Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Generalizations about Americans either Overheard or Said to Me Directly #4

Yes, well, I know Americans can be a bit Puritanical about drinking alcohol..... (said by my therapist after she suggested I have a small glass of brandy or whisky to help me sleep).

I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you, I was dancing in my head

I often have to take the tube or a bus somewhere, whether it's for errands or Dr. appointments, there is a bit of traveling to do, which is extremely fun, but... you know you just sit there. I can't really read, b/c I get motionsick, and up until this morning, I had kept forgetting to charge my iPod. But today, I had to run off to London Bridge and remembered the night before so my iPod was all ready for the adventure. I pulled off the Londoner look pretty well, with the earbuds looped through my scarf knot, so if I had to pop them out for a brief interaction, they'd just hang and not fall to the ground. I need to be honest, those ear buds completely changed my tube experience. I felt very isolated and shut off from my environment. All the sounds - announcements, the gate beeps, doors opening and shutting, the mumbles of my fellow passengers were muffled. My alertness to my surroundings was shrouded by a cover of music. In the beginning, I was a little bit edgy, for someone could be addressing me from the side or behind and I wouldn't know it. But standing on the tube, I found that by being isolated by sound, I felt more freedom to observe through sight. My brain somehow interpreted this idea of "if I can't hear them, then they can't see me" and I felt more boldness to look at people directly and study their faces. What do other people think of on the tube? What is their purpose on the Jubilee Line?
And then, Hey Ya from Outkast came on and it took every ounce of my self-restraint not to bust out in dance moves or to lip sync along. Seriously, how can you not shake it like a Polaroid picture when he asks you so nicely? I noticed then, exiting the train and walking down the long connecting corridors that I had a slight beat to my step as Never There from Cake filled my ears. As I was walking out of the station and down the street, I developed a strut inspired by the tune of Dancing Queen from Abba. And nothing beats ascending or descending an escalator with Ordinary from Late Tuesday. So my journey developed a soundtrack, and my spirit could not be contained.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Things I was supposed to say yesterday and today but couldn't because I have no voice:

  • Yes, I am here at the bank to check if I my ATM card has arrived yet. It hasn't? Why is it taking over 3 weeks to come?
  • No, I don't know what that mattress is doing in our hallway.
  • Why yes, I am very pleased with my internet service. Thank you so much for calling and checking. No, I don't have any questions.
  • To work the washing machine? You need to push the green button.
  • No, I don't have any 20p coins, I used all mine for the dryer.
  • No, the tube stop is two more blocks down, this is the bus stop. Hense, the buses.
  • Yes, Professor, I do have something significant and insightful to share with the seminar class.
  • No, thanks. I don't want you to buy me a drink. No, really.
  • Yes, Ms. Bouncer lady, that is chicken in the bag I am holding. No, I do not have any weapons on my person.
  • Excuse me, while you stand in front of the library turn-style looking for your student card, I would like to pass through.
  • Greetings flatmate, your cooking smells really good. Thanks, but I already ate my noodles with butter.
  • Well, I was thinking about returning to Jitsu again, but then I realized, you almost made me cry last time, so... no.

Instead, what they heard was "squeekum, squeeker squeekity squeek."

Hopefully, what I'll be able to say tomorrow (without the squeakage) in two separate classes is "Yes, since it is my turn to lead this seminar class in discussion, I had some very complex and graduate level thoughts about the following material....." Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Generalizations about Americans either Overheard or Said to Me Directly #3

"Bonnie's Sweets - Cookies and American Muffins" (ok, so this wasn't exactly said, but I had no idea we had exclusivity on muffins! Score!)

Generalizations about Americans either Overheard or Said to Me Directly #2

You know what they say about Americans- you always know where you stand. They'll say whatever they are thinking to your face. But with the British, they'll smile to your face than stab you in the back as soon as you turn! (note to self: never turn away from a Brit)

Generalizations about Americans either Overheard or Said to Me Directly #1

(in reference to my Luna Bar) You silly granola-Americans and your health bars... (looks at label) Oh! It has protein! Where did you get it?

I am so ashamed....

I promised myself I would only enter a Starbucks to get their city mug, because I have decided I am going to collect the mugs of cities I've lived in (and because they are HUGE, so they not only work for a lot of tea or coffee, but for cereal, soup, oatmeal, or the best use: EASY MAC). I already have two (CA and San Fran, thanks Aunt Sharon), and although I haven't gotten one for Seattle yet, I know where to find them. Anyways, the anti-Starbucks feeling was just that I was in London for a cross-cultural experience, and going to the carbon-copy coffee shop that peppers every American street does not count. However, today after venturing out to central London for a "cognitive assessment," (hee) I went looking for a good place to nestle in with a hot beverage and a table to use for some reading. I looked and looked, and I was inexplicably drawn to the corporate monstrosity (had actually already walked by two from the train station). I'd like to tell myself that it was just because I was multi-tasking by finding a study space AND buy the mug, but in honestly, I was craving a steamed milk, and I knew Starbucks gives you some mean foam. So, I caved. I did have a bit of a cross-cultural experience, they charge about 40 cents extra per item if you enjoy it in the store rather than "take away." But I left even more determined to find a independent, happy-to-be-me coffee shop that I can frequent with my studies. I know I told a few of you I found a good Greenbean substitute, but the guys who work at this place give out the vibe that they are inconvenienced by pulling your espresso. So, I'm still on a quest. And so, confession, forgiveness, and reparation. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A day in the life of....

I've been unable to write up an "average" day in my time here in London up until now, because life has been full of random only-needs-to-happen-once kind of things. But I finally feel confident enough to make some sort of representation of my week here. I need to put some sort of disclaimer, that there probably is some sort of blurred line between reality and how I'd like to think I've structured my day. Sometimes expectations cloud the reality, and a nasty head cold has intruded on my level of energy, but, I'll do my best to mark my good intention tasks, and what really happens. And so, an average day....

Mondays through Wednesdays, I do not have class, so I currently am at the mercy of my own self discipline. I usually wake up (ideally will go to the gym), make breakfast (yogurt and granola) and eat it while listening to the NPR Story of the Day Podcast from the previous day. Shower and tidy the room and try to make it to the library by 9:30 (so if I get there by 10, I only feel a little bad). The goal is to get two hours of honest reading done and then I come back for lunch. (Are you all at the edge of your seat yet?) My afternoon is usually mixed depending on if I need to run errands (like go to the bank or the supermarket). After lunch, I'll usually try to do more studying, and break it up with either vacuuming or doing laundry (it's a good 15 minute walk away, I do my best studying isolated in the laundry room for 3 hours). Dinner, sometimes I'll cook with a flatmate.
Evenings are mixed. My flatmate is in the journalism program, and half of their classes practically end up in the pub, so if she texts me I'll join up with them at the Hobgoblin across the street. Another friend joined the jujisu club on campus, and I showed up for one "practice" and nearly ended up sobbing on the mat (that is a post all in itself, hold me to that) but they love "socializing" and I am up for hanging out with them as long as it doesn't involve tapping your opponent because it is starting to hurt, so that is another pub group (you notice a trend?). Campus housing is not really set up for group interaction (I have a theory on that, another post), the only common room is the kitchen, which isn't conducive to "hanging" and bedrooms are too small, so pubs really are the option. I haven't really mastered the extended evening pub experience. I seem to run out of things to say after an hour or two, and those I am with seem to start repeating themselves. It probably has to do with the difference in level of intoxication (me being zero, them being iffy after three pints). I think I need to start having some fun with it. I bet I can be very entertaining to a group of drunk people. Pull out some jokes, some finger magic, impressions, anything. But usually the clock hits 10pm and I bow out.
Depending on how much reading I got done during the afternoon, I'll either keep reading, or I'll "relax" which is me listening to NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Podcast or This American Life Podcast (which is free now! I think God did that just for me) while knitting my never ending shawl project. I also broke down while in the depths of my congestion and purchased a season pass to this season of CSI. So once a week, I'll get to watch my favorite team of good looking men in black vests unrealistically solve homicides using a micropipet. Sigh, the wonders of iTunes.
If I'm feeling crazy (or, to be honest am required to because of a doctor appointment) I'll venture into Central London. I'll usually use that opportunity to wander the Thames, and then end up at a yummy yuppy noodle house and take two hours eating my chicken fried rice while doing some reading.
Thursdays and Fridays are not much different, I've got two classes each day. Thursday is Reading the City at 12:00 with lecture then "seminar discussion" and then A Users Guide to a Gendered World at 2:00. Reading the City is often over my head, for the focus is actually looking at lenses and mediums that individuals or groups actually interpret the city. It feels very existential and abstract, so I am still orienting myself to it. Gendered World is totally immersed in Feminist Theory, which I don't have too much experience in (the theory itself, but I can discourse about our oppressive patriarchal society as much as the next gal) and we hop from subject to subject, but now that I know I have to read the readings three times in order to understand it, I'm actually able to get a bit out of it. Friday is Feminism, Politics, Equality, and Difference, at 10am, which I think is my favorite, because it's a mixture of theory and application. At 12:00 it's Urban Cultures, which is pretty self explanatory. Once again, same lecturer as Reading the city, so again with the abstract. Over all, I feel classes are too short, and I'm left on my own to navigate the material. But, in almost all classes, we are tackling multiculturalism within the next two weeks (which I think I'll be doing most of my assessment essays on) and I am hopefully that with topics I have a bit of background in and am very passionate about, I will be able to really dive in. (I'd love some prayer for that actually, my fatigue has made classes and reading harder to engage with).
Oh man, long blog entry. Weekends are mixed with sleeping in and hanging out with my International friends. We usually find something to do, whether it's just a house party or a play. I'm organizing a trip to IKEA soon. Hee. To sum up, often I feel most of my time is spent standing on my bed, opening or closing my window depending on the greater demand for fresh air or muffled noise. I've got a bag of forget-me-nots growing on my window sill, and they are threatening to bloom anytime now. And I've got a cell phone and internet connection, so I once again exist in the digital world. Thanks for the emails and thanks for the prayers. I am hoping to find comfort and security in a routine. Thanks for sticking with me through my ramblings. The End.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

where the heck am I?

Every so often, a pair of police on horseback clip-clop past my flat. I always peek out the window when I hear them, because I think that is one of the coolest things in the world. I mean really, if I was considering robbing something, those horses would make me think twice. And just a few minutes ago, I was in the kitchen making a lunch (turkey and cheese pita melt, my new standard), and I heard the familiar clip-clop. I dropped my pita, rushed to the window and looked out and instead of civil servants in bright fluorescent jackets, I saw.... a hearse. Folks, a horse-drawn hearse just came by my window. Again, I repeat, where am I?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

at first, I thought I was allergic to the Library...

Seriously! I was experiencing these strange symptoms. First, I'd get a bit woozy, my vision would be blurred, and I'd keep waking up with my forehead in the middle of a book. Now, that's not too rare for me, but for the last few days, I realized as I left the library I would get these awful nausea-inducing headaches. The kind where your eyes hurt and your head hurts and it hurts to think. Not very helpful when you are supposed to spend your day reading extremely thick material about equity in citizenship and Engles methodology of analyzing industrialized Manchester (you know you are jealous!). Without options, I'd pop two Advil and take a nap. And then, yesterday, with a raging headache, I had to go to the mall to pick up my (drumroll please) CELL PHONE!!! A nap would not suffice, so to comfort myself, I got a latte. And the sweet nectar of the earth soothed my raging neurons and I floated away to T-Mobile on a cloud of bliss. And as I returned to campus, I realized, I'm addicted to caffeine, again! Those occasional Pete's lattes over the summer had turned into my source of consciousness through the jet-lag and orientations. And then, I experienced the perfection of Parisian espresso. But as I've slipped into a routine, I had stopped throwing my money at the cafe underneath my flat. And my brain is punishing me for it. And so, in order to save my sanity and my dwindling bank account, yesterday I purchased instant coffee. Top of the line, instant coffee, grant you, but freeze-dried decaffeinated coffee it still is. And so this morning, I lined up on the kitchen table my new travel mug, my jar of crystallized coffee, and my tub of hot chocolate powder (hey, I can't cross over to the dark side in one leap). And I realized, I have never made instant coffee before! I know there was a spoon and hot water involved, but that was about it. I searched the jar for some hint of ratio, but there was none. Apparently the British are born with an innate instant coffee ratio sense, which would explain the hit-or-miss nature of their espresso (yuck!). I won't go into too much detail (because this post has already fallen over into the "too much information" category (just establishing background, right Dad?)), but three teaspoons of crystals qualifies as "too much." I will now spend the remainder of the week experimenting with crystal to chocolate powder to water ratio. Wish me luck.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I found a church!

A big thank you to all who have been praying for this request. These past few weeks, I have really been hoping that I could find a church, that would be close by but diverse in its congregation, that could be a good source of community for me. And today, I found it. It was actually recommended to me by someone from another church I visited two weeks ago, but City Hope I think will become my new church home. It has about 200 members, and meets close to a tube stop just minutes away. As soon as I walked in the door, someone from the welcome committee introduced herself and then introduced me to to two girls my age, who asked me to sit with them. We chatted after the service during "tea and coffee" (one is a 1st grade teacher, another a nurse at a pediatrician's office) and asked for me email so they could invite me to a dinner sometime soon (they also had an extra plane ticket to go to Prague for this next weekend that they invited me too). Then, the woman who caught me first introduced me to the woman who hosts the small group in New Cross, and I was invited to their small group this Thursday for a game night (about a 5 minute walk away from my flat). Then, I was invited to another small group's lunch gathering, so with another new girl showed up and enjoyed baked potatoes with about three families. They apologized for all the noise and Lego's about, but I was just happy to flirt with the baby. I was dropped off at my flat just a few minutes ago, content from being in a house, interacting with adults, and being in a community of faith. As I was walking to the library to write this, I realized I was thrilled to have an identity outside of the university! I exist beyond the campus boundaries. I am really excited and hopeful to see how God will use this church in my life this year. Oh, and my most favorite moment (beside the baby flirting back at me) was when one of the boys, probably about 10 sat down next to me and said "So you're from American then, have you been to a real basketball game?"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Apologies and a picture offering

Sorry for the feast and famine with the entries. Here en masse is a the reflections gathered about my time in Paris. A real "update" describing my trip as well as new stuff in London (like classes and such) will be coming soon. Just wanted to get these up. Also, I have a few pictures of Paris on my flickr account . Once Kristin sends me her pictures, I'll add them to the batch, but I'll let you know. A tout a leur!

Remain Seated Please - Restez Assis S'il Vous Plait

There is a touch of familiarity I experienced on the Paris Metro, and it’s not from riding it before on my “educational” 8th grade trip. I was thrust into the person next to me when it hit me: Space Mountain! The roaring of the cars, the sudden jerks and turns, flickering lights, strange shapes and colors rushing around you. Once in a while you get glimpses of another car between columns, or one rushes right past your window, making you flinch. The ubiquitous voice reminds you to stay clear of the doors. But apparently, the similarities end when you try to throw your arms up and yell out when you glimpse the flying chocolate chip cookie. If you try it here, they look at you funny. Oh, if only I could buy the world a ticket to EuroDisney.

Just call me a hobo.

Every few days, I have a “this is so my most favorite thing in the world” moment. Today, it was the train ride on the Eurostar from London to Paris. It’s just like an airplane, except the eats are bigger and slant back and have amazing headrests. There’s leg room, the food is three times as good, you get great scenery, no ascent or descent, larger and cleaner toilets, no baggage claim, and you get to walk like you are drunk down the aisle (because of the jerking, not because I was or anything). So… I guess it is nothing like an airplane, and that’s awesome. I think I was born to ride the rails, Eurostar style of course.

Je suis une Americain

The thing that is a little deceiving about moving to London is that you are lulled into a false sense of security about becoming an experienced world traveler. Hey look! I just bought a tube ticket, I am so a world traveler. Woo hoo, I just bought a loaf of bread from the market, I am such a global citizen. I’m walking around this museum, I am such a cultured woman. And then, just two and a half hours away, my global citizen pride gets smashed into a million pieces, when I arrive in a city that doesn’t speak English. Suddenly, I am a sheltered little American girl, caught up in a sea of French. Gah! The ticket machine just spat out my credit card and is flashing a giant red X at me. Is that French for “Please wait as we print your receipt.”? My pre-printed maps and metro transfers from my web-sleuthing mean nothing if I can’t get a ticket. I normally don’t like asking for help, so I certainly do not like asking for help in a different language. I grasp what shreds of confidence I have from my two years of junior high French. I walk boldly to the ticket window.

Lynn- “Bonjour”

Ticket Lady – “Bonjour Mademoiselle.” (so far so good)

Lynn- “Une carnet, si’l vous plait?” (one booklet of ten tickets, please?”

Ticket Lady – (Pause) “Quatre?” (Four?)

My eyes go wide as my face pales as I am caught in my bold-faced “I can speak French” lie.

Lynn - (meekly) “Uh, ten?”

Ticket Lady – (not missing a beat) “Ah yes, of course.”

And here is the thing, I know practically everyone in the service industry in Paris speaks English, especially in the train terminal that goes directly to London. And yet, I fight it. Not that I want to appear native, but I want to someone honor the fact that I am in a different country. I equate speaking English in Paris to infiltrating other cultures with our consumer driven, Britney Spears dressing, Big Mac eating, bomb dropping ego. And so, as a result, multiple times on my journey, I would begin an interaction with a “Bonjour” and a few words scratched from an awkward stage in my past I particularly do not like to revisit. But the very next moment, the person I am addressing needs to ask me a question or clarify what I said because my pronunciation (ok, I’ll be honest, my word choice) was so off. I immediately revert to the wide-eyed American and they graciously switch over to English with a sympathetic chuckle which I believe translates as “Silly American. I caught her in her delusion she’s a global citizen.” I am honestly not this distraught about it, I enjoy having the sea of spoken and written French wash over me, although when I “pardon” myself off the metro with the slight guttural of the “r” and the nasal “on” at the end, I swear I hear snickering.


And who can forget, the first hostel experience. All I could say in the moment, was “ew.” People aren’t kidding when they say in a hostel you are paying for the bed you sleep in, and that’s it. I had to make my own bed, with rented sheets. Luckily, I was smart enough to bring my own pillow case and hand towel. As I am writing this, I am literally perched on the corner of my bed, trying to have as little skin to surface contact with anything in this room. I inspect every speck of lint to make sure it is not a bed bug. I knew I’d be “roughing it” (hence why all the pictures I have my glasses on, look ma! No contacts!) but I have never experienced a room where the only wall decorations are chipped paint. And it took me a full minute and a half to figure out how to flush the toilet (2 floors up), awesome. And then, I realized, I am in Paris, by myself, just picked up and went to Paris, and I say it again with no trace of irony, Awesome.

In reflection, my first night in the hostel was truly a horrendous experience. When I left the next morning, I was downright depressed (and extremely sleep deprived). Tile floor, tile halfway up the walls. A bed and a sink, with a sheet covering the window. And as I was describing to some of the people I was visiting, one said “It sounds like a jail cell.” Which is exactly how it felt. If I had a traveling companion, at least we could laugh about it together, but alone, it was oppressing. Luckily, my next two nights were in a hostel recommended by a flat mate, and it was the complete opposite. The office manager exclaimed as I came up the stairs “You must be Lynn!” And proceeded to pull out a neighborhood map to mark all the local attractions and supermarkets. My room was on the top floor in the corner, so I had minimal traffic with a cute sloping roof. I had sheets, wallpaper, a little desk and chair, mirror, and hardwood floors. It felt like a hotel and was exactly what I needed to relax and actually enjoy my mini-break in Paris. The next two mornings, I got to go around the block, purchase a fresh pain au chocolat from the baker, and wander the neighborhood as shops opened, commuters buzzed past me, and Paris awoke (at 9:00am, they are late starters here). This is the type of city I could fall in love with, and the chocolate croissants and fresh espresso have charmed me already.

Friday, October 06, 2006

oh, and just so there is no doubt

yup, I'm in London.... and I'm a tourist

the wonder's of facebook

what I didn't tell you was that Lindy, a gal I worked with over the summer, is studying in Scotland all year and came down this weekend. We had a bit of fun as these pictures (gathered from Lindy's facebook album) will testify.

we got caught in the rain... all day. seriously, I've seen more downpours in the two weeks I've been in London than I saw in seven years in Seattle. (In the pic is Kacie, who I actually used to babysit before she got all tall and beautiful. Turns out, she is in London for the semester)
see how shocked I am that a pirate hit on me? actually, he hit on me a time before this weekend, but I'm still shocked by the memory of it.
This one was for the Wall O' Day Camp Tshirts from Around the World. Lindy and I figured an action shot was worth extra points.
(And I got a couple of my first, "Americans are ridiculous" glares)

this is right before I practically fell over (and got more of those glares previously mentioned)

so far the best mocha I've found in London is Harrods. Apparently the sell puppies and washing machines, and boats and stuff, but I'm coming back for the mocha.

See all the fun you will have if you come visit me? (Day Camp tshirt not included)

Bad Blogger!

To All:
I am so sorry I have been scant in my updates. My excuses are plentiful, and a few have merit. However the combination of food poisoning, no wireless signal from my bedroom, and classes beginning all have contributed to very little reflective time on the computer. And now that my stomach has recovered, and I am thoroughly overwhelmed with the amount of reading I need to do, I am off to gallivant around Paris for the next four days with my favorite neighbor from Menlo Park and her 1st grade daughter. Look for updates of the last week and the Paris adventure next week.
And to tide you over, a list....
1. the number of pirates that hit on me (yarg, London is weird)
2. the number of times people asked me for directions while I was wandering around Central London. I think it's the scarf that makes me look like I belong.
3. the number of times I've been to the Tate Modern (the modern art museum) and I don't even like modern art.
4. the number of keys that are different on the British keyboard.
5. the number of classes I attended this week (but dropping one)
6. the number of tube rides I've ridden all by myself!

and that's it. More to come!