and the incessant shifting and weighing of luggage before our flight into Gatwick, England.
We flew into Gatwick and met up with two other friends in the airport. The four of us stayed in a hostel run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus, who practice the Third Order Regular rule. The order is originally from Malta, and their hostel doubles as a hospital. People from Malta would come and bring those who were sick and in need of healing. With it being January, not many guests were staying there other than us and maybe two or three other families.
While we had to fend for ourselves and survive off of deli sandwiches from the grocery store for lunch and dinner, the sisters served us breakfast every day. One of the sisters served us with eggs, meat, toast, coffee and tea. The food was delicious and I ended up having coffee three days in a row, which is surprising because, as many of my friends know, I am not a coffee drinker! The same sister would also clean up all the plates and then talk to us in her thick Maltese accent, asking us if we were on holiday and trying to convince us to join the convent; she quickly became a friend.
On our first night out, we traversed the streets of London to explore the city and eventually wandered into Westminster Cathedral, which was an interesting experience since we accidentally walked in on a Mass. We were so caught up in the architecture and choir singing that we did not see the priest standing behind the altar preparing for the Eucharistic Liturgy.
After sharing wide-eyed stares with each other, we reverently found our way back outside and continued exploring the city. We saw Big Ben, which was unfortunately covered in scaffolding, and the London Eye, but we saved the rest of our adventures for the Big Bus Tour the next day.
The Big Bus Tour allowed us to hop on and off the bus to see all the attractions we passed. We spent an entire day on the tour and saw the Tower of London, London Bridge and all other London attractions. While trying to figure out our way back to the hostel on our last bus of the day, we befriended one of the tour guides, who quickly referred to us as her sisters because she was inspired by our youthful, world-traveling endeavors.
My favorite part of our London excursion was the Globe Theater. Twenty minutes before the official tour of the Globe, my friend and I participated in the costume demonstration. She was Ophelia from “Hamlet” and I was Mopsa from “Winter’s Tale.” While walking around the Globe, the tour guide explained the artistic genius behind enhancing Shakespeare’s storytelling by breaking the fourth wall to pull the audience members into the play and win their attention.
I remember walking outside the Globe Theater, hardly believing that I was actually there. I first learned about the Globe Theater and Shakespeare my freshman year of high school. Then, I had studied the Globe on a diagram, labeling the parts of the stage. I never could have guessed that five years later I would see it in real life!
It is incredible that I have this opportunity to travel and discover not only the world around me but also myself. I have already experienced many things and I have not even set foot in the Kartause yet! I am so excited to see what this semester brings and for the experiences that are sure to open my eyes.