Tagged as “culture”
Thursday, November 11, 2010
My right to work at the ICLC is based on the fact that I am a dual citizen. I am both American and German. Don't worry, despite some rumors, it is completely kosher and loads of people are dual citizens. The Germans are aware that I'm also American and the Americans are aware that I'm also German. Being a German citizen makes me a member of the European Union and eligible to work in all EU countries. Being a natural born American citizen makes me eligible to be the president of the United States. So both passports come with perks. Today I would like to announce the "dual citizenship" of the ICLC's blog. Begun using Blogger, we are moving over to the IC blog format and continuously experimenting with it. The original blog will still be there, but it is now a dual citizen of Ithaca College and Blogger.
Decoration in my office
On a side note, the ICLC will have at least 3 dual citizens coming to study in London this spring. I have seen a number of cases of students coming over here to study, falling in love with Europe and chasing up their roots to find out if they can become dual citizens. Even if it isn't possible to to get a hold of that second passport, digging into family history and ancestry can be really interesting. A few years back I researched where my great grandfather on my father's side had been born in Northern Ireland. When my brother came to visit me in Dublin, we took a bus north of the border and found the site of the family farm that his birth certificate said he had been born in. It is now a tile shop, with very generous proprietors who gave us a large ceramic tile with a picture of a French boulangerie to commemorate our trip.
Wall decoration outside Sarah's office
There is a show that the BBC makes called Who Do You Think You Are? and I have decided that I would like to become a celebrity so that one day they will do an episode based on me. The premise is that they take a well known figure (usually a tv celebrity) and help them track down their roots. Often the celebrity has some sort of question about a relative that they are interested in answering. Sometimes they trace families back to the person's grandparents, sometimes they are able to follow them backward centuries. I have seen a few episodes where the people were even traced back hundreds of years to royalty. My grandfather, on my mother's side, was convinced that we were illegitimate Hapsburgs. I'm ok with this allegation because being illegitimate probably means that there isn't much of a history of in-breeding in the line I descend from. I know that the point of the show is to get people interested in making their own discoveries about their past, but my mother and I had a look at some old papers that my grandparents brought over from Germany, and they are written in a beautiful Gothic German script that is nearly impossible to read. The language barrier was a bit rough, too, even though my mother and I have both studied some German. The German language seems to go through overhauls once in a while, so it was a little like trying to read your family history as if Jane Austen had written it. No, I think I would like the BBC to help me with my research.
The Union flag with the Scottish Royal Standard sneaking in on the side
We have a worldly staff, with all members culturally associating with more than one country. Bill was born in Canada but has spent more than half his life in the UK. Sarah is Welsh but grew up in Holland. Heather is American and is married to a Yorkshireman. Choosing to remain a bit of a mystery, it seems that Elsie, who is mostly manifested in our blog, is a dual citizen of Ithaca College and Blogger. Congratulations Elsie!
-Claire (Elsie would have helped, but she is on holiday celebrating her new citizenship)
Thursday, November 4, 2010
The NFL road show, featuring the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, with Jerry Rice and John Elway in tow, plus scores of hangers on and media technicians, arrived in London last week. Almost 85,000 people attended the match at the brand new Wembley Stadium. This 4th in the NFL’s annual series of ‘international’ matches was a close game, dull in the first half, more exciting in the second, when 37 of the 40 points were scored and two critical refereeing decisions shaped the outcome. The 49ers came out on top, a bit fortuitously, but any win is good when a team has a 1-5 record. The game turned on penalties that negated two explosive Bronco touchdowns. The Broncos’ place kicker also missed a conversion which would have brought his team to within a converted touchdown of the ‘Niners’. “Wait a minute,” I jokingly commented to Gen at the time, “a skewed conversion reminds me of the ‘spot betting’ scandal in the recent Test series between England and Pakistan.” Had the Broncos place kicker found a betting shop in central London? What are the odds on a missed convert, one that is not even blocked, not even close? Shades of “the 5th ball of my 4th over will be a ‘no ball’”. To say nothing of the officials who were decisive in turning a game Denver should have won into the 49ers’ second win of the season**.
All dressed up for the game!
Over here we believe that American football developed out of Rugby which in turn developed out of football/soccer. Both parent games are played on a wider and longer pitch, for longer periods [80 minutes and 90 minutes], with fewer substitutions and no time outs. When substitutions are made in football’s Champions League the distance the player has run is shown on the screen: for example, in last night’s Tottenham Hotspur v Inter Milan game, the Spurs winger Aaron Lennon was substituted in the 80th minute having run over 10km. [He also made tackles and was tackled.] Spurs have a minimum of 38 games each year and are allowed just three subs per game. To play football at this level the players need to be very fit. No doubt the same is true in US football, but the game doesn’t show it. No US player would run 10km in a game.
The main novelty the Americans introduced was the forward pass. Much of the equipment and the sophisticated strategy came later. The biggest difference between US football and its grandfather, Association Football or soccer, and its father, Rugby, lies in the amount of time the players actually PLAY the game. I am not challenging the supreme fitness of the players, nor the sophistication of the strategy which calls for numerous substitutions and time-outs. But for the soccer or rugby public it does seem strange that US football has too many occasions when fit, professional athletes stand in half huddles on the pitch doing nothing but drinking water and chatting amiably to each other. US football is far slower and, arguably, less physically strenuous than other versions of the game.
Non-committal QPR hat, Bill
Check this data compiled during the first half of the Wembley match.
ACTUAL CLOCK TIME FOR 1st half: start 5:00pm; finish 6:12pm = 72 minutes
ACTUAL GAME TIME: Two 15 minute quarters = 30 minutes
ACTUAL PLAYING TIME: [from snap to end of play]
Possession 1: DENVER 37 seconds [5 plays]
Possession 2: SF 31 seconds [4 plays]
Possession 3: Denver 50 seconds [8 plays]
Possession 4: SF 70 seconds [13 plays]
Possession 5: Denver 49 seconds [6 plays]
Possession 6: SF 37 seconds [6 plays]
Possession 7: Denver 41 seconds [7 plays]
Possession 8: SF 41 seconds [6 plays]
Possession 9: Denver 83 seconds [12 plays]
Possession 10: SF 1 second [1 play]
TOTAL PLAYING TIME: 440 seconds = 7 minutes 20 seconds for 68 plays OR roughly 24% of the ‘game time’ and a mere 10% of the ‘real time’ of 72 minutes. Each play lasts on average about 6.5 seconds.
I ask these questions of the NFL.
1. Do fans attend games to watch superb athletes at the peak of their performance OR to be otherwise entertained by the razzmatazz, the cheerleaders, the Mexican waving, the tailgate parties, etc.
2. Can football players & fans cope with bursts of play that last longer than 10 seconds?
3. Do the cheerleaders, also fit, choreographed and with facial make-up [like the running backs and receivers] perform more strenuously and for a longer period of time in a game than the players?
4. Who is more highly paid? The [arguably] underperforming fit athletic footballers or the equally fit cheerleaders?
5. Are some fans more active than players in a match? Do they burn more calories watching a game & cheering for their team than the majority of kitted players?
** DISCLAIMER: The author does not believe that the BRONCO place keeper and the referees placed bets on the outcome of the match.
Thanks for this one, Carter!
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The old adage that America and Britain are two countries separated by a common language has a truthful ring, but, if one were inventing a 21st century variant of the adage, one might say that the USA and Britain are two countries separated by their summer games, baseball [an English invention] and cricket [also English, but once very popular in the [USA]!
When first at university in the UK, my American friends and I regularly laughed uproariously when reading a cricket report. How could a popular domestic and international sport be so much like the ‘goons’? Was Spike Milligan The Times’ cricket reporter? It was a bit like reading the Law Code of Hammurabi or Einstein’s theory of relativity. Without a great deal of background, the reports would never make sense. Cricket seemed to be absurd, like the Pythons’ ‘ministry of silly walks’, ‘four Yorkshiremen’ [my favourite Python] and ‘dead parrot’ sketches. Clearly a sentence like “Smith was caught for 15 by Harris fielding at silly-mid-off off the bowling of Johnston” is a joke! How can a ball be a ‘no ball’? How can a position be entitled ‘silly mid-off’? Would Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, or Roberto Clemente ever humiliate themselves by playing in such an undignified position? More significantly, would Marilyn Monroe have married a ‘silly mid off’ [or a ‘silly mid on’ for that matter]? Was every day April Fool’s day in the UK?
The British can’t make sense of baseball [apparently, and rather patronisingly, just a slightly more sophisticated version of rounders, a girls’ school game], and the Americans remain incapable of understanding how a game can be played over three hours [Twenty/20], eight hours [50 overs or a one day match], or four or five days [first class matches, internationals and Test matches] and still end in a draw. And then why are there always two batters? [UNLIKELY ANSWER: the loneliness of a batter who is out in the middle all day – he needs to talk to someone.] Why don’t the fielders use gloves [UNUSUAL ANSWER: since its creation in 1948, the NHS has specialised in broken fingers, and it’s free!] How is it fair, indeed part of the strategy, for the bowler to hit the batters? [TRUE ANSWER: ‘bodyline’ was developed by the English to use against the Aussies, the old rivals, a nation who could give as good as they got]. Why invent a game for 11 players that has at least 20-30 fielding positions? [IMPROBABLE ANSWER: the British invented a game that would be good for its huge and under populated colonies like New Zealand, Canada and Australia.] And what about stopping 45 minutes for lunch and another 20 minutes for tea? [ TRUE ANSWER: Nothing to do with strategy; rather an attempt to fill the belly if one had to field or bat for another 3 hours and a day. The British feel that cricket is a ‘manly’ sport that requires more fitness and hardness than baseball. Discuss this proposition over a pint. [The same is more obviously true for the comparison between Rugby and American football.]
The simplest route to understanding cricket and baseball is to play the games. There is new equipment to consider – the size of the bat, the colour of the ball, the state of the pitch or wicket, the positioning of the fielders, the need for collaboration between the two batters when running between the wickets, sliding and stealing bases, the freedom to hit in a 360 degree area, etc. Mindset: in cricket you just can’t ‘take a pitch’ in case that pitch knocks your middle stump 20 feet into the air. Also when chasing a score, you need to take advantage of just about every ball. You need to know when to dig in, be obdurate, play with a straight bat, don’t take risks, slow the tempo, steady the ship, and when to attack. You need to be adept with the bat.
In baseball, you need to hit in a 90 degree area. You also get to keep the ball if the batter fouls it off into the stands. If a new ball that has just emerged from the umpire’s pocket has the slightest hint of acne – a little red mark], it goes into the recycling bin. But there are no free balls in cricket. Indeed a ball must last an entire innings, whether it be a 25 over match, a 50 over match or a test match [80 overs per ball change]. The American League’s ‘Designated Hitter’ role doesn’t always fit its purpose, that is, to make the game more exciting.
Can this expatriate choose between the two ‘games of summer’? Well, he will sit on the fence for the time being. Both games can be occasionally boring, although a 1-0 pitcher’s duel is technically not a boring event. One good thing about baseball is that you can buy hot dogs at the games. One good thing about cricket is that you can read a book, get a sun tan, have a Pimms, applaud politely or be as raucous as England’s ‘barmy army’ on tour. Cricket has been adopted by many countries in the now defunct Empire, while baseball is on the offensive trying to woo Europeans away from soccer, and rugby.
Final word: laugh all you want at cricket and baseball, or yawn if you must, but before dismissing the games, play them. See the accompanying pictures of Ithaca students playing cricket on a very dodgy wicket in Hyde Park September.
-Bill (with no help from Elsie)
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
In my research of what a blog is, the trend seems to be for anecdotal stories about the events of the day or the week or the month. Here is what happens around the ICLC:
Sarah: makes a cup of tea, fixes the internet, makes more tea
Claire: makes a cup of tea, kicks the photocopier, makes more tea
Bill: makes a cup of tea, plays some cricket, teaches some classes, makes more tea
Chris: drops off the post, makes a cup of tea, fixes the building, makes more tea
Perhaps Bill doesn't play cricket everyday, but otherwise this is pretty accurate. Obviously we do other things, too, and Elsie would like you to guess what those things are. The first installment of scavenged items for you to find this week is going to require a lot of stretching of your abstract creativity muscles. If you were living a day in the life of Bill, what would your ideal supper be? Remember that Bill is a sports fanatical, World War II and east London loving Egyptologist. Please compose a photograph showing this meal.
Sarah's tea and strainer
Also, tea is very important to our lives everyday. It is a reason for breaks in the day, it is a required drink at breakfast and it is part of a posh afternoon involving sandwiches and cakes. Thing 2: Please find the most interesting tea paraphernalia that you can, whether it's a teapot, tea strainer, tea flavour or anything else related to tea.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
In 2004 my mother sent me an email with the subject line, Welcome to the 1990's. I read the email to discover that she was delighted to tell me that she had just gotten a webcam. As a result of reading this email, whenever I make a slightly behind the times discovery, I like to preface it with the phrase, Welcome to the 1990's. Until today my most recent use of the phrase had been this past April when I bought a television, something my flat had been lacking for the previous year and a half. I use it today to express my joy at having discovered how to link other blogs to this one. It has led to a work filled afternoon of blog stalking not only Fall 2010 ICLC students but also family members and my high school American Lit teacher's daughter who was 1 year old when her father was my teacher.
As a result, I feel like I have had real insight into the some of the cultural differences picked up on by our students, particularly linguistically. This seems to have been a through line. Almost all of the blogs that I looked at had a post outlining the difference between British English and American English. I expect that this is because there is no shortage of people reminding us that we speak differently. I love the assumption that because the USA and the UK are both English speaking countries we must be able to understand each other perfectly, but between accents and subtle word choice differences there's no denying that we are two nations divided by our common language. My sister is married to a man from New Zealand and I once asked them how much they could really understand each other in conversation. We were all a little shocked when he answered 100% and she answered 70%, but perhaps this is some little known secret to marital success. Bill exerts much energy each term pushing for intercontinental relationships to develop, so perhaps he has been privy to this secret, too.
Anyway, this is all part of the immersion experience. It is a real shock to the system to be told that you aren't speaking your native language correctly, and I have heard many an argument that American English is wrong, because if it were right the language would be called "American". Americanisms have permeated British tongues and are hard to avoid, which adds to the confusion of not knowing which language you are speaking. Even in Britain things come out of left field now and at McDonalds people order fries with their burgers.
Here is the moral of the story: Bill looked at the spelling of a word and said something looked wrong. I said it must be the American spelling. He said that wasn't it, so I suggested that it was the British spelling. Sometimes I get confused about which is which. Bill said that there is a solution to not knowing whether you are using the American or British version of a word. Stuff them both and use the Canadian way.
-Claire (with a little help from Elsie)
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Part of the appeal of studying abroad is the possibility of immersing yourself in another culture and meeting new people from around the world. However, it can be all too easy to find yourself immersed in an American bubble once you get to London, living and studying with your fellow students from Ithaca. In an effort to try and pop this bubble and open up more opportunities for immersion, Elsie is creating a scavenger hunt spanning the Fall 2010 semester. When the final judging is done it will be based on the sense of immersion that the entries show (Elsie won't mind you playing to her vanity, either), so be creative. Everything is open to interpretation.
The creation of this hunt is the product of evaluations from past students who said that they wished they had been more immersed in London life. While here you will have opportunities to join clubs with students from British universities, and we hope that you take advantage of this chance. Many of the classes running this term involve getting out in London for walks and tours. This is a great way to see London, and can be used as a great spring board for immersion, but the leg-work is up to you. Housing yourselves was one of your first initial experiences in getting to grips with life in London. You met landlords, saw what people's homes in London look like and possibly even met your new neighbors. This scavenger hunt will be easy in comparision.
We are working with a loose interpretation of the word 'immersion'. We can't force you to walk up to a stranger, introduce yourself and share the stories of your lives with each other each weekend at a different pub in a different area of London. In envisioning this scavenger hunt with an eye towards immersion, the onus of getting out, seeing new things, meeting new people and experiencing how life is lived in another country is on you. So when you are sent out to scavenge it is in the hope that you will treat this as a suggestion for an opportunity to immerse yourself. The things themselves that you are being asked to find are more likely to be on the periphery of immersion. We want you to go to concerts, festivals, sporting events, exhibitions and plays, we want you to meet new people and we want you to explore beyond the traditional American hangouts.
Throughout the term Elsie will post things for you to find. As the deadline for entries will not be until the end of the semester, take your time and keep your eyes peeled. In no particular order, here are some guidelines for the hunt:
- All entries must be submitted in photo form.
- The back of the photo must have the location it was taken and the entrant's ID# (don't put your name on them).
- All entries from an entrant must be submitted at the same time.
- All entries are subjective and will be judged by Elsie on the degree of immersion that they represent.
- Unless stated otherwise, all entries must be photographed within the UK.
- Please make sure you have permission to photograph your entries.
- You don't necessarily need to submit entries for every object in the hunt. It's quality that's important.
- Teaming up with a partner (no more than 2 working together) is allowed, or you can go it alone.
- The entrant must appear in at least 5 photos, showing them interacting with the objects that they have found.
-The Three Dogs (none of whom are pink)
* * *
London, originally created as a Roman outpost, is a reflection of nearly two millenia of inhabitants. It has been a magnet for migrants for much of its existence, from the Romans to the Saxons to the French Huguenots to the Ithaca College London Centre staff. In turn, these migrants become locals and make London their own. Steeped in history, so many Londoners have left their mark somewhere (lucky for Bill, he can't be identified as having graffitied Stamford Bridge). The plaque marking Christopher Wren's burial place in St. Paul's Cathedral says, "Reader, if you are looking for his monument, look around you". So, we would like you to find the most interesting burial marker or memorial, whether it be a headstone, a monument or anything else that serves as a reminder of a person (but don't bring a photo of Christopher Wren's, that's just unoriginal). Many of you may be new to London, so this may seem like being thrown into the deep end, but that is what immersion is about. Dive in! (Actually, if it's diving you are doing, don't necessarily try it in the Thames. It's cold and has a strong current. The Thames Barrier is a pretty cool landmark to see, but rather than traveling as a human boat my recommendation would be to take a train to get there. That also saves you needing a change of clothes, so that's one less thing to carry with you. I'm not speaking as the voice of experience or anything, but just taking a really educated guess.) To pay tribute to migrant populations we would also like you to find some Danish cuisine.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I would like to measure this fall's orientation week against a loaf of bread.
This summer, for my birthday, I was given a bread machine. I love making bread in it, though I sometimes get frustrated because I don't make it through the whole loaf of bread in the course of a week, by which time it starts growing mold. In an effort to waste less food, I haven't made a ton of loaves of bread. But on Monday evening of this week, when I had come home from a day of feverishly preparing the ICLC for the arrival of 50 new students, I thought I would make a loaf of bread. Normally orientation week has the building buzzing with students coming in and out all day reporting back on flats that they have looked at, finding out about how to withdraw enough money to put down a deposit, how to set up internet, where to go for their internship, which areas of London are both nice and affordable... With all this excitement happening in the building I could foresee very little opportunity of popping out to get a bite to eat, and with a loaf of fresh bread at home I decided it would be a good week for homemade sandwiches.
Fresh fall '10 faces, straight off the plane
It's now Thursday, and the building is pretty quiet. By Wednesday evening most groups of students either had flats sorted or very promising leads that just needed a bit of finalization. I, as it turns out, have the time to go out and get something to eat if I want. I'm not going to, because I have been responsible about making sandwiches each morning this week. Actually, I'm beginning to think that I should continue doing this, because I have tallied my bill for lunch this week and it comes to an average of about £1.50 a day. I can't complain on that count. I can also report that this loaf of bread has been the perfect size to make for a week of sandwiches, with very little left over. I think by Friday afternoon the whole loaf will have been eaten! This will be a real first for my bread machine and me.
I baked that bread!
Knock on wood, the housing experience seems to be going pretty smoothly. When I was a student here my group was that last to sign a lease. I think it wasn't until Friday afternoon that we signed. That afternoon felt as if it came years later than the Tuesday afternoon three days earlier that we started flat hunting. With any luck, those feelings of complete exhaustion and weariness won't be plaguing the fall '10 students. You can sit back and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes with having a place to live.
The Common Room isn't usually this empty during Orientation Week
It looks like everything is coming together for the semester. The builders have nearly finished all their work in the bathrooms, though I would keep an eye out for 'Wet Paint' signs around the building. The students are hopefully getting a bit of free time to be tourists in London before the term starts. And Bill, Sarah and I all got to take a turn on the scooter belonging to Pete, the builder. As for my bread, I have learned that with diligence I can eat a whole loaf on my own over the course of a week.
This is Bill's scootering face
-Claire (and Elsie)
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I would like to say that this is a Kylie Minogue inspired blog post, but that wouldn't entirely be true, it just happens that she is playing on the radio right now. I imagine that with her immense pop star status, she chooses not to take the Tube. Maybe she drives or is driven. As a result her travel costs are probably above average. That's fine, though, because all she wants to do is dance. But Kylie Minogue is not a student (as far as I know). Being a full time student in London gives you the opportunity to use Transport for London (Tube, bus, river boat, tram and, soon, bicycles) for a 30% discount. This discount applies to travel cards and passes, which allow unlimited travel within the zones you buy it for, lasting for a week or a month, depending on which you buy. This means that your travel costs may be below average. The card used for traveling on TfL is called an Oyster card (I think that the idea is that when you use this card, the world is your oyster. I can't verify that that's the meaning behind the name, though, it's just what I've heard). It works on a system of tapping in and tapping out, so you need to present it at the beginning and end of your journeys on trains, though only on the beginning of bus journeys.
You might find this place good for night life. Sarah and Claire love it for its bus links!
Within the London Centre we all use different variations of travel cards. At this point, not only do you know where we all live, but you also may have scoured the Tube map to answer Bill's quiz questions. So it will mean something to you when I say that to get to work I take the overground train into Victoria and then take the District or Circle line to Gloucester Road. My entire journey is within zones 1 and 2, so I buy a monthly travel card for these two zones. I keep a little prepaid money on my Oyster card for times I travel outside these zones and need to pay the excess. I know this seems like mundane information, but it may suddenly seem important when you go out to Richmond to meet Bill at a rugby match and realize that you don't have enough money on your Oyster to get out of the barriers. Sarah travels on the overground from southwest London in zone 4 into Wimbledon and takes the District line to Earl's Court in zone 2. Earl's Court is the second closest Tube station to the London Centre and is on the border of zones 1 and 2. This saves her the fare into zone 1, making her travel card for zones 2-4 cheaper than mine for zones 1-2. Though he's lived in London the longest, Bill may be the person who has paid the least amount of money to TfL. He was a longtime cyclist through the streets of London, and now carries a Freedom Pass, which is like an Oyster card but gives free travel within London to people over 'a certain age'. He picks up the bus in Stoke Newington and takes it to the Tube to travel into Gloucester Road. Fred, our caretaker who retired at age 81 this past spring, recommended that I get a Freedom Pass, too, since it makes travel so cheap, but being in what I like to call my mid 20's, I told him that I'm not quite old enough for one yet.
Be sure to check out our emergency exit door downstairs when you get to the ICLC. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the decor at Putney Bridge station. This just happened to be our ex-caretaker's tube stop and he decorated our emergency exit for us.
With the freedom you have in housing yourselves, you will probably not know what mode of transportation you will be needing to get to the London Centre until you are housed. Some of you may live close enough to walk and not want a travel card at all. Others may find a direct bus route, a monthly or weekly pass for which costs less than a travel card which covers not only the bus but also the underground and overground trains. When planning your journeys, there are a lot of factors to take into account. Many classes meet outside of the London Centre, so you will need to find a way to get there. Work placements are scattered all over London, so this will effect your travel needs, too. Because the British universities start their autumn term later than the American ones, the earliest you can apply for your student Oyster card and get the 30% discount is September 1. That means that for approximately the first few weeks you are here, if you get a travel card, it will cost you the normal rate that it costs everyone else. I guess the moral of this paragraph is that your initial travel costs may be a bit unpredictable, but once you settle in you will also probably fall into a pattern and develop pretty predictable travel costs.
Obviously public transportation isn't the only way of getting around. London is a lovely place on foot, as you may learn when you get here and go on Bill's walks. Walking in London is one of my favorite things to do, though I admit that I do it more as a hobby than as a mode of transportation. Some students have also found cheap second hand bikes to get around on. Boris Johnson, the Mayor and a cyclist himself, has been endeavoring to make London more cyclist friendly. TfL has recently begun a new scheme with public bicycles for rent located all around London, though it is currently only available to residents so far. If I had to classify myself by a mode of transport I would be a train/Tube/bus girl. The Tube can be a bit like traveling in some sort of space warp because it's so easy to walk into the station, take your Tube journey, walk out of the station at the other end and have no sense of the geography you have covered. With the trains and buses, especially the tops of the double-decker buses, you get to actually see where you are going. Rarely, I travel by taxi. They cost more than public transit, but late at night when the Tube is closed and I can't bring myself to face the night bus, they are a good option. Speaking of the night bus, I think I had one of my most positive bus experiences there. Not many people can say that. I was once leaving Balham in south London, heading towards Camden in north London around 1am. The Tube was closed (since it does that at night in London), so I was walking down the road with a friend trying to find a bus stop that a northbound bus would be stopping at. In the distance down the road behind us we could see a bus coming, and in the distance ahead of us I thought I could see a bus stop, traditionally, the only place a bus will stop to pick people up. So, as glamorously as we could, my friend and I made a dash for the bus stop, hoping to catch this bus since night buses come less frequently than normal buses. That very kind driver knew that we were trying to catch that bus, and just pulled over and opened his door, knowing that if he waited ahead at the stop he might be there for ages. That was not normal night bus procedure, and I was soooooo grateful.
The person who locates where this exact sign hangs wins a prize, i.e.this is not any old Camden Town sign!
Something else that might effect your journey is weekend closures. Most of the maintenance work on the London Underground happens at night when the Tube is closed and on the weekends. I cannot think of a single weekend in the time that I have lived in London when all of the Tube lines have been open on the weekend. The closures change each weekend, so you have to go to www.tfl.gov.uk to see what they will be. The Jubilee line is partially closed a lot of weekends, and I have heard a rumor that this is to get it ready to bring people out to east London for the 2012 Olympics. The Circle line is also closed most weekends, and I think this is because it is one of the Underground's oldest lines and often incurs 'signalling problems'. I'm not totally sure what that means, and, again, this is an unverified fact.
I apologize for the longwindedness of this post. I'm sure if Kylie Minogue had written this it would be a lot shorter, but that's probably because she has less personal experience with TfL (one more unverified fact there). I could conjecture more on her thoughts on transportation, but it's vaguely related tangents like that which lead to wandering longwindedness.
Claire (and Elsie)
Monday, July 26, 2010
I don't really know why oversize suitcases were invented. It's like there is someone out there taunting students and willing them to over pack. Over packing is an elementary error that can become painfully apparent the moment you try and pick up your suitcase. The amazing thing is that a suitcase that is too heavy to move is sometimes not a deterrent to make the packer pack less. Sometimes it's not until the case is weighed at the airport that the packer decides that there may be too much stuff in their bag. And, more depressingly, some people don't realize that they have over packed until they get off the plane, having not slept very much, and try to lift their bags off the carousel. Sometimes this is the moment of sad realization that they didn't need to bring four month supply of soap, shampoo and conditioner from home.
September to December in London are not the warmest months, so you probably don't need to designate too much luggage space to summer clothes. That space may be better used for your coat. It's easy to forget to pack your coat in August, but often within a few weeks the wind will remind you how much warmer you would be with a coat on. Another thing that's easy to forget is a towel. Though you are likely to be looking for furnished flats to live in, this is something that is best provided by you. You can of course get a towel here when you arrive, but in the past many students have brought an old one from home and then chucked it at the end of the semester. On the other hand, sheets may be something that are better to purchase here. Most people don't know until they find a flat what size bed they will be sleeping in.
You may also want to bear in mind that many students accumulate things that they want to bring back when they leave. This could be stretching some people's ability to forward plan, but saving space in your suitcase from the beginning is a lot cheaper that having to having to pay for an extra suitcase or post things back home. Many, though not all, flats have washing machines in them, so you don't need to bring every scrap of clothing that you own. You may want to have a quick think before you start packing about the kinds of things that you think you will be doing while here. Is there a dress code at your internship?
Have you picked up your London Centre school uniform from the bookstore?Some good things to remember are that plugs in the UK are different from plugs in the USA and both are different from plugs in continental Europe. It's wise to bring your own adaptor before you get here, or else you will be carefully conserving your laptop battery. There is also a different voltage in the UK. Most laptop power cords have a transformer built into them, but many other electrical goods don't, and no one likes the smell of flaming alarm clock in the morning. Another good thing to remember is that in these four months abroad you will get to experience food from around the world. Leave that massive jar of peanut butter at home, give it's place in your suitcase to some more clean socks and consider the joy you will feel when you get home to your old favorite foods that you relinquished for British delicacies. Before you fly find out the airline's weight limits for luggage. Hand held luggage scales may make it easier to know how much you are carrying before you even leave home. And make sure you can lift your own bags; most blocks of flats don't have elevators.
Here is a parting narrative in the form of four limericks:
Monday, July 12, 2010
We are so excited about the upcoming semester at the Ithaca College London Centre that we are starting a blog! The aim of this blog is to talk about life in London, to give you an idea of what lies ahead while studying with us in London and we might even mention a little bit about ourselves. A lot of students study abroad hoping to immerse themselves in another culture. You will be pleased to know, despite the fact that an American, a Canadian and a token Welsh person are running this programme, we have jointly spent a total of 55 years in London. As foreigners ourselves (Welsh are not English) we are experts at getting to know the locals and have even picked up some local slang:
"Claire climbed the Apples today and recovered with a Rosy"
"Claire weren't 'alf knackered after climbing them stairs. She was gasping for a cuppa."
One of your first projects when you arrive will be the flat hunt. Hopefully you have all started thinking about whom you would like to live with, what your budget is and possibly even started looking at different areas of London. The Queen may have rooms to rent in Buckingham Palace, and with she and the family being out of town on the weekends, it should be an excellent house for hosting parties. I needn't even mention the other parties that Princes William and Harry will be likely to invite you to. But in case she falls through, you may want to start working on plan B. On a serious note though, to get you thinking about where you are going to live in London our next blog will be about where we all live.You will get to hear about a great place in North London called Stoke Newington, a trendy place in South London called Camberwell and a more suburban place in South West London called Worcester Park. If you are lucky there might even be some photos! We will also give you some information about areas of London that previous students have lived in recent semesters. Zone 1, central London, probably has the most transport links and ease of access, but it is also the one of the most expensive places to live. We three live in zones 2 and 4, with average commute times around 45 minutes. Be open minded and have a look around at your options when you get here!
-The Three Dogs (and Elsie)