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I See Elsie

The Ithaca College London Centre

Tagged as “Immersion”

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Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 11:12AM   |  Add a comment


As you well know, each semester we choose a Book of the Term.  This term the book is Mortal Causes by Ian Rankin.  It is set is Edinburgh in the early 1990’s and deals with violence and the IRA, as the books we choose are meant to introduce the students to different aspects of British culture.  Now we are thinking of the book of the next term, and Sarah and I are leaning toward Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.   Whereas we live in London Above, much of this book is set in London Below.  What is London Below, you ask?  I’m about halfway through the book and I don’t really know myself.


Speaking of the things that happen below London, the London Underground is one of the oldest continuously running subway systems in the world.  It has a fascinating history from acting as a shelter for Londoners during the Blitz to surprising pedestrians as they pass by disused stations on the street that have been closed for decades.  Because they are often not lit up at all, they can be easy to miss.  Who has seen Aldwych Station on the Strand right in the middle of London?  It’s staring you in the face just after you pass Somerset House.  Keep an eye out for this one.  Your first mission this week is to find a disused Tube Station, but not Aldwych, since I have just pointed that one out.  Here is a link to a great website that has images of out of date Tube maps to help you along with this one:  Don’t be deceived by stations that are still there but have changed names.  Have a look at the outside of Gloucester Road Tube station the next time you pass by and notice that the top of the building says that the Metropolitan and District Railways go to this station.  A lot has changed since this station appeared on one of the earliest Tube maps (1889) as Brompton Gloucester Road Station.  Also, excitingly, there were plans on the 1949 version of the map to extend the Bakerloo line down as far as Camberwell!  Alas, this would only have added to the paradise that Camberwell is!

Also, if you go to the northbound Piccadilly line platform, you can see the tiled sign on the wall saying that these trains go to Finsbury Park, as that is where the Piccadilly line once terminated

You may have also gathered by now, if you have been checking out the TfL website to plan your journeys or to figure out alternative routes during the Tube strike, that as well as the Tube there are also buses, trams, boats and bicycles on offer as public transportation options.  During the last Tube strike there were photos in the paper of the queues of people lined up to take the boats across the Thames.  So, speaking of photos and boats, your second mission is to capture the underside of a bridge.  Obviously you don’t need to be on a boat to see underneath a bridge, but taking a boat across London offers a new perspective to modern eyes and a view of London from what has traditionally been one of its busiest thoroughfares.


Good luck!


-Elsie (who loves Camberwell!)


Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 11:13AM   |  Add a comment


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

Claire's teacup

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.

Bill's teacup




Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 10:32AM   |  Add a comment


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.

Good Luck!

-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.



Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 10:30AM   |  Add a comment


It’s Saturday on Bank Holiday weekend, August 28th-30th  – NB the cultural issue: in England we don’t have July 4th, Memorial Day, MLK day holidays; instead, the banks go on holiday as befitting a nation that rose to greatness on the strength of its commercial and financial expertise – and you’re doing a little cleaning in your new Bayswater lodgings when you hear the unmistakable sound of steel bands coming from somewhere in the west. On Sunday, in a taxi on the way from the hotel to your flat, the cabbie complains about the closed roads and disrupted traffic in W11. As you clamber out of the taxi, tripping over an overlarge suitcase, you again hear the sound of music carried on the westerly wind. On Monday en route to class, you note that some of the local tube stations are closed. Your curiosity well and truly raised you ask the underground attendant, “What’s going on?” Answer: “It’s CARNIVAL time.”  And Monday the 30th is the big day.


Urban Britain had a substantial black population from the 17th century.  As a key player and financier in the triangular trade which brought slaves from western Africa to the West Indies and the United States in the ‘middle passage’, Britons became increasingly familiar with Africans in the period before the Industrial Revolution. Some came as slaves, others as ‘freed’ individuals, some no doubt as mariners.  It was not, however, until after World War II, when a victorious yet ravaged and impoverished Britain, short of labour for reconstruction, appealed to people from its West Indian colonies to take up work in the newly founded National Health Service [1948] and the public transport system.  As you might expect, the indigenous population did not extend a warm welcome to the new arrivals.  “Keep Britain White” placards appeared and all of a sudden landlords had no rooms and flats to rent. The more literate of them simply put ‘No coloureds, Irish or Dogs’ signs in their windows. [TIP: Read Andrea Levy’s novel Small Island  for a fictional account of the racial tensions in nearby Earl’s Court in the late 1940s.] Tensions grew throughout the 1950s and riots broke out in 1958, the most important of which occurred in Notting Hill west London in September 1958 when ‘teddy boys’ began attacking West Indian homes, offices and people on the streets.


The police made arrests and the courts imposed stiff sentences on the rioters. The West Indians responded by celebrating their culture, initially in halls and latterly in the open air. The inspiration came from the Trinidadian born, American-raised, communist Claudia Jones, who had been deported by the USA during the McCarthyite witch hunt and been granted asylum in Britain. The model was also Trinidadian, a carnival, held on the streets of Notting Hill over the Bank holiday weekend [the end of summer].


The Notting Hill Carnival is now the largest street festival in Europe and the second largest carnival in the world after Rio. The three words that best describe it are (a) music [VERY LOUD], (b) costume [VERY BRIGHT and OUTRAGEOUS], and (c) food [DELICIOUS].  There might also be a heavy smell of cannabis on certain streets in the Notting hill area. Police don’t mind the smell but they will not tolerate buying and selling of drugs.  Carnival is a wonderful celebration of the vitality of Afro-Caribbean culture. Be smart: the carnival has attracted trouble in the past, especially near the end on Monday evening, and there is a heavy police presence.  If you go, and you should, leave wallets, bags, jewellery at home. Go as a twosome or threesome. Just bring a few pounds to buy some food and drink.  Cameras are OK – remember that we run a photo competition at the end of the term - but take good care of them.


-Bill (without any help from Elsie or Pete's scooter)


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