Saturday, 13 October 2012

olympics: london 2012

opps, been awhile since i last updated (been super busy!).  basically, i was volunteering as a dancer for the paralympics opening ceremony, and rehearsals took up a lot of time.  however, the experience was absolutely incredible!  so if you're living in brazil in 2016, then definitely think about auditioning for the ceremonies: it will be the memory of a lifetime!
anyhow, during the olympics this past summer, london pretty much hummed on as usual; only the areas immediately near olympic park in east london were exceptionally crowded - the tube (london's metro) was disgustingly hot and packed with people, yuck.  but as long as you weren't commuting in that direction, life went on as normal.  except, of course, for the exciting festive atmosphere!  olympics, and then paralympics, decorations sprang up everywhere; statues of the mascots, wenlock and mandeville, popped up all over london in various guises.  at first, the mascots creeped me out, but after awhile, they grew on me and i started to think they were kinda cute. =P  i thought this video was particularly endearing.  haha


but my all-time favorite decoration was definitely the epic olympic rings at tower bridge (just stunning!):


the organizers also gave us paralympics volunteers free tickets to the olympics opening ceremony dress rehearsal, so we were able to see it in advance.  watching the industrial revolution scene in person was surprisingly moving, especially when the olympic rings rose up and forged together in the air.  there was a magnificent, awe-inspiring quality to it that i felt the television didn't quite capture.  there's just something about being there in person, seeing the huge scale of it, hearing the loud music, feeling the beat of the drums shaking the whole stadium, and feeding off the energy from a crowd of 80,000 - that you can't get from a living room tv.
not long after, they began drilling us with back-to-back rehearsals for the paralympics opening ceremony.  rehearsals were mostly nights and weekends, with a few all-day rehearsals leading up to the performance day.  a lot of the rehearsing lasted for hours on end, and were so tiring, especially when we moved to a large outdoor space in dagenham, where we repeated the dance moves for 5hrs in the blazing heat on scorching asphalt.  arrgghh...  made me miss the previous venue, 3 Mills Studio, a nice and cool indoor space.  finally, several days before showtime, we moved to rehearsing inside the olympic stadium itself, which was very exciting - never got tired of it. =)
all the hard work was worth it, 'cause performing on that day was just unforgettable!  although, very nerve-wracking; waiting backstage to go into that huge stadium filled with people felt uncannily like that scene in gladiator, where the guy pees himself before entering the arena. =P  but fortunately (and i can only speak for myself), once i got onto the stage, i thought it was very much like rehearsals.  i couldn't see the audience at all because of the lighting, and the many athletes seated in front of us also weren't that jarring, since the crew and staff usually sat in those seats during rehearsals.  so it all felt same ol' same ol' - except for the fact that the ground was absolutely soaking wet from the day's rain.  halfway through dancing, i noticed my dress was dripping wet at the hems, and it didn't help that we had to lie down at the very end of our routine, so after performing, my entire back was soaked through!
overall, however, it went very smoothly and was simply a phenomenal experience.  i know that it didn't air live in the states, so if you missed it, i'll leave you with a video of it - definitely worth a watch!  (i'm one of the many blue-dress floor dancers in the ocean/whale scene towards the end - probably impossible to spot =P).  and if you ever get the chance to attend or participate in an olympics or paralympics event, then DO IT!!  it will be the most incredible and inspiring experience.

. rese

Sunday, 22 April 2012

iceland weekend

so, last month, i went to iceland for my 30th birthday. =D easily the best birthday weekend of my life!

it was only a 3hr flight from london, with no time change - a nice naturey weekend away, if you're in the UK. it's also very affordable, ever since its economy crashed =P. we did the iceland excursions tour package with an extra day on the southcoast and waterfalls tour. - i would definitely recommend this, as the prices included the stay at the cozy hotel fron, which comes complete with a kitchenette in its double rooms - almost like a studio apartment.

although the golden circle classic tour, with the majestic gullfoss waterfall and geysir, was amazing and the most popular (the large tour bus was PACKED!), i liked the southcoast and waterfalls tour more. the southcoast tour runs on a mini-bus (there were only seven of us on the whole tour), so it has a very intimate feel; you also travel to more locations, going to a LOT of waterfalls, as well as glaciers, a black sand beach, and the very quaint skogar museum with its grassy roofs.

- waterfall -

- skogar museum -

both tours were incredible, and the scenery absolutely stunning, but i felt the locations would be better in the summer. the one big advantage of going to iceland in the winter, however, is - the northern lights! =D we booked a northern lights tour on the first night, but it kept getting cancelled due to bad weather, so we had to constantly move our booking to the next night. luckily, our persistence ultimately paid off, because we saw the lights on our final night there! needless to say, the lights are beautiful, but they are tricky to catch on camera. i'd never done night photography with a d-slr before, so i had a hard time - plus, it is COLD, so wear woolen thermals (miraculously insulating) - and if you can, practice night photography using a tripod to prepare yourself before your trip. =)

- northern lights -

we ended our weekend at the blue lagoon. if you're in iceland, it's easy to stop here for a few hours on your way to the airport. i would actually recommend going to the lagoon in the winter, since the contrast between the sub-zero weather with falling snow and the steaming hot waters is nothing short of surreal. bring plenty of lotion, as all the exfoliating with the silica mud made my skin feel parched, and also a water camera since there are some spectacular photos that you can take while bathing in the lagoon.

- blue lagoon -

finally, i'd like to add a quick note about food: if you're wondering where to eat, the fish company gave me the best dinner of my life. we also headed to the three frenchmen to try some icelandic specialties, like puffin and whale, which i thought all tasted great, but - disclaimer: i can stomach anything! =P

. rese

Sunday, 26 February 2012

occupy london

i’m not too big on politics.   the odd news story might spark my interest, but in general, political campaigns and the such seem to play out more like a media circus than anything else.   but nevertheless, when i heard that the protestors outside of st. paul’s were going to be evicted soon, i thought it’d be interesting to walk down there and have a first-hand look at the scene before the protestors got kicked out.

like many other places around the world, london has been plagued with unrest over the past year.   a year ago, i inadvertantly let a whole bunch of student protestors into the university london campus.   they occupied the building for a week and proceeded to completely trash the place; posters were torn down, doors blocked and chained, bathrooms wrecked, garbage thrown around, etc.  so, the london campus was subsequently closed and classes cancelled.   how this was supposed to help decrease student fees is beyond me.  ultimately, police stormed the building, raiding from the roof like something out of a hollywood blockbuster, and the students were forced out.   personally, all this seems like a farce, especially since the increase in UK student fees to a maximum of £10,000 per year still looks like a bargain to me, a hapless american graduate currently paying off loans at about $10k per year, for the next - decade or so. *weep* converted into dollars, the new UK student fees is "only" $15k per year (for three years, since their degrees don't take as long), which is cheaper than some of the cheapest schools in the states.   so, needless to say, i had very little sympathy for the student protestors, especially when taking into consideration their haphazard and nonsensical approaches to protesting, which seem more like childish tantrums than anything reasonable and potentially effective.

i was also living in central london when the riots broke out last year.   however, as awful as it all was, i think the media somewhat blew it out of proportion - made it seem as though all of london was burning down.   i live in the waterloo area, so quite central, and aside from a few closed shops, i didn't see anything out of the ordinary - wouldn't even have noticed that riots were going on if it weren't for the news.

anyways, as for the st. paul's protestors, my feelings were pretty much the same as for the student protestors.   yes, they've camped out and turned the surrounding area into squalor, but what does that actually Do?   the economy is still struggling and people are still unemployed.   and can't protestors get their message across without littering and wrecking things?

at any rate, i wound up just walking around st. paul's and taking some photos of the protestors.   i might not really agree with them, but it was still nice to personally photographically document this little piece of history. =)

see my photos here.

. rese