Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Museum and An Abbey

The past couple of days have been very busy, but I keep trudging through! Yesterday we went to Barbican, a residential community, and the Museum of London. The Barbican was a very interesting area: it was filled with commercial looking buildings that actually were residential buildings and, within this community, there were various places for residents to go to, from restaurants to music venues. It reminded me a lot of a college campus, except it was filled with families instead of, as President Durden would say, “young scholars.” After the Barbican we walked next door to the Museum of London. The museum was quite interesting, sharing with those who wander through it London’s history through artifacts, displays, and videos. I learned a lot about London’s origin and about many of the cultural, political, and aesthetic it has gone through over the years.

Today we went to Westminster Abbey, a very famous church in London. Nowadays it’s fame has grown exponentially due to the fact that Prince William and Cate recently wed there as the news so often points out to the world. The church was not what I was expecting. It was filled with shrines and tombs of past Kings and Queens as well as influential people from London’s history, like William Shakespeare. In addition to this, the church had an altar that is used to perform traditional church services at as well as a museum and, wait for it, a kiosk to buy food and coffee!! There was also a gift store that tourists are forced to walk through in order to exit. I was very disappointed with this church as it seemed more like a tourist attraction than a sacred, holy space. One was charged admission in order to enter and it seemed to me that most of the people there only paid to get in to see the photo exhibit of the royal wedding the church had on display. I am very surprised that the two well-known churches I have seen thus far are turning away from their traditional practice of being a holy space for those, instead turning into an opportunity for profit.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Just A Day In The Life

Some friends and I outside St. Paul's
Today was such a long day! We started off by going to a church service at St. Paul's church. The church itself is huge and absolutely GORGEOUS! The architecture is fantastic and there are a lot of differences between the service there and services I have experienced at home. Instead of seating ourselves, an usher brought us to our seats. There were not any pues: instead, there were fold up chairs (complete with seat cushions) for us to sit on. We were given pamphlets that had, in chronological order, all of the songs and prayers that were going to be sung and said during the service, as opposed to using a book that would be provided to us. The pamphlets also gave instructions as to when to sit and stand and when we needed to speak or sing. During the service, I felt very small and insignificant; I believe this is because I was sitting in such a large area and the sounds of the church (the organ and the choir) completely overpowered the sound of the people at the service. It was definitely an interesting experience to have.

Me, Lizzie, Mae, and a speaker
After going to the service, we went to Speaker's Corner by Knotting Hill. In this area, different people come and give speeches, or in some cases preach about religion, to any crowd they attract. All of us were caught off guard when one speaker suggested that women should remain in the kitchen, as it is dangerous for men to be there because all of the sharp objects could potentially harm their private parts. Angered by his sexist remarks, some of us, including myself, began to argue back. Though frustrating, this heated debate provided great entertainment for us and the crowd, especially because we are American. After many rude remarks from the speaker, we finally threw in the white flag and walked away. A different speaker that was in the crowd during the debate started talking to us a few moments later as we complained about the other incompetent speaker. The man we were speaking to then told us how he knew the other man personally and that in reality he was actually a very intelligent intellectual. He then proceeded to say how some people, including the man that angered us, go to Speaker's corner to give speeches about things that will get a reaction from the crowd and that they continue to play into it based on the crowd's response. Therefore, in reality, the speaker we had grown to hate was actually more like an actor and was not sexist... or so we hope.
Me, Lizzie, Mae, Oanh-Nhi, and Kate
outside Buckinham Palace

After we calmed down, we went over to Oxford Circus to blow off any leftover steam through a little retail therapy. Yet again we had a successful trip, though the area was very crowded today due to it being a Sunday. A couple hours later we went over and saw Buckingham Palace. However, we were annoyed after we arrived there to find our future mother in law locked us out of our future home, keeping us away from our future husband, Prince Harry. Rude. So instead we left and went to eat Indian food for dinner... which was PHENOMENAL!!! We topped off this amazing meal with some British candy bars and ice cream. Overall I think it is safe to say this was another great, yet typical day in the life of a Dickinsonian overseas.

Shopping, shopping, and MORE shopping!

Obviously being a girl, I love to shop (I definitely fit into that stereotype!) So when we had some free time the other day, a few other girls and I decided to go shopping for a few items we needed in order to live over here. Of course, as per usual, the few things we needed turned into a few things we wanted as well. Classic. My friend Lizzie, having lived in London before, took us to Oxford Circus, an area similar to the area around Macy's and Harold Square in New York City: it is filled with lots of people and lots of shops!

To begin our shopping extravaganza, we went to a store similar to an upscale CVS called Boots to get a hairdryer and straightener. The prices weren't TOO bad, that is until you convert pounds to dollars. Oh well. We still managed to get what we needed at decent price, even after the conversion. After this, we went to another store that was like the Macy's in New York, called Selfridge's. It was many floors and was filled with designer items. The best part? There was a rather large area devoted to both my and Carrie Bradshaw's weakness: shoes. I ended up getting some Haviana rain boots, something I did indeed need in order to brave the London weather, and admired all of the shoes I wanted but alas could not afford. Typical.

Shortly after this, we were told that, because we are not from the UK, we get taxes back! Excited and surprised by this, all of us waited at customer service to get our taxes back. After waiting awhile, we discovered that, because we were students and living in Britain, we could not get taxes back. Why? Because we get our taxes back at customs and the receipt were getting was only valid for three months after our purchase. Now I know to do most of my shopping right before I leave!

Overall, if the conversion rate was pound for dollar, the prices in London would not be bad at all. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A shirt costing 20 pounds is actually 40 dollars. Hopefully I can stretch my stipend or get a job once I arrive to UEA in order to have some spending money, as I think most of us would rather save our money for travels instead of clothes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Few Days

Welp last night was my first night out on the town in London! To begin this wonderful adventure, our entire group went to a showing of the broadway Fela, a show about the struggles of a Nigerian man named Fela shortly after Nigeria became independent from Britain in the 1980s. Though very comical, this show had strong political messages about the government and turned out to be very depressing in the end when all of the women Fela loved are murdered. After this show, a few of us decided to go out in order to have a "real" London experience. We started out by checking out a couple of pubs, followed by going to a pub/nightclub called Verve. It was definitely an experience! The crowd was a lot older than I was expecting and there were some interesting people around, but overall it was a lot of fun.

After a very fun and interesting night, I awoke this morning expecting another fun-filled day. Today we took a tour down the Thames River to Greenwich, where we checked out the Maritime Museum and the Observatory. I was astounded to find that the museum was free of charge to the public, as in the States going to a museum is very expensive. I think it is great that they do that; it allows people to become more knowledgeable and engaged with their countries history up close and personal.

Tonight is a free night for us, and hopefully we will have some more fun adventures to share!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Finally, the moment I have been waiting for since I was a freshman in high school has come: I have made it to the UK!!!!!!!! I wish I could explain my random lust for coming to Europe, especially England, but I can't. It is just something that I have always wanted to do, and now, 7 years later, I am finally achieving this goal.

I arrived into Heathrow at nine a.m. London time after a long six hour red eye flight from Newark. The flight wasn't too bad, but it was hard to sleep with all of the lights on. Needless to say I have not napped once today and think by tomorrow I will be adjusted nicely. As soon as we got off the plan we all started our London education by getting familiar with our surrounding area via a tour by the one and only Todd Wronski himself.

So, long story short, nothing too exciting, other than arriving in London and finding out that a plethora of attractive men have been hiding in this great city of course, happened today. Before our flight took off we were all preparing to have a fun Thursday night, filled with going out to pubs and hopefully meeting some locals. However, after this extremely long, tiring day combined with the fact that we have a quiz first thing tomorrow on all of our summer reading, which we barely remember because we completed it months ago I might add, we have all decided to act like people from retirement homes (no offense!!!!!) and hit the hay rather early. That's probably a good idea, though. We want a good night's sleep to better prepare ourselves for whatever adventures tomorrow will bring.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's Time

Today is the day.. the FINAL day I am in the United States before I embark on what I will hope to be an extremely EPIC time in the UK for a whole year. Yes, an entire year. It took a lot of time, but I think I am finally prepared; my bags are packed to full capacity, my passport and visa are set, and I have all of the necessary documents I need to show the people working at the airport when I land in London on Thursday morning. Instead of laying outside in the sunshine one last time before I leave as an attempt to fix the horrid tan lines I acquired while working at camp this summer, I spent what seems like endless hours packing and repacking all of my suitcases and carry on bag to fit the requirements that Virgin Airlines has. Who knew that a carry on could not be more than 13 pounds or that a backpack counts as a full on carry on bag too! Despite these minor infractions getting in my way, I am still ecstatic! It seems like everything is going to plan and will work out great (knock on wood), that is if you ignore the minor fact that I'll probably realize I forgot something once I board the plane or that it's possible the airline can lose my luggage, but who's really focusing on that!!! I'm not worried at all!!! (I hope you note the sarcasm in those statements.)

SO tomorrow at approximately 12:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time I will be leaving my house in Newtown and heading to Newark airport in hopes to arrive there a whole four hours before my nine p.m. flight as required by Virgin, with a quick pit stop in Fishkill to have lunch with my grandparents. Why, you ask? Because that's just the kind of person I am :) Well, sometimes.... just kidding!

Okay kids, working at an all girls camp in Maine all summer has made me a granny, (no offense grandparents) and it is time I get ready for bed. And yes I do know it is only 9:33 p.m. on a summer night, but I'm trying to save up my energy for England, GOSH!

Catch you all on the flipside. Or I guess on the other side of the Earth. Well, maybe not that far, but it's still about 3,000 miles north(ish)east from here and five hours ahead.