Scandinavia to Mesopotamia (with a few stops).

I’ve surely mentioned my roommate Pat a few times by now. For some
background, she is as small as she is vicious, she will do your dishes if you pay her in cupcakes, and she is one of the most driven journalists I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, let alone sleeping next to.

One of Pat’s many talents is hunting down obscure and awesome stuff to do in the city. On Saturday, we fought the insane winds and sudden wake of winter, traveling out to Canada Water in Rotherhithe (a small

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Pat, Scandi Market, 21 Nov. 2015

residential area of Southeast London) in search of a Scandinavian Christmas market stationed outside of a Finnish church. What we found was a utopia of Norwegian food, Swedish candy, and a rock choir serenading us with Queen’s greatest hits. The highlight of the festival was possibly the abundance of puns (a-pun-dance?) strewn throughout, a

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Fine & Scandi, 21 Nov. 2015

stand labeled “Sweet-ish candy” and a food truck called “Fine & Scandi” being my personal favorites. We indulged in Norwegian hot dogs (albeit on explicitly “American” buns), ate our fair share of Swedish candy, and pushed through the crowd of beautiful blonde Vikings drunk on spiked hot chocolate just to find ourselves in hipster heaven, a vintage shop, with the most expensive item of clothing still costing less than £10.

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Do I smell that bad?

From there, we tubed back into Central London and made our way over to the British Museum, where my mature adult half was intrigued and amazed by all the ancient artifacts, and my less mature inner child wrote some totally objectively hilarious Snapchat captions to go along with some of the more amusing pieces.

I find it interesting and kind of ironic that the British Museum had such a huge collection of non-British artifacts. The collections we had time to see stretched from Mesopotamia and Egypt to Greece and Italy, and only after about an hour did we encounter any British artifacts. Upon telling a native Brit of my plans for the day, they responded with, “oh cool, enjoy the British Museum, a.k.a the things we stole when we could get away with it.”

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British Museum, 21 Nov. 2015

After the museum, we tracked down a little Mexican restaurant called Benito’s Hat for some delicious burritos and all the guac our bodies could handle, and then we strolled over to Regent Street. Starbucks’ in hand, we watched the intricate Christmas lights overhead change, with the suspended clock gears projecting beautiful colors and designs. We made our way through Piccadilly Circus, spent way too long in the makeup section of Boots, and headed home.

The fact that I was frozen down to my bones for the remainder of the evening aside, I was so happy to have experienced such a culturally diverse day. We started in Scandinavia, made our way through Mesopotamia, stopped in Egypt, stopped in Greece, had dinner in Mexico, and then ended right back in England, taking in the crisp London air and pretty Christmas lights. It can be hard to travel. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and can be scary. That said, it can be surprisingly easy to experience other cultures without leaving your city. You just have to know where to look. Or, alternatively, have a Pat to do it for you.

xx Gabi

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I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.

Okay, okay, I need to freak out for a few minutes because I experienced one of the coolest things ever yesterday, so bear with me.

For those of you who know me like, at all, you’ll know that I am a die-hard fan of the Harry Potter franchise. Since I was still in my single-digit years, I have bled Hogwarts colors (possibly harder than Temple colors, even being the proud Owl I am), read every book multiple times, and seen every film… probably more times than is actually healthy. I quote Harry Potter regularly — no shame.

Riddikulus!
Riddikulus!
The tombstone of Tom Riddle's father.
The tombstone of Tom Riddle’s father.

Anyway, yesterday I was given the opportunity to do the official Warner Bros. Harry Potter studio tour outside of London. It was (#NoHyperbole) one of the best days of my life. Full of the original sets, props, and costumes from over ten years of film compiled in to one giant, beautiful museum, this was more than an exhibit. It was interactive, emotional, and revealed answers to so many questions I’ve had about the series for more than half of my life.

The Creatures department
The Creatures department

One thing that blew my mind was the universal proliferation of the franchise. I knew how big Harry Potter was, but it wasn’t until I heard people speaking French, Japanese, Russian, and at least five other languages during this tour that I realized just how big. These books and films have reached every corner of the world, and people travel thousands of miles to learn about the history and making of it because of how much of an impact it has had on their lives.

Yes, I did cry when I saw this.
Yes, I did cry when I saw this.

To learn a bit more about just how big J.K. Rowling’s magical impact on the world has been, check out this Storify piece I made last year about the series.

mischief managed. nox.

xx Gabi

fall break 2015.

I’ve been home for over a week, and have tried at least once every day to sit down and write about my fall break experience. I realized after about eight attempts that I had no words to accurately explain it nor do it any justice.

On the subject of things that will not do my fall break experience any justice, I put together a small video/slideshow of some of the beautiful things I saw and did instead. I learned a lot about myself and my limits, ate delicious things, slept on multiple airport floors, and fell in love with a few new places. Enjoy!

xx Gabi

making friends online.

Editor’s note: Sorry for not posting last week. I was in Greece! I will write about my travels next week as I am currently too tired and the emotional scarring from (not) sleeping on airport floors is still too fresh. For now, please enjoy this little post about friends.

I didn’t really have a good group of friends for a long time. I had “friends” that I would hang out with once in a while, but no friends that would take the initiative to make plans with me. It took me until more recently than I care to admit to realize that this was not a healthy friendship. Why waste energy on people who don’t care enough to waste any on you, right?

This is where Tumblr comes in. People who don’t use Tumblr think Tumblr is really weird. Full of fan fiction, inexplicable memes, and straight-up porn, it’s tailored to a very specific demographic. It isn’t necessarily a form of social media, rather a form of microblogging, yet somehow I’ve managed to meet three of my closest friends through my dashboard.

I spent a while trying to force “natural” ways to make friends, but I realized that it wasn’t really any better than what I was already dealing with: trying to get people who don’t want to hang out with me to hang out with me. One day, I just stopped trying, and the next day, one of my now-best friends fell right into my lap, tagging me in a text post, telling her followers to pray for me because I’d reached my daily post limit on the site. Over a year later, I approached a photographer I’d been following for a while about shooting a wedding for a friend, and she said yes. I met her at the wedding and she quickly became one of my best friends too. Shortly after, I met her boyfriend, and he rounded out the group of my three best friends, all of whom started out as nothing more than mutual Tumblr followers.

xx Gabi

Judaism, Sikhism, + Agnosticism

Religion has never been a very big part of my life. Yes, I was raised (loosely) Jewish, I spent four years in Hebrew school, and I was Bat Mitzvah-ed. I have every intention on taking my Birthright trip after I graduate, and I love spending Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah with latkes my family. I identify as Jewish by blood, but I don’t really know if I’m religious enough to identify as Jewish by faith. I don’t know if I truly believe that there’s a big omniscient being watching over us, or if that lie I told about doing my homework when I was 12 will come back to bite me in the ass when it’s my time to go. Part of me wants to cringe a little when people tell me that something horrible happening is “all in God’s plan,” and it can be really difficult to believe in someone that’s supposed to be all-powerful and loving when they’ve let innocent people die and let Donald Trump get this far in the presidential race.

Adonai aside, I understand and love being Jewish. We’ve been around forever. We’re certainly not Hinduism, but we’re pretty ancient. I may not practice Judaism very, for lack of a better word, religiously, but never in my life would I want to erase that part of my identity. Erasing my Joots (Jew roots) would erase my people’s history and culture, and we’ve done some pretty cool shit (סלח לי). Name one time you had a candle last you eight whole days. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Fortunately, last week I was given the opportunity to do some on-site religious research and visit a Sikh Gurdwara in Southall with my classmates:

I can’t really say that my stance on religion has changed much. I may have a better understanding of Sikhism, by which I mean, I now know what Sikhism is, but nothing life-changing clicked in my head. However, I will say that as a non-practicing outsider, Sikhism seems pretty great. Sikhism is one of the youngest religions in existence, only founded a few hundred years ago, and it is accepting of every religion. Gurdwaras are Sikh places of worship, but you don’t have to practice Sikhism to go there. They have “langar,” which is essentially free food for anyone who wants it, and their whole shtick (that was me being Jewish) is that they will accept (and feed) anyone. While I suppose it isn’t wildly uncommon for a religion to be accepting, it isn’t wildly common. I don’t know everything about the faith, or their beliefs on homosexuality and abortion, but hearing the word “acceptance” in a religious building made me feel oddly reassured that these people knew what they were talking about.

I think that if I really learned anything from this experience, it was that I need to learn more about religion. Maybe I’m just a little lazy, or maybe I’m just really ignorant, but my views on religion really don’t go past the views I’ve picked and chosen and tailored out of the minds of the people around me. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll wake up and decide to become a born-again Jew, dedicating myself to my synagogue (which, ironically, was once a church). For now, I’m just Jewish by blood, and agnostic by choice.*

*Subject to change.

xx Gabi

“Honestly, I think I found my people. I was raised in a church, where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell. If I was good, I’d go to heaven. And if I’d ask Jesus, he’d forgive me, and that was that. And here y’all saying ain’t no hell, ain’t… sure about heaven, and if you do something wrong, you got to figure it out yourself. And as far as God’s concerned, it’s your job to keep asking questions and to keep learning and to keep arguing. It’s like a verb. It’s like… you do God. And that’s a lot of work. But I think I’m in, at least as far as I can see it.” -Black Cindy on converting to Judaism, Orange is the New Black

why should we stop googling?

The following is a response to the New York Times‘ article “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.

The first thing I felt when I read this piece was guilt, oddly enough. I catch myself sitting on my phone scrolling through tumblr when I’m with people in real life all the time, and part of me knows that I shouldn’t be doing it. I feel bad when I live my life through a snapchat story because of the looks I get when I take a selfie in public, feeling the judgment burning into the back of my head while I try to pull a face that probably qualifies as a duck face but I try to pass off as a kissy face. For some reason, society frowns upon using technology in social situations, or really just in public, even though the same society has become so dependent on the same technology in the last few decades. So, why is it such a bad thing that we use it?

After pondering for a few days, my guilt actually turned into frustration. I shouldn’t be criticized for my utilization of the incredible technology in my pocket. I agree that people should unplug sometimes and “live in the moment” or whatever cliché you prefer, but this article suggests that we shouldn’t even use our phones to add factual backup to a heated debate amongst friends. I, for one, will never stop pulling out my phone during a discussion about film to verify the name of that actor on IMDb or checking to see if that musician is still alive, because pulling away from a conversation for thirty seconds can extend that conversation by ten minutes with the information we have such easy access to. 

I like to think that my generation is particularly special. No, that isn’t my 90s baby narcissism talking, but rather the fact that we’ve truly grown up with technology. We were the last kids to get VHS tapes, the first teenagers to get smartphones, and we’ll be damned if we don’t wholeheartedly embrace the universe presented to us at the literal touch of a button. 

Hey millennials, how many of you have ever felt personally victimized by baby boomers?

xx Gabi

P.S. In case you missed it, check out my post on a similar topic from a few weeks ago: luxury and technology

life-changing experiences + being alone.

It can be difficult to determine whether or not something is truly a life-changing experience or not. We don’t always want to label something as “life-changing” because chances are, more important things will happen to us one day, and we don’t want that powerful label to lose its meaning. That said, after much consideration, I am officially declaring yesterday a life-changing experience for me.

If any of you follow me on social media (*eh hem* Twitter, Instagram), you might’ve seen that I was given the opportunity to meet Pete Wentz yesterday. Pete, the bassist of my all-time favorite band Fall Out Boy, did a signing at their three-day pop-up shop in Camden, and I was one of the 120 fans that got to attend. (Side note: I have to give most of the credit to my girl Sam for this one. She made her way over to Camden before sunrise on Friday to wait in line for the wristbands to get in, and if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have known that I could show up at 9:30 and still get one. Thanks for not sleeping all night so I could, babe!)

I have been a diehard fan of Fall Out Boy since my older sister put Sugar We’re Going Down and Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year on one of her mix CDs in 2004 and left it in the boombox in our bathroom. (Side note #2: When was the last time you heard the word “boombox”?) I caught up on FOB’s first two albums (From Under the Cork Tree becoming one of my favorite albums ever), fell in love with their next two, and survived the 2010-2013 hiatus (though seriously struggled when My Chemical Romance broke up during it — my little emo heart couldn’t deal). I reveled in the glory of their comeback during my senior year of high school and I am thrilled to report that they’re still excellent, unlike many bands that get back together and suddenly don’t know how to make good music anymore.

Being such a huge fan, I was actually kind of scared to meet Pete. It was mostly because I was worried my legs would just give out when I saw him, but it was also because I was so terrified that I would be disappointed. It is unfortunately common that someone meets their favorite celebrity just to find out that they aren’t really good people, but I felt fairly secure in the fact that Pete was known for being a nice person and that the whole universe hadn’t been lying to me all these years. (Spoiler: It hadn’t.)

With Pete Wentz in the Fall Out Boy Pop-Up Shop at Rock 'N' Roll Rescue Camden, 11 October 2015.
With my husband Pete Wentz in the Fall Out Boy Pop-Up Shop at Rock ‘N’ Roll Rescue Camden, 11 October 2015.
The newest (and biggest) addition to my wall, signed by Pete.
The newest (and biggest) addition to my wall, signed by Pete.
There’s something ironic about meeting someone known for singing and screaming on stage just to find out that they’re really quiet off stage. It is equally ironic that I, the girl who never shuts up, was completely silenced just from being in Pete’s presence. I don’t think either of us said more than two words to each other, and after he signed my new most prized possession and took a selfie with me, I was escorted out, borderline paralyzed in awe and slightly confused by what had just happened to me. At least I didn’t cry?

Alright, Gabi, we get it. You met Pete. What does this have to do with being alone?

Well, disembodied voice, if you must know, after the signing, I attended Fall Out Boy’s show at the SSE Arena in Wembley by myself. I had never been to a show alone before last night, and I think I can safely call it my new favorite thing.

I have been to many concerts in my life, and Fall Out Boy has been a large chunk of them. This was my fourth FOB experience, and by far, my best FOB experience. I was anxious about going to a show alone. I usually like having someone to stick with because the idea of getting sucked into a mosh pit with no one to pull me out is terrifying, but I realized after seeing Brand New perform at Alexandra Palace that getting separated from your friends at a show is almost inevitable. With that in mind, I embarked on my journey to Wembley alone, prepared to take on the wild crowd on my own. Halfway through FOB’s first song (after staying relatively calm during their three opening acts), I realized that I shouldn’t be fighting the crowd, I should be embracing it. I’m not really the kind of person to have my back against the wall all night at a show, but I have never been a crazy “dance like no one’s watching” person. That changed last night.

Clearly, the only logical explanation is that my friends are bad people. I’m always with them and have kept my dancing fairly reserved out of fear of being judged by them, but being on my own last night, I have never felt more uninhibited. Possibly apart from the group of people I met at the show who knew nothing about me and couldn’t justifiably judge me, no one was watching me, so I danced like it. I jumped, I screamed, I sweat, and I almost passed out from dehydration. My feet are still screaming almost 24 hours later and the fact that I have a voice right now has got to be some kind of scientific breakthrough. Having fun has nothing to do with the people around you, but everything to do with yourself. I always thought that I had less anxiety going to a show with friends than I would on my own, but going to this show alone proved me wrong. “Care-free” is the last adjective I would use to describe myself, but last night, that is what I was.

xx Gabi

P.S. If you’re interested in listening to some Fall Out Boy, you can check out my Spotify playlist, “Fall Out Boy: Gabi’s Top Ten.” If you don’t have Spotify, I can only recommend that you look these songs up on your own.

  1. XO
  2. I Slept With Someone In Fall Out Boy And All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me
  3. Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying (Do Your Part To Save The Scene And Stop Going To Shows)
  4. Dance, Dance
  5. A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More “Touch Me”
  6. Thnks Fr Th Mmrs
  7. Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year
  8. Irresistible
  9. The Kids Aren’t Alright
  10. Saturday

Please note that this is my personal top ten and I will fight with you about this for hours if you try to tell me I’m wrong. Someone please take that as a challenge.

luxury and technology.

The following is a reflection of the “What is Luxury?” exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

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Like almost everything, luxury is subjective.

A fur coat is luxurious to someone in a temperate climate, yes, but is a fur coat really a luxury to someone in Siberia? Is it considered a luxury to not die of hypothermia or frostbite? Where do we draw the line?

While I shamelessly refer to myself as a spoiled JAP (Jewish-American Princess) from time to time, I like to think that I’m decently well-adjusted. I am well aware of the fact that I grew up fortunately, and I’m eternally grateful for the life my parents have busted their butts to give me. That said, in only my most “spoiled brat” moments, I have been known to forget that certain things in my life are serious luxuries because I have become so accustomed to them. My phone dying, for one. Let me preface this next bit by saying that I am the kind of person that is glued to their phone. Do not blame my age for this, baby boomers. I have plenty of friends who aren’t nearly as dependent on their phones as I am, and don’t have a panic attack when they die (the phones, not the friends).

I digress — I am slightly ashamed to admit that I do, in fact, have a problem with my attachment to technology, so much so that I forget that it isn’t really that big of a deal if I can’t check Instagram for an hour. I have gotten better over time, but my phone died during a concert that I went to a week ago and I’m still bummed that I couldn’t get pictures of it even though I thoroughly enjoyed the show and it doesn’t actually matter to anyone that I wasn’t able to document it. That is what I mean when I say I forget that certain things are luxuries. I wouldn’t ACTUALLY die without my phone. I would probably get lost trying to get from one end of London to the other without its help, but who doesn’t love forced social interaction?

Luxury is also subjective in relation to time, and sometimes a thing that was once considered luxurious can become a necessity. I can complain now when my little pocket computer dies and I’m forced to talk to the people around me, but twenty years ago, my then-pregnant mom got a flat tire on the highway with no phone to call my dad and she had to depend on the total stranger that pulled over to help her. Today, not only do most of us have phones in our hands or attached to our butts at all times, we also have wall chargers, and portable chargers, and car chargers. In 2015, a pregnant woman getting a flat tire on the highway is so unlikely to not be able to get help because of the rapid development of technology that we can easily argue that phones have become a necessity rather than the luxury they were once considered to be.

more to come.

xx Gabi