Wednesday, September 27, 2006


How old is that guy? Nine? Can nine-year-olds play bagpipes?

In other news, I leave for Ireland tomorrow night and have booked trips to Scotland, mostly Paris, and Spain already. This is it! I'm actually in Europe and not just pretend-Europe! Hooray for me!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Luck Be a Swayze Tonight

Now, I know that being abroad is about new experiences. So I will grant you that I have seen Guys & Dolls before. But it is undeniable that I have never before seen Guys & Dolls with PATRICK SWAYZE.

I wrote about Patsy (as I like to call him) in my application for Northwestern. I have seen Dirty Dancing more times than I care to admit. I even suffered through Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights in which he has a cameo and directs the young lady to follow her heart and feet or something similarly inane.

But I was not prepared for Patsy of this caliber! With botox and a Noo Yawk accent! It was a magical night, courtesy of the Moroccan food, Michelle's company, and our amazing 4th row center seats.

All in all, an A-One evening.

First day of classes is today. So far I have been asked to tackle such challenging questions as "What's the first thing one does when one sits down to write an essay?" and "What are some good ways to take notes?" Good thing I brought along my thinking cap! Hopefully the Canadian Women's Fiction class I'm heading off to will be a bit more enlightening.

Do you think they had that cute little "Traitor's Gate" sign on it when actual traitors went through? Just so they would know what was going on? I hope so.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

But I will solve this mystery; you gotta give me the first clue.

Today is One of Those Days. I don't really know why I let it become One of Those Days; the sunshine is gorgeous today and if I hadn't slept in, I could have had a really nice morning at Spitalfields and Brick Lane, etc. But I did sleep in, and woke up feeling cranky, and thus it became OoTD.

I wish a lot of things---that I was right in London so I could feel a city rhythm (the neighborhood Queen Mary is in is roughly equivalent to a strip mall in Newark) and that my clothes didn't constantly smell like smoke and that I felt a little more confident in what I'm doing and who I know here. I feel a little overwhelmed, which is something I'm not used to, and it's very strange.

But I don't mean to sound like I'm unhappy, or sorry that I'm here. I'm not. I like all of these experiences. I've done a lot of really cool things already, and it's only my second week here. When I can understand them, the British kids are are really cool and funny. And when I do get into the city, it's wonderful and I love it.

And/or, my friends drag me to more American bars:

Fortunately, this was after some jolly British theater so I ended up at cultural nil (+1 for the theater, -1 for TGI Fridays).

And this guy walks me home from the tube station so I don't get attacked:

Friday, September 22, 2006


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Different city, same Alex

London is about half a world away from Chicago, which led me to believe that maybe I would become, like, time-warp Alex: organized, neat, on time. The kinder, gentler, 2.0 version. To my great surprise, my room is a mess, it's 11:33 a.m. and I haven't bothered to get dressed, and yesterday I was so sarcastic that a British person responded in surprise. Come on! Stiff upper lip! British humor! I don't know...

Anyway I've moved in to my room. Here is mostly what it looks like:

Don't worry, Mom & Dad, those ARE the hospital sheets they assigned to me. I did not go out and buy a duvet cover.

And if you come to visit and you wonder why I am unclean and my clothes smell terrible, it's because my shower looks like this:

and laundry costs $3.50 a load. SIXTEEN DOLLARS TO WASH MY CLOTHES. A big ol' WTF to that.

Finally, we did the Tourist Thing last night and walked around Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and the theater district. It was a blasty blast, and I had some delicious food (not just ok, but great) for the first time here.

My friends stopped to take pictures on a busy street during rush hour in Piccadilly, and I almost died. Just about the time I recovered, we went to a bar called The Texas Embassy. In London. I know. Oh well.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Surprisingly, the Spice Girls are not as wildly popular as one would imagine over here.

I'm settled in, to a certain extent. Of course, I am frequently un-settled, as I hear people speaking the same language as me and yet I have no idea what they're saying to me. I had to ask one poor guy to repeat his name like four times. Maybe I'll start faking a Spanish accent, so I'll have some excuse. Or buy them all a few of these so they forget that I am dumb:

Some things over here are very different in a way that I find negative:
  • No air-conditioning on the tube at rush hour, leading to unpleasant smells.
  • Celebrity gossip magazines unappealing and weird
  • Mayo, gravy, and butter on EVERYTHING.
Other differences are either interesting or preferable:
  • Emphasis on privacy means my own room, ensuite bathroom, in-room fridge etc.
  • Boys are polite and well-dressed, and are very prompt about buying rounds for their friends. Girls aren't expected to pay.
  • Amazingly wide range of dialects and accents, all of which make even the coarsest insult sound fun and sassy.

My "uni" is in the East End of London, which is historically a very poor community that has attracted many immigrants. Currently there is a very high Muslim and Bangladeshi community. It's also a little bit "dodgier" around here, not nearly what you'd expect of London if you just have the tourist ideas of the city in your head, which makes getting out and exploring a bit more daunting. I'm looking forward to it, though. Unless it means dragging 6 heavy grocery bags through the streets of East London and on the crowded bus like it did yesterday.

Nothing much else to report. The homestay was weird, though a good and necessary experience, and Liverpool was a pretty cool place to visit. Two days in a row.

I've met some nice people.
They are all very fun and funny and keep me occupied. Many of them go to NU, but I'm still broadening my horizons and trying to meet all kinds. That's why I'm here, "innit"?

I want to take you to foggy Londontown...

What strikes me as the most interesting about London is how everything is a mix of very, very old, and then again quite new:

I've been here a little more than a week now, without internet access, in various hotels and a homestay in Southport, near Liverpool. I'll do some backdated entries in a bit, to catch up, but right now I have classes to register for. Thrilling!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Here is a picture of me the last time I went to London, in 1996.

Yes, that's me in all my fifth-grade, center-part splendor. What you may not be able to tell is that I am wearing leggings underneath that attractive sweater. And here I am, 10 years later, purchasing leggings again in anticipation of my forthcoming trip to London.
I know there's a moral here somewhere, but I'm missing it.