Thursday, February 24, 2011


If you want to know the explanation behind this particular blog, read the next paragraph and if not, skip ahead as you see fit.

Right, well, seeing as I'm studying abroad through Central, I'm supposed to keep a journal to turn in once in a while (so obviously not a really personal journal). Blogs can be used as journals. Anyway, to get to the point, one of the things I'm supposed to include is about these assignments we're supposed to do which are actually a lot cooler than most normal assignments. Generally they're sightseeing assignments and while I've written about them elsewhere (in a personal journal where I revel my true meanness and scariness...) I probably ought to add them here.

Our first assignment was one I sort of hinted at before but only a little so you probably didn't notice. It was to visit two markets. The best way I can think of to describe them is to have you think of the Varied Industries Building during the middle of the State Fair. Now substitute the booths of random things for people selling food, handcrafted things, and some clothing. Now make it outside. There you go.

One of the markets I saw was the more Ritz-y Borough Market. It had food that was already made, more gourmet things and more expensive prices. So in general it smelled delicious. But I saw it on a Saturday and it was super-crowded. Way beyond my liking. I haven't been back to be honest.

The second market I saw was Brixton Market. Brixton Market, I ought to tell you, had the same qualities as I mentioned above for markets only add in the smell of the old Fareway. That's right there was meat hanging in the windows of stored that lined the area where stalls were set up. The odd thing was how little it bothered me. I mean I'm not about to eat it but I really don't care if I see dead pig and cow and such dangling. It really doesn't phase me Probably a large part of the reason I won't become a vegetarian despite the fact I have a good deal of people convinced I am one. Anyway, Brixton Market... They had fruit. It was cheap. Yay fruit! It wasn't as crowded but still more crowded than I'd like but worth it for cheap produce.

For the second assignment, we were supposed to take a specific walk around the East End of London. Well, I'll be honest. I didn't take the specific walk. I did however, get lost around there twice so I consider myself having seen all that I was supposed to just not in the specific order.

How may you ask did I get lost in the East End of London? Well my friend, that explanation is very simple; I can not tell north from south. You see, I have a class there, along with another Central student, through London Met. Uni. On the first day of class, we arrived, thankfully, about an hour early because we could not find our class. We did, however, see where a market normally was and see Christ Church. We also saw a lot of shops and some residential apartments and some other stuff before we finally found our class.

The next week (because classes are in general once a week here) I meant to leave with the same person but somehow didn't manage that and, well, did you know tube stations have more than one exit? I do. Actually I did. But I still got out at the wrong one, thought it was the right one, and ended up wandering the wrong side of the street for a while. Lovely times.

Anyway, one of the more interesting things to me was the Whitechapel Bell Foundry which is in the East End of London, mostly because I was rather an American Idiot and assumed that the Liberty Bell was made in, well, the United States. Shoulda known better. It was made in London. Liberty Bell from London. Liberty, Statue of from France. Who knows what else we have used as a national monument and isn't actually made in the United States? Perhaps George Washington even once considered himself a citizen of the British Empire.

Oh, also saw part of the East End again on Wednesday when we went on a Jack-the-Ripper tour. Women killed in the East End. Missing kidneys. All that stuff. Really quite creepy. Won't go into it but recommend the tour and what not.

The third assignment was to go to this museum on the History of London at the Barbican tube stop (oddly enough I'd heard of the Barbican before I came here but for the life of me I can not remember who or what from.) At any rate, the museum was actually pretty cool. Very interactive sort of place (think if the Science Center of Iowa was actually a History of Des Moines Museum and the history of Des Moines was actually interesting).

The exhibits went back from BC times to "the future" in which there were photoshopped pictures of how London will look when the sea levels rise and disaster strikes, etc. They had stuff about when the Romans were here, and the Saxons, and a bit about the Tudors. There was a room with a couple movies about "Pleasure Gardens" and this cool picture thing where you could touch the name of somebody and read about their life. They had a Victorian town all laid out. Pretty awesome.

This one was another walk but it included this really strange museum, Sir John Soane's Museum. Basically this man back in the late 17, early 1800's had a thing for collecting artifacts. Like back when you're a kid and you have ten million collects (pretty rocks, old pennies, strange buttons, etc) and take it up a few notches. That is what this man's house was like (only he had stuff like an Egyptian sarcophagus, random stuff from Roman times, and a whole ton of books). Basically, I think, though he may have been brilliant he probably was the kind of man people kept their children away from when he was alive. No offense.

The rest of the walk, we went by a memorial to Canadian airmen from WWII in this really pretty park (London's littered with pretty parks. It's pretty amazing.), and basically a huge, for lack of better term, legal section. There was the High Courts of Justice and the area where a bunch of barristers (court representatives) work. I do remember there also being a wig shop that we passed which was highly amusing since several of the wigs were placed on small animal figures (like a pig) and we're talking those formal old fashioned wigs that you see pictures of the forefathers wearing. Apparently their lawyers wear them into court.

We also passed by the Temple church which apparently was pretty big in the DaVinci Code which I admit to never reading. Couldn't get passed the first chapter because of the belt thing. For some reason that bothered me endlessly.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

And I Really Can Update... Eventually

Well, since I'm rather behind on posting anything I'll try and remember some of the key highlights and all that stuff. No promises on coherence and organization.

As a group, on a Friday, we went to the town of Cambridge which was pretty cool but fairly cold (okay, cold by the standard here. By the standards back home it would have been a windy but warm for a winter day). Anyway, we were taken on a tour of the town that went by different places that were part of Cambridge University, the Eagle, and this really creepy clock that was supposed to be eating down time. Part of the University we got to see was the chapel at King's college which I found pretty awesome, mostly because my mom and I have an obsession with historical-fictions focusing on the Tudors (particularly the wives and other partners of King Henry the VIII).

Anyway, he apparently added the organ cover with Anne Boleyn's initials and other things to symbolize that he put it in for her in the chapel (the organ cover separates the chapel and the ante-chapel (which is mostly used for non religious purposes). There's also really pretty stain glass bible scenes all around on the windows and the carvings in the stone were gorgeous as well.

Another schedules trip we went on was to a restaurant near Brick Lane, also near the Bell Foundry where the Liberty Bell was made, didn't know that was in London did you? Well at least I didn't. Anyway, we had what was generally called Indian food. It was actually really good although I kept thinking of Dave Lister from Red Dwarf who has a huge love for curry. I suppose I have my dad to thank for that. He's the one who introduced me. Indian food here is kind of like Mexican food back in the USA, at least in popularity.

I've also started classes, finally, two at a local university (which has a very DMACC feeling to me although it is a bit more complicated) and three through Central (two of them required.) The none required one is a religion course which I think is going to be pretty interesting since I get to learn about the Anglican church (which the Queen officially heads) as well as get to see a bunch of churches. Last week, we went to Westminster Cathedral which was filled with mosiacs but only half done on the decorating front despite the fact they started over a century ago. There are boxes everywhere you look asking for donations. I have to admit, I found the idea of a holy gift shop a little amusing but I really shouldn't laugh seeing as how so many things I do may seem odd. The idea of so many side chapels devoted to the different saints was strange to me. I guess I really don't know all that much about Catholism in practice (though I know a bit historically).

Another of my classes, one of the ones through London Metropolitan University, is mostly made up of other study abroad students, one of them from Thailand. I'm fairly sure there's at most five people who are actually from the United Kingdom (United Kingdom=Wales, England, Scotland, and North Ireland; Britain= Wales, England, and Scotland; England does NOT = Scotland). London has a very diverse population, much more so than the rest of the country. Heck, it's making Iowa State look pretty bland and that's saying something.

Oh, for anyone wondering, I have seen platform 9 and 3/4 and frankly, it was pathetic. It was a picture of a brick wall against a cement wall with part of a trolly attached. Apparently they're building a new area but part of the problem is that when they filmed the movie, they did so in St. Pancras (which is right next door, same tube stop even) and when she was writing, JKR was picturing Euston, which is yet another train station (there's also Victoria which is really near Vandon house. Trains are a big deal here, including international ones).

As for upcoming events, a couple of other people and have booked the tickets for a weekend trip to Dublin, Paris, and Scotland. The trip from Dublin to Paris was $15. Yay budget airlines.

Anyway, back to watching an elephant get eaten on channel four. It's really quite interesting. This elephant died and they managed to set up cameras to see how it feeds the ecosystem and you really probably don't care a bit. My apologies. Have a lovely day or night or whatever time frame is most appropriate when you read this.

General Statistics:
Times gotten lost: too many to count
Times gotten unlost: same as above so really doing quite well (including getting lost during Chinese New Year event)
Times asked for directions on the tube: 3
Times actually able to help: 1 (and she seemed surprised when I spoke with an American accent so yay for surprising French tourists)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Things I Have Learned Since Leaving

Because I figured they ought to be recorded somewhere.

*How to turn my i-pod fully off. I didn't even know there was a way to turn it fully off but apparently there is

*There is no comfortable way to sleep on a plane. Do not count on being able to.

*I have taken for granted the lovely road plan set place in Iowa. Roads are not in general straight. To paraphrase someone else, when certain immigrants got to Iowa, they said, "We shall build roads and they shall be straight, with a square mile in the middle. If there is a hill, we will go over it or under it. If there is water, we shall go over it and if we absolutely can not, we shall deviated as slightly as possible and then go straight back to the original plan." London does not follow said plan.

*The lesson of looking both ways before you cross the street is better spent on 5-year-olds in the UK than in the USA. In the US, pedestrians have the right of way. In the UK, they only do at special crossings. Overall lesson? Cross when and where you can and do it fast (although running across makes you look rather idiotic).

*There really isn't a difference in music or movies between the USA and the UK except that the music and movies currently in the UK are ones from a couple months ago in the USA (Tangled just came out in cinemas on Friday).

*I can indeed be taught to read a map.

*I can indeed decipher north from south... if it is written on a wall which way is north (or south, I'm not that picky).

*The rule about two seasons, construction and winter? Yeah, does not apply or else I wouldn't keep getting woken up by the sound of construction.

*Having the tax included in the price of things is lovely.

*Having to mentally take every price by 1.6 to figure out the cost is not lovely.

*I really need to learn more languages than English and Spanish. I swear I've heard ten gazillion since getting to London.

*People will generally give you directions if you ask for them. However this would imply me getting the courage to ask them and that's something I would have a hard time doing at home...

*I should learn to start cooking BEFORE I'm hungry as I keep making things that take no time because I'm hungry.

*Poundland is a far more awesome name for a discount store than Dollar General or Dollar Tree.

*Pigeons are everywhere.

*My dog should be here to teach the squirrels in the UK a lesson. And the pigeons too. Although keeping him away from the swans would probably be a wise idea...

*Market's are awesome. Brixton market smells like meat but it's not that much worse than Fareway and there's cheaper fruit.

*Wash hats you buy from a market before wearing them or you shall spend the next day wondering if your head is itching (thankfully not a lesson I learned first hand).

*100 years is not that old for a building despite the fact that most of the homes in Ames are younger than I am.

*Outlets can be turned off and this is a lovely idea.

Alright, that's it for now. Have a good day and all that.