by Nikita Mendonca
Although a change of pace after the previous day’s whirlwind experience, day three still proved to be a flurry of motion beginning with the blare of alarm clocks waking NPAC travelers for the day’s activities; everyone except for NPAC director Robin Kitsu who, unbeknownst to everyone waiting in the hall at the appointed meeting time that Kitsu had set, was still snoring snug in his twin size bed. Soon after stomachs began growling due to the delayed breakfast, NPAC graduate assistant and Kitsu’s roommate Tali Ulufale appeared to inform students that “Mr.” was going to meet us downstairs for breakfast. We were not fooled though and a chorus of amused voices cheerfully chimed, “Good morning Mr., Sleep well,” as a tired Mr. Kitsu entered the dining hall. Kitsu playfully continues to blame Tali for not waking him up, but we all joyfully remind Mr. that he will never live that incident down.
After the morning’s antics, NPAC travelers boarded the tour coach (bus) that would transport us back in time to both the 1800’s when Jane Austen lived and the prehistoric mysteries of Stone Henge. As we explored Jane Austen’s well preserved home, the realities of the 21st century quickly melted away and we became absorbed in the things of the past. As I gazed out the window, I could clearly see the donkey carriage pulling Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra down the cobbled roads as well as their mother working on her latest patchwork quilt. Everyone wandered the rooms and the Austen’s garden in reverence, keenly aware that they were treading the same footsteps as iconic Jane Austen and other ghosts of the past. The experience is incomparable and will forever hold a special place in our hearts.
Our next destination was Winchester Cathedral where Jane Austen was buried upon her death. As the coach turned the bend, the picturesque town of Winchester quickly filled our view. We were immediately awestruck. I felt as if we had stepped into the pages of a fairytale storybook. Everything from the small cottages and pubs to the looming Winchester Cathedral that towers over the town left us breathless. Upon entering Winchester Cathedral, we learned about the 1000-year plus structures and the lengths people had to go through to safeguard the aged treasure of Winchester and England. For example, the walls of the cathedral were warped and bowed as the cathedral was built on a water table and soon began to give way. Thus it was necessary to dive beneath the cathedrals floors to reinforce the structure. Once again we had to pinch ourselves to remind us that we were a long way from Hawaii, and instead were exploring the historic towns of England. How we became so lucky to have this once in a lifetime experience bestowed upon the NPAC still eludes us. No words can express our feelings of gratitude and amazement.
We pondered such thoughts as we enjoyed an authentic English lunch in the gardens of the quaint Winchester Café. Needless to say, the food was amazing including bacon mozzarella paninis, organic sausage, mash, and gravy, and chicken pot pie as well as a large variety of desserts such as chocolate caramel shortbread, brownies, and pies. What stuck out the most; however, was that the café staff was made up mostly of elderly women who could easily be your mother, aunt, or grandmother. We were greeted and served with the love and teasing remarks you often receive amongst your own family members. We immediately felt at home and were given yet another reason to mourn upon returning to the states.
After we left Winchester, we were regaled with myths about the origins of Stonehenge. How did the massive stones come to be and what is its purpose? Did aliens really play a role in one of history’s most intriguing secrets or could giants be held responsible? Is it possible that the Sorcerer Merlin used his magical powers to transport the enormous stones to serve as a monument of homage to those who had died for his country, or were humans really accountable for the seemingly impossible feat? Standing only a rock’s throw away from Stonehenge and reflecting on the mysteries of the famous monument makes us realize how small we are in the world and how little we actually know about our beloved home. Unfortunately, we had to sprint through the Stonehenge tour as our coach was scheduled to leave in 20 minutes. I would have liked to relish the experience a little longer and really soak up the significance of our visit to Stonehenge. Reading about Stonehenge in textbooks is one thing, but actually standing in the same vicinity as the monument and being able to commit it to memory using all of our senses is priceless.
At the end of the long journey through time, the NPAC settled into the Phoenix Theatre at the West End to watch the musical Blood Brothers. Unlike the previous musical Wicked, Blood Brothers did not rely on lavish costumes and special effects and yet we were touched to the core by the poignancy of the production. Twin brothers separated at birth because their mother could not afford to keep both as well as the trials they endured throughout their short life ranked Blood Brothers as one of our favorites. The NPAC hopes to one day perform the musical with similar audience response. As we are learning throughout our journey in London and later Scotland, all realities begin with a dream and as long as we keep dreaming the possibilities are endless.