Thursday, September 30, 2010

I find it funny that my first actual rock climbing experience occurred in London, considering that I'm from Utah...what's next, first-time skiing in Switzerland??  There is a hidden gem of a rock-climbing gym that is a five minute walk from my flat.  My friend has joined rock-climbing club, and invited me along yesterday.  I've decided that rock-climbing can actually be very meditative!  Also: going up is always easier than coming down, especially since we aren't certified to use the...ropes (obviously, my rock-climbing lingo is non-existent, sorry for all you hardcore climbers out there). 

After climbing, I made a quick trip to Barclay's, the bank.  My money is in a state of limbo at the moment--it's being transferred from my U.S. account to my London account.  I hope it turns up somewhere soon!

After a quick dinner (I've been living off of pasta, tuna, and PB&J), I went to a free salsa dancing class at the gym.  The instructor was a sweet, sassy lady who constantly made me laugh.  Also, apparently one needs a pair of high heels to Latin dance...but I think I'll stick to Converse for the time being.

My school has a local farmer's market on campus every Thursday--very convenient for fresh fruit!  That's where I'm headed right now!  Cheers!

Monday, September 27, 2010

As glamorous as studying abroad in London may sound, it's still studying.  I spent a good chunk of today in the library, reading for class.  Also, studying abroad still includes such unglamorous elements as waiting in line at the computer lab for your eight pages to print.  Meanwhile, the Asian kid in front of the line seems to be printing off entire textbooks.  Unfortunately, this is not an exaggeration. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Well, it had to happen: I got lost in London.  Actually, I've been lost before, but with a group of people all looking at maps and figuring things out together.  This time it was just me--and I consider the whole experience a success (and know it will definitely happen again...).

This morning, I decided to find one of the many street markets in the East End.  I was looking for Brick Lane, but ended up at the Petticoat Lane Sunday market.  Booths, bargaining, and bedlam!  Bags, shoes, toys, cds, jewelry, watches, and lots and lots of clothing, all at bargain prices.  I wanted to go in to full on shopping mode, but because I still want to eat for the rest of my time in London, I restrained myself...for the most part.  ;)  People were everywhere--I saw several people with huge suitcases to lug around their purchases.  After Petticoat Lane, I found Spitalfields Market, which had a more upscale feel to it.  Spitalfields is located in a mall area, with booths from up-and-coming designers.  It was nice to just wander around and see what people had created.  I bought lunch from a booth--it was some kind of spicy lamb- and potato-filled wrap.

Now comes the getting lost part: I think I went down Shoreditch instead of Commercial Road.  Anyway, I found myself in a maze of tall buildings--probably the area people refer to as the financial district.  I found myself at Monument tube station, which isn't all that far from St. Paul's!  This makes me realize how walkable London is.  I found my way back eventually, and stopped at Sainsbury's for a few groceries. 

Speaking of groceries: everyone is expected to bag their own, here.  The first time I encountered this, I was totally unprepared, and ended up holding up the whole line while I frantically attempted to stuff everything into bags.  It doesn't help that the cashiers seem to ring things up at three times the normal ringing-up pace.

Yesterday, I went to the National Gallery with Jersey, Robbie, and Michael.

This is one of the many Van Gogh paintings on display there.  It's mind-boggling to stand in front of something I'd only ever seen in art history books and on postcards.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My campus is right alongside Regent's Canal, a great running spot.

It takes me right up to Victoria's Park.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

 The Bridging Cultures program also included a Jack the Ripper tour, which took place in the same area of London as my school!  Afterward, we went to an Indian restaurant on Brick Lane.

Leah and I at a Soho club

Dinner by the Tower of London
The whole crew!

After the Bridging Cultures program ended, I had three days before I could move onto campus. I booked a hostel that was only half a mile from the hotel we'd been at, and dropped my suitcase off at Paddington Station at the "left luggage" desk, to pick up before I went to school.

I was nervous about staying at a hostel--never done that before--without anyone I knew. However, I think I really lucked out: the girls in my room (there were six of us) were friendly, and not hostile at all (get it??). I spent an entire evening talking to a girl from Australia named Laura. She'd been traveling Europe for two and a half months with seven of her friends, and decided to go to London by herself at the end. Needless to say, she was pro at the whole hostel thing.

We went to the British Museum one day, which was huge.  Admission is free, too!  I saw the Rosetta Stone, and lots of old English artifacts.  Here we are standing in a South Africa landscape display outside the museum:

On one of our gap days, I went on a bus tour of Stonehenge, Windsor, and Oxford with Caroline and Robbie. Our tour guide was hilarious. He said there is one expression you must know if you wish to move up in British society, and it consists of three words: air, hair, and lair. Say them all together like this: Air, hair lair! My favorite part of the tour was definitely Windsor—so much history! That’s something amazing about England, there is history here that puts American history to shame, as far as, well, how historical it is! We saw the changing of the guard, Queen Mary’s dolls’ house, and the drawings gallery, which included photographs of the queen as a child.

Changing of the guard at Windsor.  Rockin the headphones.


We were all a little loopy by the time we made it to Oxford...

After our gap days, it was time to move into school, finally!  I was so excited to move in and not have to live out of a suitcase anymore.  It was quite a hassle picking up my bag from Paddington, then taking the tube to Mile End station, which is right next to my school.  Robbie and Caroline were with me, and we had to say goodbye to Caroline, who was catching a train to her school in Scotland!  

So I've been on campus since Saturday.  The living arrangements here are awesome.  I live in Pooley house, with, so far, 7 flatmates.  Five are from around England, one is from Los Angeles, and one is from Norway!  We all have our own rooms with fridges and bathrooms in them, and we share a kitchen with two stoves, a toaster, microwave, and freezer!  Pretty cool set up.  The first person I met as I walked down the hallway to my room was Lucy, (who, by the way, is currently playing the violin in her room...I think.  Sounds good!) who introduced me to Squash--not the vegetable or the sport, but the drink--it's kind of like concentrate that you add water to.  Anyway, I love my flatmates--we've been hanging out each night, then going to Drapers, the bar on campus, which has been packed each night.  It blows me away how huge a role drinking plays in campus social life here--well, not just campus social life, but social life in general!  British people love their drinks, that is for sure!

Sorry these posts are so scattered...but that's how my thoughts are these days!  More later, I have to get ready for a boat party on the Thames that QM is having for the international students here.  It's a rough life, huh? 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hello from London! 

I am studying abroad for two semesters at Queen Mary’s College in London’s east end.  Then, it’s back to Salt Lake City for my senior year of college.  I’ve only been in London since Friday the 11th, but I have an overwhelming amount to write already. 
On Friday, a car picked me up from Heathrow airport.  Since I was the only one getting picked up right then, I hopped into the front seat (yes, the left one)—I was like Why not?  Well, I’ll tell you why not: London drivers are scary.  Actually, so are London pedestrians, who seemed to appear mere inches from the car.  I thought someone was going to get killed.  The driver was very talkative, pulling out his phone to show me pictures of friends as my knuckles turned white gripping the sides of my seat.  He was bitter about being a car driver—he used to be an accountant but got laid off.  However, he’s trying to stay positive about his job, learning all he can from his customers.  I taught him the correct way to say ”Minnesota,” for example.  Invaluable.  Anyway, we made it to the hotel safely, and the drive was a good wake up call for me to be careful walking around London.

At the hotel, I met Rachael and Robin, Eurolearn peeps who have been helping me out through the whole preparation process, and some other Eurolearn students.  My roommate at the hotel was Caroline, and we clicked immediately.  Something I find admirable about Caroline: once she is awake, she is awake.  No grouchy and incomprehensible mumblings and shuffling around.  With her, it’s: “What’s up.”  Clear, businesslike, and ready to go.  She’s in Scotland at the moment, studying Civil Engineering. 
That night, we had dinner at a pub—traditional British food, only mini.  Little pies, little fish and chips, and, um, spicy chicken wings and hamburgers.  Maybe they were trying to ease us into the different food by blending in some American stuff?
The second day we went to Buckingham palace and had a headphones tour.  It was impressive,  but all the tapestry and glam and glitter got to be so expected in each room that by the end of the tour it was not all that breathtaking.   Also, not a big fan of headphones tours on a time restraint—I find it hard to concentrate because I’m so worried about where everyone else is on the tour.  But still.  Pretty cool.
That night, we went to a medieval banquet.  It was a dinner entertainment kind of deal.  Actors and actresses were dressed up in medieval costumes and performed songs and skits as we ate.  It was an odd mix of new and old: pretty sure Lady Jane had triple pierced ears.  Afterward, Lady Gaga music and disco lights.  Bizarre?  Yes.  But a fun experience.  That night we hung out at the bar downstairs at our hotel.
The next day we had a double-decker bus tour.  In the evening we went to the Globe Theater to see The Merry Wives of Windsor.  This was my favorite BCP activity.  We stood right in front of the stage!  The cast was unbelievably talented—plus I had never seen that particular play before.  It was hilarious!  I felt this great connection between the people on stage and the audience, and throughout the audience itself, enjoying this play written so long ago and brought to life in such a significant location. 

Okay, I’m not even through telling you about the BCP stuff, but I have to go meet my friend to buy bedsheets!  I slept under a towel last night! 
More later!