the onion, the earmuffs, the road trip and the last LA days.

I am sitting wearing my USC earmuffs. Funny that you almost certainly have to be away from LA in order to have need to use them. 100% not bitter that right now in LA it’s nearly 20 degrees (Celsius, darling.) The dog has also enjoyed a little college pride. IMG_4661

If you met me at some point during the semester in LA, you may have had the misfortune to hear me rant about the saddening commercialisation of a place of learning, the idiocy of all the people who ‘sell out’ and strut the halls decked out head to toe in USC gear. This was all talk.

In my last week on campus, something strange happened.

It may have had something to do with the 1/3 off sale at the bookstore, but I was invaded by some kind of fever. This fever coursed through my body, making me hum the USC fight songs, and spread down my arms to my hands and fingers, which in desperation were forced to open my purse and hand over my card to pay extortionate prices for a rucksack I will never use, a huge sweatshirt, notepads, earmuffs, and an alarming array of crockery.

I was THIS close to buying a USC-branded chopping board.

Why do my onions need in their last moments to be reminded that they ought to ‘fight on’? Rubbing salt in the wound, surely.

But here I am, wearing my red, yellow and white earmuffs. YOU GOT ME, OKAY?

I miss you, USC, oh so very much. And this slightly lame selection of memorabilia helps me to feel just a little bit connected to you. Whilst I used to be disparaging about people declaring their school affiliation with every cotton-clad inch, so they might feel a part (or at least appear a part) of the school community, I think maybe I get it now. Plus my ears really have been very cold.

2 months late, I wanted to record something of my last couple of months in LA.

In November I was very very excited to be able to fly over to Michigan to see one of my oldest friends, Nicole. We’ve known each other since the beginning of primary school…

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Arriving in Detroit at 5am to a hug from such a dear friend, driving to the very cute city of Ann Arbor and watching the sun go up as it started to sleet, coffee in hand, was just such a sweet moment. And it was cold enough for me to wear boots and a coat! (nobody else seemed that excited about this)

IMG_4023 IMG_3971 My very first Thanksgiving did not disappoint…

The president of USC invites the students who stay around during the holiday to Thanksgiving at his house. Such a nice gesture, I thought.

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It was kind of surreal drinking mulled cider in 30 degree heat, but nothing stands between me and a turkey dinner…

Here we are, hanging with the pres

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We took the occasion very seriously:

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As well as hanging with Mr President, we also got to chill with Kim Jong-un.

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He was good enough to come to USC for an advance screening of ‘The Interview’.

My friend Antonio got his first proper train ride when we headed down to San Diego for the day.

The journey was gorgeous, with the train running right next to the sea.

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We loved Balboa Park and La Jolla

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The day after San Diego I got baptised!

Without going into too much soppy detail, this was one of the most wonderful days of my life, and even thinking about it now makes me slightly reel in astonishment at the amazing way that God showed himself to me at USC, not least through the wonderful people there.

10833815_1018443564836102_822299335_n Y’all are okay.

Almost as good a day was that one where we went to eat pie and got snapped by Teen Vogue. So casual.

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LOOK AT THAT PIE.

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Earl grey pie. Be still my beating heart. If you are ever in LA, you MUST go to The Pie Hole.

We also taught our last class of the Joint Educational Project.

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These guys were fabulous. Especially the kid who asked if we have doughnuts in the UK. Asking the questions that really matter.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) had a great campaign on dispelling myths about mental illness, which I was privileged to help out with. The one day that it rained in LA:

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We had the much anticipated game against rival Notre Dame – very important that you forget all that you thought you knew about French pronunciation: this must be said Know-ter Dayme. Yes, it pained me too.

But we had fun and we won!

IMG_4161 IMG_4164 IMG_4166 IMG_4168 (Go beat the Irish)

Christmas festivities were plentiful, including ‘Mocktails’ at the AGO house (pre-game, anyone? 😉 I kid… no, but really…)

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… seeing the lights at The Grove, Manhattan Beach and Pasadena…

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…. Young Life secret santa and party….

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…and perhaps the best celebration of all, having my first ever ‘biscuits’. (NB this is not a biscuit. this is a salty scone.)

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Some excellent wine times were also had.

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Oh Carlo Rossi. Did the world ever see a finer wine maker than you?

After some delightful finals, my Mum and Stepdad arrived in LA for the start of our Christmas road trip.

They enjoyed the sights surrounding USC

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‘We’ve parked by the mosque’

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On our journey up to San Francisco we stayed in Santa Barbara, Cambria and Monterey and stopped in some very cool places along the way. Santa Barbara was a treat.

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This is Solvang, a very twee Danish town

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We were basically forced to try some ‘æbleskiver’

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We spent an afternoon marvelling at the beauty and excess of Hearst Castle

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Apparently this was supposed to look very ‘European’- why yes, all of our swimming pools look just like that. No match for Leatherhead Leisure Centre.

We saw some amazing scenery and sunsets on our way up towards Big Sur

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We stopped for 2 nights in Monterey

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It seems I made a wrong turn and ended up at Stanford…

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Our Christmas was not so Christmassy, as rather than our usual big family lunch/watching Christmas specials, we spent the day walking through Golden Gate Park and catching some great views of the city.

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We did, however, go to see the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus on Christmas Eve, which was SO very Christmassy, complete with excellent Christmas jumpers.

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On Boxing Day (which I don’t think exists in the US), I was so glad to get to see my lovely Michelle and her sister.

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We realised that we were born to be models…

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…and explored Chinatown to find out some very important truths…

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It amazed me that driving back into LA felt something like coming home.

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I got one last snap of this view

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one last batch of these bad boys

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And one last look at this stunning campus

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I did not want to leave.

When I sat down on the flight home, the girl next to me was speaking on the phone and crying. She explained a few minutes later that she was moving to Italy (via London), and was leaving her parents and little sister behind in LA.

As we took off we both looked at each other with tears in our eyes.

When the drinks trolley came round I ordered a white wine. My neighbour said, ‘Whatever she’s having.’ The stewardess smiled and suggested, ‘I’ll make it two each.’

Coming back was made so much easier by these wonderful girlies who surprised me at lunch.

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How to sum up?

The only word I can think of right now is ‘magical’. All I know is that I really miss hanging out at the cinema school Coffee Bean with my buds.

Thank you.

Giving this blog a bit of a face lift is partly in aid of a new chapter: if everything goes okay visa-wise, in a month or so I’ll be moving to Hong Kong. I hope you’ll come along for the adventure.

Elise xx

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