Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Whatchu Know About Walkin' ? (or, My First Few Days in London)

I've been in London for about 80 hours, and my dogs are BARKIN'.

But before I walked like 15 miles this weekend, I made it safely on my first international flight. I was so proud of myself for doing well on my flights! I am normally horrible with planes, but this time I convinced myself that if I could get to London, the flight would be a miniscule part of my trip. I didn't manage to sleep on the 8 hour flight from Houston to London, but I did watch plenty of horrible movies. At first, I stayed awake so I could eat dinner. Then, I stayed awake to wait for the line for the bathroom to go down. Then I started watching a movie that I actually wanted to see. Then I started watching a movie I didn't care about so much, but couldn't get very comfortable so I didn't sleep. Then I started another movie because we were about to eat breakfast. Then, there were 30 minutes left of the flight and there was no point in sleeping. Needless to say, I slept a lot that afternoon!

On the flight, I jotted down a few notes about my experience flying:
"Screwdriver: GOOD.
Skyy in the sky, nothing better
Watching 'Eclipse', thinking awful thoughts about Taylor Lautner next to an older gentleman-AWKWARD AS FRONK
Knowing he's glancing over to see Bella and Edward make out, and sitting so close to him that I know he can tell when I hold my breath when Taylor Lautner takes his shirt off-HELLA AWKWARD

I may be 22 and entitled to watch awful PG 13 tween movies, but I am still embarrassed to be watching Twilight next to this guy who could be my dad. Luckily, I'm a bit tipsy and don't care that much."

After the flight, I had to walk from surely the farthest terminal to the UK border, where I had to present my visa/passport and letter of sponsorship for my internship. I stood in the queue (that's native for 'line') for almost an hour before a 3 minute accost about why exactly I was there. A bit scary, to say the least.

My boss, Mark, picked me up and we drove through the city to Hackney where I'm staying. We made a stop at the Diorama Art Center offices at The Crypt Center near Regents Park, which was exciting to see! Once I got all my baggage into my room, I promptly went to sleep for 8 hours. After dinner with Mark and his wife Lawry, we walked around Hackney to a nearby churchyard, as well as other shops and a freehouse. Freehouses are abandoned properties that have been 'squatted' by a group of people who might otherwise not have anywhere to go. Anyone can drop things off like clothes or books or whatever, and anyone can take anything they need. It has a few people in charge of looking after it, but it isn't regulated as to who takes/gives what. They also hold free events there, like poetry nights, lectures on life skills like skillful squatting or wiring electricity, movie nights, etc. We walked in and heard about 15 minutes of free verse poetry and stand up comedy. It was very intriguing and entertaining, and just interesting to see how differently these people live. Even when I donate things to Salvation Army, I assume someone else will pay for them. If I go to the thrift store where other people have donated things, I expect to pay. I had never really encountered a place where you can take what you need and leave things for people knowing that they won't have to pay for them, allowing them to save money on clothing, etc.

Sunday was a perfect day in the country, mixing with the posh at Lady Bessborough's country estate. I had coffee next to a Matisse sketch and saw the Picasso in her grandchildren's playroom, not to mention the millions of dollars worth of modern art that covers the gardens outside the estate. After that, it was a short drive to Stonehenge, then off to Salisbury for a 13th century cathedral visit and dinner at a pub.

My first day at work was awesome. My main responsibility is to prep for an execute a 5 week outdoor music and dance festival, but that doesn't start until June 22. Until then I'm working with the New Diorama Theatre, and the people there are so legit. There is a cafe' attached to the theatre that helps support it, and it has amazingly delicious food like duck and coffee imported from Nepal. I can't wait to work with them all summer, and even though most arts management internships I've had have been a drag, this one is very promising.

I feel like I'm finally getting my feet under me, and I'm comfortable walking around my neighborhood. It's not so overwhelming anymore, but the idea that I'll be here for another ten weeks is a little unnerving. There's so much I want to do, but I do feel like I'll have time to do it.

Culture shock is a funny thing. Though there's not exactly a language barrier, my family has a much different lifestyle than I do. For one, they recycle EVERYTHING. They compost old food and don't use plastic sacks. They don't use major grocery stores, and support local markets. Driving here is ridiculous- stop and go all the time, bumper to bumper traffic. The most shocking idea was when Mark told me that "drivers here rely on others to know what they're doing, whereas in the states drivers assume that everyone else on the road is stupid." What a novel idea! It seems to work for them, but it still makes me incredibly nervous.

I can't say I'm wild about cyclists on the road, and I wish there weren't people who meander aimlessly on the sidewalk when I'm trying to get somewhere. Using public transportation has been awesome so far, even though it was a little overwhelming at first.

Food has been a bit of an issue because I'm a somewhat picky eater, but all in all I've been open to trying new things. The Danish girl that lives in my house with me (Louise) made spinach pancakes last night that were awesome, and I've had plenty of fish and fresh food. There's considerably less salt used here in home cooking, and I think my arteries are in a state of shock. I have been easing myself into the idea of cultural food by alternating my meals with new stuff and familiar cuisine. But even what's familiar is a little off. For instance, I had a burger at a pub that was made with onions in the meat (not an altogether foreign concept, I know, but unexpected to say the least!), and a 'Mexican Quesadilla', which was actually just thin slices of ham and cheese in a tortilla served with ketchup. I am addicted to Dr. Pepper, so while I hoped that would be a comfort, even that is a little different. It tastes a little off, and upon inspection of the bottle I bought today, I learned that it is considered a 'sparkling fruit flavour soft drink,' which explains the subtle fruity hint I picked up. On the side of the bottle, it also has a little tag line that says 'What's the worst that could happen?', which is definitely not what I want my soda to say. I drank it anyway, because it's all a part of the experience.

For my female friends out there wondering what the beau sitch is in London-there are SO many beautiful men here! While I'm pretty sure most of them are gay, I haven't been brazen enough to approach them. We'll see what happens when I hit the pubs with some friends, but until then, I'm satisfied just watching. I work in the financial district of central London and many young men in slick suits filter in an out of the theatre cafe' I frequent, and I am totally okay with that. It motivates me to dress nicely for work. 

I keep a notebook with me so that I can write down different things I'm thinking when I'm out and about. Today I sat down and started a comprehensive list of everything I've done/seen. So as of 24/5 (dates are written backwards here), I have-
 *Gotten an Oyster (under/overground transport card) *ridden a double decker bus/underground/overground trains *seen Stonehenge *seen Salisbury Cathedral *stood next to a Bently and Aston Martin *eaten spinach pancakes *gone to Broadway Market *gotten groceries by myself *cooked with a gas range *eaten pub food/drank pub beer *watched a football game with the locals (ManU vs Blackpool...must do this again!) *Seen several small galleries (renovated firehouse, old victorian house) *seen St. Thomas church *gone to the post office and figured out how to mail things *gotten tired of the smell of fish (its errwherr herr) *seen many beautiful men in business suits

Until next time, thanks for sifting through my life! Pics are up on Facebook :)

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