I’ve been home for about 24hours already, and while I’m glad to be home, there are many things I miss about being in London!
Oyster Cards – The travel/transport passes (the cards you swipe to go on a bus/tube/train, etc). They were easy to use and represented a lot of freedom for us! Which let us go everywhere in London (practically) and were probably one of the most useful things during out trip.
Small Streets – and small cars. Everything was just smaller, which was nice. I was looking at the main road in our town (Colima) and realized that I had seen practically no roads that wide while I was in London (maybe 1 or 2 in the city, but that’s all) – it was as wide as a carriageway in London! Though when cars were parked on narrow streets (and cars were parked halfway on the curb and on the street – the spots are outlined like that, but the curbs are not as high – and people park in both directions on both sides of the streets!), bus drivers would go crazy weaving left and right. This was especially scary on the top of a double decker bus! I remember a couple times from the top of the bus it looked like we were going to crash into a van – I remember Sophia and I saw it and it freaked us out!
Non-flushing urinals – Maybe it’s not something to miss. And in their defense, I think they do flush, but either before you start your business, or at pre-determined intervals. But most of the time, the urinals didn’t seem to flush – certainly not right after you leave it. No handle or sensor, but there were pipes going to the top, implying they clean eventually. But it seems in that way that they are very environmentally friendly!
Brown Cane Sugar – for coffee – and it wasn’t just “high end” places – Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero (other coffee chains), and even the university canteen/cafeteria had it! I liked using it instead of white sugar, and now that I’m back to our white sugar, I miss the brown stuff!
Saying “Toilet” – Though people will probably understand you saying “restroom” (maybe “bathroom” but they think that’s weird), most people say “toilet.” As in, “Where is the toilet?” or “I’m going to the toilet.” And it’s seen as normal, though in the US saying that would probably get you a stare, and people might see that as a bit rude. I enjoyed saying toilet instead of restroom though - have to get used to the US way again.
TO LET - Related to that were the signs that said “TO LET” – which equals “FOR RENT” – though at first I thought they were signs for the toilet with the “I” missing – so every time I saw one, that’s what came to mind!
People calling me by the right name – when introducing myself, I never had someone mistake me for “Richard” – unlike several times here in the US. Maybe partly because there’s an area/city of London in the southwest called Richmond, so it’s like “My name is Richmond, like down the street” – there actually was a Richmond street which we travelled on several times.
People calling me RICH-WHAT? – Thanks to Johnny I suppose, for coining this. Wasn’t that fond of it at first, but it’s grown on me, and I miss some of the others in the group saying that.
The people in the group – going off the last one, I really miss being with everyone! You don’t spend 24 hours a day for a month with the same people and not get close. I have some amazing memories to share with those people! At least we have Facebook – pictures, our groups, and all those – though it’s hard to replace actual human face to face contact – reunion time hopefully!
Marketing people – They were really cool, and really close to us (physically on the storey under us, and close like friends too) – they were great guides to stuff we could see and do in London too.
Pubs – not that I’m alcohol crazy, but it was cool to be able to walk into a pub (maybe it’s just because it’s something you can’t do here). I know they have a big drinking culture there, and a lot of people get very drunk, like in the US, but I feel like (not speaking from personal experience, but I can’t know for certain) in the US, because beer is cheap, and easy (?) to sneak into places, underage people tend to use that to get super drunk, rather than a more light social drinking. It was interesting to see people drinking different drinks – mixed drinks, ciders, and other stuff I’m not even sure about – but it sure was more expensive. And people are probably less likely to have tons and tons when it’s more expensive (again, that’s an assumption because I don’t know much about this…) – so maybe if super expensive alcohol was legal for kids at 18, and all alcohol was legal at 21, it might promote a more tempered drinking culture. Or not. Just something that went through my head. But yes, pubs were cool – and it was normal, not like “oooh, you guys are in a pub,” but just everyday life. We got carded in some places (some of us look under 18), but besides that, it was like a normal every day experience.
Academics – I do miss being in the class – to me, the module on “Questioning Citizenship” was intellectually stimulating for me! I also miss the academic people many of whom we were close with too, and were great personalities. I also miss the seminar teaching style, and how we were all seen as equals – calling them by their first names and whatnot.
Weather – California was nice for a few hours before it got super hot! I miss the rain already!
Coins! – For 1 and 2 pounds, they don’t have paper notes, but use coins instead. Which was strange at first, but I got used to it. It was convenient too, since I didn’t have to pull out my whole wallet every time I wanted to buy something, and could just dig around for a pound or 2 in my pocket. Though since we’re used to coins being less than a dollar, having all those coins made me feel like I didn’t have much money – leading to a nice surprise when I emptied my pockets and found I had more money than I thought!
Being called “the Americans” – it was interesting, some places we’d go (like the debate in Putney, or volunteering at our school), and be referred to as “the Americans” which was an interesting, but nice little title name for us. I suppose it’s true that we are Americans, and that that’d be the way to refer to us, but not traveling overseas in a group like this before, it was a little strange at first, before becoming more endearing after that.
I’ll probably add to this list with other blog posts over the next few weeks. I’ll try to continue with my blog post every day and see what happens, might go back down to a week when school starts, but 32 days is pretty good…
Back in the USA tonight (though as I’m writing, it’s 8am in London – strange to remember the huge time difference). On that note, I really cannot believe that breakfast and watching everyone leave was really 24 hours ago. It all feels like it’s been one day – seeing the first group leave at 4:30 am, breakfast at 8, leaving at 11:30, plane around 4 in the afternoon, getting to the US around 8 or 9 at night. I suppose I did some proper time traveling there.
But back to this (yesterday?) morning. I didn’t really get much sleep. Kelsey and Nicole got back around 3am. There was some tackling and running going on in the hallway too. As people continued packing, I took a wool blanket into Adam’s room – Alexis wanted to hear fairy tale stories, so Adam and I came up with the girl and the elephant – going line by line, which degraded quite quickly. Better than my story about a middle eastern prince. Though Alexis tried to tell one about a Russian prince – sorry to say that I fell asleep. But Adam woke me up about 20 minutes later.
We waited around, and 4:30 soon came around, and we had to say goodbye to Adam, Stephanie, Nicole, and Katie. It was a bit sad – some tears, pictures, and many hugs going around. We waved as they walked around the corner with their suitcases. Though they were lucky in some ways, because I think they got home before my flight even left!
A thoughtful morning
At 4:30 though, the sky was already pretty light (higher latitude), and I thought it’d be cool to watch the sunrise. Ahren, Tom, Alexis, Kevin and I trekked out behind Lawrence to the grass and the lake to watch the sun rise. It was really peaceful in the morning – morning light in the sky, the sounds of crickets, ducks, and geese, and dew on the ground. It felt like 6am, and it was quite relaxing and calm. It was a nice way to remember the presence of nature at Roehampton. Though we didn’t stay out long enough to watch the sun actually rise (it was cold!), we did stay out there for a little while.
Soon, it was time for Tom, Ahren, Brendan, and Sophia to leave, and we did the routine again. More tears, pictures, and hugs. It was a bit sad coming back in though, with just four of us remaining – Kelsey, Alexis, Kevin, and me. It was quite quiet – and Kevin was finishing his postcards, the rest of us went to sleep for a whole hour and a half or so.
I woke up a bit after 7 – and then the tiredness really hit me. I was so tired! Wasn’t feeling that great either. But the four of us had decided earlier to go out to breakfast for our last morning – get real food! We took the bus to Putney, which was a lot busier in the morning than I thought it’d be, and went to an Italian restaurant that Talah recommended to us. I had scrambled eggs with grilled tomatoes and toast (first eggs since I’ve been here!) with breakfast tea, and everyone’s food looked great! We took the bus back to Medfield Street, where we stopped for stamps and at the convenience store. We got back and saw that the cleaning staff had already started cleaning out the rooms of the others – the doors were open, beds stripped, rubbish bins outside – it was a bit sad too! We got our things together and finished packing, then went down to say bye to the marketing team before heading out to our taxi.
The taxi took us to the airport – it was our first time in a car! Alexis was dropped off first, then Kevin and I, and Kelsey was last, so we all gave each other our last hugs. We checked in at Heathrow and proceeded to go through security – pretty much like American airports. However, what was different was that once we got through security, there was a central waiting area, with shops and seats, and boards telling us what gate to go to about 30 minutes before boarding, instead of waiting by the gate. We bought lunch – I got mine from a pharmacy – chicken sandwiches, and potato crisps, and a tropical fruit juice. Kevin napped a bit, and I read Bossypants, and then we had our gate assigned, and had a 20 minute walk to the gate – the airport is huge! After presenting our boarding passes, we were ushered into another waiting area by the gate, where yesterday’s Evening Standard was there for free, and then waited another 20 minutes before boarding.
It was nice not to have my rolling case on the plane – it felt a lot freer! The seats were small again, but it was alright, I slept as soon as I could. I woke up a bit, we were still on the ground (delayed), but they turned on the entertainment system, which was not working earlier. When we took off, I put together a music playlist on the entertainment system and fell asleep again. Later, there was a meal (roast chicken), and I watched the movie “Morning Glory” – I thought it was interesting, though I guess I was expecting a more Sorkin-esque view of news, but it was a good couple hours of entertainment (though I felt a lack of closure to the entertainment vs. news debate, and the love story felt unfinished), but it had a nice feel good ending at the end. I fell asleep again, waking up for the second meal of spinach quiche, on the 11 hour flight. I played a racing game and battleship on the entertainment console, before sleeping again. I woke up once we landed, and made it through customs. We grabbed our luggage, and Kevin and I bid our goodbyes.
I had an amazing experience – again, thank you to the US-UK Fulbright Commission for offering this program, and to the Roehampton University Academic and Marketing teams for making this an experience of a lifetime – this has probably been my best summer! It was a lot of fun, and I was looking through my pictures the other day – we have done some amazing things that I never thought I would get to do – and saw places I never imagined I’d see!
30 Days in London. The UK really, I guess. I cannot believe that it’s coming to an end already – today was our final full day all together. We split up a bit in the morning (but we all come back together later in the story!) Our breakfast this morning was chocolate croissants! Not a bad way to end breakfasts here. This morning, Alexis, Adam, Kevin, and I wanted to run into London to try to find some touristy souvenir shops. Katie was going to go with us, but she ended up going with Ahren on the morning boat tour. We only had about an hour, because we wanted to be back for lunch at Roehampton. We went to Covent Garden first, thinking that the Jubilee Market Hall would have stalls – though it turned out that on Mondays they have antique stalls, not general stalls, so there was only one place there, and one convenience store down the street that sold souvenirs as well. I bought some things there, and Kevin and I got ice creams (it was cheaper than it costs here at school!). Then, we walked over to Trafalgar Square – they found a booth on the sidewalk, but I remembered seeing a tourist shop around from when we walked. I found it, and we spent a few minutes there, before heading back to Roehampton for lunch.
lunch being cooked!
For lunch, I got food from the theatre menu – today was chicken fajitas. It was great to see the chef cook them right in front of us! And he showed us how we could fold the tortillas like a cup to eat it. Not sure if that’s authentic, but it sure tasted great – I’m going to miss watching him cook our food for lunch! A very good lunch to end our stay here with! Afterwards, we headed back into London to go on a boat tour on the Thames. Brendan, Alexis, Kevin, Adam and I walked down to Barnes and took the train and tube to Westminster (across the street from Parliament). We met Kelsey there. We boarded, after waiting for Nicole – she made it just in time! They were already putting the ramp away when she got there – but she got on board the boat! The tour went eastward, passing the London Eye, several bridges, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and made its way to Canary Wharf –about 45 minutes. It was soothing to be on the boat, but when we got further, it started getting cold, and our group went to sit inside.
We got to Greenwich, though we didn’t have much time – we wanted to do some other things, so we took pictures on the pier (hello, Eastern Hemisphere!), and boarded another boat going back west. It seemed slightly nicer – with curtains and tables on the inside portion. We sat there for a while, and then went up on the deck. A bunch of young American kids got on and crowded the boat before we got back to Westminster, but it ended up alright. We then split ways with Kelsey and Nicole who went to do other shopping.
This is about as far as we got in Greenwich
Nice interior on the second boat
I really enjoyed doing the boat tour when we did (though it would have been cooler at night!) We passed by a bunch of places and things we had already seen and been to (Tate Modern, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye, Tower of London, etc), and it was almost like a trip down memory lane (or river?), and also cool to see things from a different angle.
My group went to Hyde Park so we could go to Buckingham Palace, and met up with Tom, Stephanie, and Sophia. Adam wanted pictures of Buckingham Palace not in a storm like we did last time (and from a far distance) – when we started walking, it rained! We stopped at Hyde Park for 99 Ice Cream cones (basically it’s vanilla soft serve with a chocolate flake) – when I got my cone, it fell over onto the ground! Sophia laughed – but then when she got hers, the same thing happened! But hers was funnier, because her glob of ice cream on the ground started sliding down the sidewalk. The vendor was kind enough to give us both new cones. We got to Buckingham Palace and took our pictures, which was nice. We came back, going through a tunnel to the tube station that highlighted the Battle of Waterloo. The tube was very crowded! We had to pass up 2 trains, because they were absolutely packed like sardines (probably because they were going to the airport, Heathrow). The train we got on was still crowded, but just enough room for us to get on. We met up with everyone on the Southbank, including Talah, Kriss, and Emma from marketing, and Bradley, a student at Sophia, Kevin, Nicole, and Ahren’s volunteering school.
We wanted Asian food, so went to Busaba Eathai (a Thai restaurant, we wanted to go there for Ahren’s birthday) – it was pretty good food, I had a green chicken curry with fried rice. My table had Bradley, Ahren, Stephanie, Tom, Katie, Kriss, and Emma. After dinner, we walked around a bit – some people got ice cream, then Talah had to leave. The rest of us walked over to Southbank, where Kriss, Emma, and Bradley left after we took some pictures on the bridges.
We went to the London Festival Hall afterwards – there were some couches and chairs and tables we moved around to make our own little “living room.” I grabbed a coffee, some of the guys got beers from the bar. We sat around for a while, then later we did more emotional stuff. We went around the group, and each member had to go and say something about every single person in the group. It was fun, and a bit emotional, but it was a nice way to end our programme. After that, we went out onto the Southbank and took tons of pictures at night with the London Eye and Parliament! Which was a lot of fun – and emotional too! I’m really sad that we’re all leaving – I feel that we’ve all gotten very close, and ending tonight with the group talking in our fake living room, and doing group pictures with everyone out by the river Thames was a great ending.
Our living room
Out on the embankment
Kelsey and Nicole went to see Harry Potter in 3D IMAX (biggest IMAX , 10400 watts of power!), the rest of us came back. The train was delayed a while (someone got hit at Wimbledon. Again.) but we got back – packed, spent the time, making a fake bubble bath, cleaning, watching lip dubs, football tackling – this is going to be a long night! We’re leaving in batches of 4 via taxi (seems like a reality tv show) – so I’m in the last group, so I’ll be here a bit longer. Time to go enjoy our last hour together – I hope we all keep in touch, I really love all the people in this group.
First an addition to yesterday – I mentioned that there were a lot of elderly people on the tube to Kensington Olympia, but offered no explanation – there was a 50+ convention! Thought I’d just explain that! And now on to today…
Today was a long and busy day! We woke up around 7 to go to breakfast (regular croissants – it’s interesting when you realize if you hit a croissant with a spoon and it chips…it’s probably been in the oven too long. Which sparked a discussion on the quality of the breakfast food.) 8 of us (Stephanie, Ahren, and Tom went to Oxford, Katie slept in today) went into the city to go to the Victoria and Albert museum. We got on the bus, and at the next stop, dozens of French and Spanish summer camp kids at Roehampton kids got on the bus. Gee, isn’t it annoying when a bunch of international students come get on the bus at the same time (and I haven't even said anything yet about those pesky Fulbright American students!)!
We got to the station, and there was a cool underground passageway (subway they call it – just a foot tunnel) to the museum (as well as the Natural History, Science Museums, and the Royal Albert Hall). So I thought the Victoria & Albert Museum was just mostly fashion stuff – but there was so much more! I was very pleased and excited (except the strange guy in the bathroom) – I had a great time there actually! We all split up into different groups so we could do our own things. I started off in the China room – there was some Chinese art, tapestries and rugs, some jade, and some more modern art pieces (see the exploding chair!) which were cool to look at.
An "exploding" Chinese chair, "frozen" in midair
After that, I went to look at the photography gallery, which was a guy who took a lot of photos of South Africa, which were interesting to look at and see the stories and lives of people during Apartheid. After that, I wandered my way into the Plasters room – which blew my mind! There were these enormous huge buildings and statues of plaster inside the building – they were exquisitely detailed and were gigantic! The scale was amazing, I was pleasantly surprised from that wandering.
The people on the bottom give a sense of the scale of the plaster - this is taken from the balcony. It's super impressive being on the bottom looking up, but this gives a better sense of scale.
I walked through the Medieval and Renaissance area – there were some cool building fronts (like a huge spiral staircase made of wood), and a harpsichord – I saw one at Cornell when I visited before I decided to go there, and so I recognized this one pretty soon, which was cool! I then took a glass elevator up 1 floor (because it was a glass elevator!) I went up to the theater arts area. There was one really cool exhibit, which was called “Five Truths” – taking the crazy Ophelia scene from Hamlet (unfortunately I haven’t read it yet…), directed in 5 different styles, and displayed on 10 screens (2 per each style, from 2 different camera angles), and played at the same time. It was strange, to hear dialogue spoken differently, using different props, different sounds, some camera angles straight into the face, some camera angles distorted and looking creepy. It was a bit of a trippy experience! But I thought it was very interesting, and artistically amazing! I walked through the rest of the theatre exhibit – I looked at models of various stages for famous plays which was really cool to see (love models!), and strolled past the costumes.
Old wooden spiral staircase
Cool staircase in the Jewelry Gallery
Kelsey recommended the jewelry room, so I did a quick stroll. It was pretty cool, though I saw a lot of men sitting on the benches! And many woman up at the glass displays! But the room itself looked cool and modern, with a blue lit spiral staircase in the middle. I walked by some landscape paintings of England and Europe too, which were beautiful to see! I then walked up to the glasswork area – there were amazing things, going back to Venetian times, showing vases, cups, a model boat, glass horns, rolling pins, and bells (the sign said that they were quite impractical!) and many other glass objects.
Last I went into the architecture room – it was amazing, I loved it! I could have spent all my time there! There were many models, representing many styles. Tudor, more contemporary, showing how buildings are built to climate (and to being environmentally friendly), models of the Reading Room at the British Museum, Parliament, Gatwick Airport, and many more. It was amazing to see all the styles!
Architecture - model of a middle school
Model of a "green" housing community
Afterwards, we all went outside to eat our packed lunches (guess my sandwich…tuna again!) on the benches out in front of the museum. And had some Jurassic Park moments with swarming pigeons! Swatting them away from our bench (me and Adam) – those tricky beasts then tried to sneak around the back of us between the bench and the wall. And then Kevin threw a crumb at them – and they went berserk! Crazy pigeons. We started walking down the street toward Harrods! We got across the street, and the skies opened up and started pouring heavy rain down – just like Edinburgh rain!
We got into Harrods (slightly wet) – it was an amazing place, and a huge department store! I feel like it’s only the super rich and tourists who go in there! But it was almost like being in Las Vegas – each room is themed differently (and very richly!), and there’s an Egyptian themed escalator bank (Luxor!) There were so many people there, but it was crazy! Saw 27,000 pound rugs. And gold cannons you could put on your office desk for decorations. Adam, Brendan, and I went to the toys section! There were lots of legos, and A LOT of Hornby model trains! (HO scale!) – I think it rekindled my interest in model trains! When I get time (and space and money) I’d love to set up a model train system – probably based on British trains, not so much American ones – which I noticed Hornby seems to have mostly British trains (while the ones I have at home are US trains). We also went through the bookstore and DVD area (admiring the Star Trek, Stargate and West Wing DVDs with Adam!), and we even went into the Harrod’s Gift Shop (yes, they have their own gift shop!).
Food shopping at Harrods - fancy decor!
Looking down the Egyptian escalator (see the column on the left)
After Harrod’s, we took the tube to Oxford Street – the girls went to buy clothing. In the tube station, Adam and I finally got to see the Star Trek ad we missed the other day (the tube came before we could read it) – looks like The Next Generation is coming to tv here soon. Adam, Brendan, Kevin and I went to buy some souvenirs. After that, Adam, Brendan and I continued walking around – it was raining a little, but water dripped onto us as we walked under scaffolding – which was an interesting (and not so nicely wet) experience. We wandered and decided to go to Grosvenor Square – current home of the US Embassy! (they’re moving down to Battersea soon). We saw the FDR memorial, and a memorial to WWII Pilots (sponsored by William Randolph Hearst – I don’t know, that seems to lessen its sincerity a bit to me. That’d be like saying welcome to the Tostitos Washington Monument! Maybe it was just generosity though). Then the US Embassy – with a huge gate in front of it! But it was nice, in front, they had the flags of all the states flying on flagpoles (saw California!), and on the roof there was a giant eagle perched wings spread out, in front of a waving American flag. It was nice to see – the 3 of us did a nice humming of the national anthem as we walked by. Yay America! Though the eagle was pretty intimidating (or a symbol of American power perhaps?). We also went by statues of Eisenhower and Reagan.
Star Trek ad!
Top of the US Embassy in the UK!
We walked around some more, tried to find Berkeley Square, but failed, so we just walked around – saw some nice buildings though. We then stopped at a Costa Coffee (like Starbucks) – I got an iced mocha, but the drinks ended up taking a while, and weren’t going to be able to walk back in time to get to the meeting point, so we ended up taking the tube for 2 stops – but it was pretty fun, running through the tube station (or at least a brisk walk), running to get to the train as we heard it approaching the platform when we were still in the corridors. We made it only about 4 minutes late, and that pretty much counts for on time. Afterwards, we all took (a very crowded) tube back, running a bit again, and took the train back to Barnes.
We had our last dinner here (said bye to the cafeteria staff too). It was hamburgers, roasted potatoes, corn, and muffins – the exact same dinner as our first night – full circles can be strange. We had a good time talking and eating. After dinner, we did some personal things, I started packing (mostly folding clothes…and singing), but all came out together to play UNO. We played real UNO – the ones the last for hours, because no one gives up, and we all try to destroy each other! Though I thought it was a rather anti-Hobbesian ideal – our “every man for himself” mentality, yet there was some common good of not wanting the person with the least cards to win, so we all kept each other in check, not descending into chaos. Though I suppose I may be looking too deeply into a game of UNO. But there were points when one person’s hand of cards was as much as the entire deck of shuffled cards in the middle. It got bad to point where we had to do a “1 card amnesty” to discard a card from the hand to try to increase the size of the deck. It was fun because we also started singing – starting off with 90s songs, then Don’t Stop Believing and Mamma Mia and then spent a long time on Disney songs. It was a lot of fun to play and sing! In the end, Adam “won” because we had to say no more shuffling the deck and no more drawing cards because it was taking too long! We were going to play Tension, but decided we were all too tired.
So I finished as much packing as I could, and wrote a super long blog entry! 1 more day – I still can’t believe this is coming to an end – I plan to enjoy the next 36 hours as much as possible!
Today we started off with an early day – 7 am, going to a 7:30 breakfast. Soon afterwards, we headed out to go to the Portobello Market in London. It’s basically a street market. I went thinking it’d be a block or so, but it was huge! Blocks and blocks on one single street – and it was organized into areas – antiques, fruits & veg, clothing, new products, etc. There were a lot of cool little stalls I stopped by. There were ones with stamps with letters of the alphabet (like for initials) – though they were more like fancy print type than stamps. Like the first letters of the first word of a chapter with fancy flowers around it – like that. I also went by the tourist stalls – I think I’m starting to recognize all the tourist merchandise – the same keychains, pens, t-shirts, etc. Must be the same supplier out there somewhere. Anyways, there were some really nice prints that I looked at – some were from old cigarette boxes, there were series with different trains of the world, including some that I recognize from Thomas (Snowdon railway in particular), and another stall had prints of drawings from Winnie the Pooh, Babar the Elephant, and Thomas the Tank Engine (all guaranteed to be 60+ years older!) There were very nice antique maps too – I was considering getting one too, before realizing I probably wouldn’t have the same appreciation for a 100 pound map as others would (albeit being 100+ years old!) – personally, I probably would have been alright with a photocopy, so alas, I didn’t buy one.
Lots of stalls at Portobello Market
Doctor Who! (and Rory, left, and Amy, right)
After that, Nicole, Kevin and I set out to meet Brendan at the Doctor Who Experience, not too far, at Kensington Olympia. When we were leaving Portobello Market, it was getting VERY crowded (lots of tourists!) – I’m glad we decided to go early in the morning! We took the district line train to Earl’s Court, and had to wait for a train to basically take us on a one stop branch to Kensington/Olympia. This station was a little different (and cool!) because it didn’t have electronic boards like other stations saying the destination and platform and time until the next train, but they did have a board on each platform with the names of destinations, and an arrow would appear next to the destination of the approaching train, which was an innovative (and probably earlier) way of notifying passengers. The person making the announcements was a bit overly excited – maybe bored? “On platform 4, District Line to KENsington Olyyymmmpia!!” – though the train got switched to platform 3 – all of us (and there were a lot of old people too!) had to get off the train we got on and move over to the next platform. Good thing we listened!
When we got to Kensington Olympia, the rain was really pouring down hard! Almost Edinburgh hard rain! It was crazy – I was getting wet, even with my umbrella and semi-waterproof jacket. We got to the Doctor Who Experience as Brendan was leaving, so we said hi as he leaved. He went through the actual experience (like museum/video attractions – you have to pay though), while we just went to the shop part. The Experience is like an exhibition of Doctor Who props/costumes/memorabilia type things. The shop was so cool – I was so excited! There was a display case in the middle like a TARDIS console, and the theme was playing! They had so much – sonic screwdrivers, DVDs, tshirts, lego (well lego-like at least) sets, action figures, TARDIS playsets, Dalek pens, and even a lifesize cardboard TARDIS! It was surreal being there, though I wish not as many things were for children as there were. But it was still a lot of fun.
By the time we left, it was still raining. We decided to go to Tate Modern because Kevin needed to buy some gifts, and we were meeting the group at the Globe theater to watch a performance of Anne Boleyn, which was right nearby. We took the District Line to Mansion House, walked over the Thames on the Millennium Bridge. It was still raining, but since the Millennium Bridge is metal, I could “skate” across it – which was a lot of fun to do! I think I might have attracted some stares though… Kevin and I were going to take shelter under the bridge on the south side – then going underneath it, we realized, it was designed so water would drip down through the bridge. So much for staying dry.
Kevin and Nicole went in the Tate gift shop – it was a different one and bigger one than the one I went to last time – there’s a second gift shop on another floor. But I was shopped out, and sat on one of the huge wide ramps in the open area (it used to be a power station) and ate my packed lunch from Roehampton, and tried to dry off a bit. Though I noticed that there were a lot of people camped out on the sides. Like a refugee place. Well maybe that’s too tough. Evacuation center maybe. Like a hurricane or wildfire evacuation center, people sitting along in their little groups and all that.
Inside the Globe Theatre!
After that, we went to the Globe Theatre! Shakespeare’s Globe! It’s not the original – but it’s a reconstruction of the original. We had yard tickets, meaning we had to stand for the 2 hours of the show, but it was worth it (for 5 pounds! For more, we could have paid for seats) – almost like a peasant’s view of how it would have been – though they might have had mud instead of concrete. There’s no roof (for the yard/standing tickets – there are if you pay for seats, which is covered), but the show goes on no matter the weather! I bought a poncho because it was raining pretty hard when we got there, but I ended up not needing it, because the rain let down during the show, luckily. We saw “Anne Boleyn”
– a play about the infamous woman, which jumped between the timelines of King James I (and the King James Bible), and Henry VIII & Anne. It was very good – funny, entertaining, and moving - I enjoyed it greatly, I am so happy that we all decided to go watch! And 3 guys can play a lot of music on older instruments and bells, which helped set the time period of the play. I never thought I would be able to see a show like that, and I am so glad that I had this opportunity!
The skies cleared for about 30 min after the play! It was beautiful! then the rain came again...
After the Globe, we split up. Adam, Kelsey, Alexis and I went to Covent Garden, intending to do some shopping. When we got there, it was still raining (pouring more – like actual Edinburgh rain this time – but I guess it’s not a real London experience without the rain!), and already 5:30 – since we wanted to get back for dinner, we had about 15 minutes to shop. Alexis and I went back to the Jubilee Market (indoor street market/vendors area), thinking it’d be tourist stuff like last time, but apparently Saturday is for arts & crafts vendors – so we got to see booths with prints, woodwork and metalwork – there were some really cool metal figures placed around wine bottles to look like people! We met back up and got onto the tube, but the lines were CRAZY! There were long lines for the lifts (elevators) down – because this station didn’t have an escalator. There were transit people directing us to the lifts – wouldn’t let us down the 193 stairs (15 storeys I believe(and I believe that’s how they spell stories like floors here)), so we waited for the lift down to the tube which was equally as crowded. But we made it back to Waterloo, ran to the train (always running to trains – transportation here is always a race a man remarked to me last night) – but we did get back in time for dinner. Tonight was burritos! Saw Johnny serving us food again too. The burritos were pretty good – would’ve been better with salsa, but a tomato from the salad bar worked well.
After dinner, I was going to stay in, sleep early, upload some facebook pics. And the like. But the girls were planning on going to the Fez club over in Putney (the nearby town). I figured I’d like to go out, but wasn’t really in the mood to lose my hearing. I got the guys together (rebelling against the club) and we did a “guys night out” (hope the girls weren’t too mad – but maybe that gave them so more freedom in their activities). We ended up on the same bus as the girls (I called it!) because while we went to 2 different bus stops, the busses were running every 20 minutes, so we ended up on the same bus anyways. We went to the Duke’s Head in Putney, which is nice and right on the embankment of the Thames. Tom and Ahren had been there a few times. We got our drinks (big night for me!) – and headed out to a nice spot on the embankment where we sat down on the slope over the river, looking out at Putney Bridge, and the moon, and the light reflected in the sky from the sun. (There are glimmers of sun until at least 10 here – I’m going to miss that. Though Ahren said we’re at the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska – sun up at 5am, down at 10pm – I hear that in the winter, the sun can be set as early as 3pm. I will miss it being light still at 9pm once I get back home to California though.) We also passed some really drunk passed out people, one guy (“He only had one beer! Wake up mate!”) and a drunk girl (“I want sex!”, before promptly falling down), both being cared for by a group of (what I presume are their) friends, as well as a woman in heels who ran away from her group. Interesting night. None of that happened to us – we were all quite civil! It was just nice for us to go sit by the river, talk and share stories, and spend some time together as friends, it was a really nice evening, and I’m glad we did it (and I spent less money that I would have at the club!).
Sunset from Putney, over the Thames
Putney Bridge and the moon
5 guys on the Embankment (I make 6, but I'm taking the picture!)
But tonight made me realize how much I’m going to miss Putney. It’s a nice place, right on the Thames, and I love the bridge at night! It’s low key, but has enough going on while being suburban enough as well as busy enough to be interesting, and it has a very close proximity to London and super bustling areas. It’s been great to be able to spend time there, I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’m going to miss what Putney has to offer when I get back home.
My internet isn’t working, so I’m going to type this tonight on word(12:30 am on July 16) and post in the morning – won’t have time to put in pictures though because it’s going to be a busy day, so sorry about that!
Today was our presentations – it was really cool! We dressed up and everything. We were Team Scorsese, and we showed our film first. Ours was about education and citizenship – and the debate over how citizenship should be taught in schools, if at all. You can watch it on Youtube here:
The other two groups (Spielberg and Tarantino) did theirs on gaps between different “groups” of citizens, and on protests. All of them looked great, and I think everyone did a wonderful job! I really enjoyed watching the videos this morning, along with the presentation – in front of the panel of Stephen Driver, Dave, and Yasmin, along with some of our other lecturers. We all dressed up and did our presentations and presented our films. It has been a long 48 hours of straight work on the films, but it was all worth it in the end! I am really proud with how our film turned out, I think it was great – pacing, camerawork, music, theme and message, and how we all contributed to the final product – it was much better than I originally thought it was going to be! Got laughs in the right spots too! Maybe I should consider documentary making more in my future…
After we showed the films, Yasmin took us to the courtyard where we awaiting the judging panel – ala the Apprentice (or the Inquisition!) – though I was kind of sad that we had thunder in one of our parts of the audio, she said she enjoyed it – it fit in with the doom and gloom bit that the kids were talking about – so if you hear that, it was a piece of excellent symbolism! The judging panel had mostly kind words to say about our film – we were very pleased with the feedback - and then like that, our academic work for the summer was over! A bit scary.
We had lunch in Froebel (fish and chips with mushy peas! I got Ahren onto the mushy peas team – Brendan too I think, somewhat at least – they are so good!) In the afternoon was a reception in Grove House with more of the academic staff, as well as the marketing people and Roehampton administration. There were refreshments and some snacks there as well – if it was from the same catering company, this proves that they are capable of making some quite good food! And if it wasn’t them, the food was still quite good! We mingled for a bit, before showing our video again, so that the marketing people and the other academics, and the Vice Chancellor could see it (he nicely integrated themes from each of the films into his little talk to us) – local MP (Member of Parliament) Justine Greening (who we’ve had the pleasure to meet on several occasions) came near the end (enough to catch a bit of our video!) and was able to help hand out our certificates (and goody bags!) Everyone was there – Dave, Stephen, Tessa, Jonathan, Nicola, Kriss, Emma, Talah, Gary, and I probably forgot some people, but it was great to see them all!
Time to take a moment here, and thank the Fulbright Commission for offering this excellent summer programme, as well as Roehampton University for hosting us – the academic team who did an amazing job exposing us to different issues and viewpoints in the various sessions and the marketing team for making our stay here comfortable. I really enjoyed being in the small group, and the British teaching culture – being able to build these relationships with the people who taught us, calling them by their first names, having conversations as equals – it was much different than the way I learn at home, and it has been a tremendous experience.
Afterwards, we all took pictures outside (with the official Roehampton photographer!), and then went for a post debriefing with Rebecca from the Fulbright Commission – and the infamous W curve for culture shock. I really am going to miss a lot of this when I get back – the people, the friends, the relationships I’ve built, and just the feel of being awestruck by something amazing every day – it may be a bit hard to go back after seeing all this. Some things just seem trivial now in comparison – but I suppose more of that deep reflection stuff will happen once I’m back and moody and in the bottom of the culture shock curve!
This afternoon we sat around. I started getting a headache (not enough sleep I’m guessing!) and took a little nap (and some aspirin) after dinner. The others went to Putney to hang out before watching Harry Potter – I came and met them there. It was a small theater, only 3 screens, but it was nice! The men’s toilet was out of order, so I had to use the disabled one – there was a long line of people. I actually met the same guy in line twice waiting in lines 2 different times to use the toilet – strange.
Spoiler free version of tonight:
So after my first time in the toilet, I met the others across the street, and we hung out a bit. Then we went into the theatre. (Or cinema?) I got salted popcorn – it was interesting (no butter!) – could have gotten sweet popcorn too. It was like kettle corn – but salted instead of sweet. Didn’t like it much at first, but by the time I was at the end of the box (yes, they used a box! Not one of those stupid AMC bags of popcorn! (for the record, I don’t think bags are stupid – I just like boxes better)), it had grown on me. We had reserved seats. It started at 9:30pm, but at 9:30 it was pretty empty. I realized why soon. They started showing COMMERCIALS – like for milk and bikes and cable companies – at 9:30 – it wasn’t until 9:45 until trailers started! It was probably close to 10 or after 10 (2200) when the film properly started.
I was very happy afterwards, and I want to see it again now! I realize it’s been 10 (close to 11) years that Harry Potter has been in my life – half my life – and it ended (kind of) tonight. Big weight. Ahren and I were talking about how we had been introduced to the books – third grade classes, and a dad who bought a book at Costco. I think they’ve shaped a lot about what I had considered to be British – and JK Rowling did get a lot of things right! But it was a great 2 hours, and great to spend it with most of the kids from the Fulbright group!
SPOILER VERSION OF TONIGHT! MY TAKES ON THE MOVIE!
Just wanted to say a couple things – first, my have things improved from the first film!
Bad things first:
Not enough time with the central trio – it’s alright at first…then it’s either Harry by himself, Ron and Hermione by themselves, Harry as a third wheel, or other characters. That said, there were some nice scenes with 3 of them, and we have had 7 films with them together…
The whole movie takes place over 2 days! (Though an important 2 days, Alexis reminded me).
CASTLE CHANGED AGAIN. NOT COOL. Some things – like how the courtyard looked I can be like okay, Bellatrix destroyed a lot last time she was there. BUT THE CASTLE BRIDGE DOES NOT LEAD THERE. IT USED TO LEAD TO A BUILDING, NOT AN ENTRANCE!! I BET THEY DIDN’T THINK PEOPLE WOULD NOTICE THAT! BUT I DID! DANG YOU. Though I had always wondered, the school never had a proper entrance to it – when I was looking through the castle, the closest thing was the wood bridge (featured predominantly in movie 3), though no “real entrance.” Until the 8th movie. When they got one out of thing air. Thanks. Not really.
Hagrid got like 3 lines of dialogue in the film. And one was just “Harry.” And Fleur only got 1.
Not enough time mourning our lost favourite characters! But I guess it’s a “positive” thing not to dwell…
Not really a bad thing, but I felt the epilogue was kinda funny…which it wasn’t exactly supposed to be. But at least they used the same actors! It was semi believable. Though it had heart to it! I just wish we could have seen other characters/references to characters when they were older.
Now Good things!:
Epic battle scenes. Very sad to see Hogwarts in the state it was…But Lord of the Rings sized armies – complete with giants and everything!
Emotional scenes for me! Even if they didn’t need to be. Or I was overly emotional – but I loved Snape’s flashbacks.
When Bellatrix flies toward the camera, Kevin screamed – which was funny, because NO ONE else in the theatre did. (Some people laughed after that).
Some good comedic moments in the film.
We’ve been to London now! So we recognized things. When the dragon flew over London, I was like I WAS THERE! I SAW THE LONDON EYE!
Dragon scene was very Jurassic Park like. Which I liked. Perfection would have been if the dragon stood on the roof and roared, ala T-rex in The Lost World. But maybe that’d be too much. But I liked that aspect.
Scenes we heard about but didn’t see in the books – killing of Nagini, Ron and Hermione in the Chamber of Secrets, and the visual nature of film gave the “Kings Cross” and Snape’s memories scenes added meaning for me, than I got from the books.
Amazing visual effects of the castle and the surrounding countryside. Having been to Scotland now gave me a HUGE appreciation for the visual scope of the scenery in Harry Potter.
Throwbacks to most of the films, which was really cool! I realize now how richly JK Rowling wrote her world, how plot elements from separate books really came together. But as a last movie, it was visually satisfying to going back and seeing all these things we had seen before. Gringotts from 1 (I want to see how much that changed!), Quidditch picth (in it’s sad burning state), the pixies from movie 2, Room of Requirement more similar to how it was in 6, the wood bridge from 3, Platform 9 ¾ from 1 and 2 in an amazing feeling of full circle-ness (and feeling old!), Cho, Lavender, Trelawny, Sprout, McGonnagall (I know I spelled that wrong, but she played an amazing, almost grandmotherlike role – best performance from Maggie Smith in any of the films!), Slughorn, Spiders from 2 and 6, all the Weasleys, Sirius, Tonks and Lupin – all nicely integrated into the film.
MUSIC. I CANNOT SAY HOW MUCH I LOVED THROWBACKS TO JOHN WILLIAMS!! Didn’t open with the traditional Hedwig’s Theme, but there were enough snippets integrated in the music in the first 5 minutes to satisfy me. And the epilogue. I AM WRITING THE REST OF THIS IN CAPS BECAUSE I LOVED IT SO MUCH. I WAS JUMPING IN MY CHAIR AND PRACTICALLY SCREAMING WHEN THE JOHN WILLIAMS THEME OF “LEAVING HOGWARTS” PLAYED IN THE EPILOGUE. WHICH IS EXACTLY HOW I WOULD HAVE WANTED IT TO END MUSICALLY! AND THENNNNN IN THE BEGINNING OF THE CREDITS, THEY PLAYED THE WILLIAMS CUE OF “HEDWIGS THEME” – THIS IS ALL MUSIC THAT HASN’T BEEN HEARD IN THIS FORM SINCE THE 2ND MOVIE!!! THE 2ND MOVIE – THAT’S LIKE…8 YEARS AT LEAST, MAYBE 9 SINCE I HEARD THIS IN THE THEATER. AMAZING STUFF. I insisted on staying for a good chunk of the credits to listen to it. I was really disappointed when neither John Williams nor Nicholas Hooper were going to score the 7th and 8th films, but I think they did a wonderful tribute to John Williams’ music in this film.
Only thing that could make it better was if they played Harry’s Wondrous World – though it’s not so wondrous now, so I suppose that makes sense…
You can comment now! Hopefully I can get my full…5…hours of sleep before tomorrow!
More working on videos today! Today we woke up and continued working on our video, trying to cut it down. Most of the day we spent working on our video – getting audio right, getting fades, and perfecting when we cut the clips. We had a pretty good rough cut by lunch time.
For lunch, I took the roast beef – though it cost me 4.50, it was quite good! Though I’m realizing that I’ve been stocking up pretty well on dark chocolate bars. We came back, and began to work on some other aspects of the video – adding pans and audio clips, and some other things. By the end, I think we had a pretty successful video! We also tried calling Dave using the hall phone – that was an interesting experience, but it’ll probably be easier in the future to just facebook him! By dinner, we had our video completed! It felt great to be done relatively early! We ate dinner (turkey). Though before dinner, Emma delivered our flight confirmations for the flight home – which set a bit of a sad mood – I can’t believe it’s almost been 4 weeks, I still feel like I just got here. I really don’t feel ready to leave yet!
Tonight we started working on our presentation. We got a good chunk of it done. I also spent some time in the dance room to use a piano – fun to play for an hour or so, then came back. Not a whole lot to blog about today, but definitely a very productive day!
Our diligent work
Today was quite a work day! In the morning, I woke up at 9, to find Kelsey and Alexis already watching videos. I came to join them, and Tom came a little bit after. For the whole morning, we just watched our various videos and interviews. At first, we worked out in the hallway alcove, but we soon moved a table into the middle hallway, after finding it a bit noisy, and needed an electrical outlet!
We took a break for lunch – today I had duck leg (I hope it wasn’t from a duck from the lake – didn’t realize that until later – I suppose it’d be “eating local” though…) but it was pretty good. We came back and began to storyboard our documentary – based around education and citizenship – using pieces of paper to write down the clips and themes we had developed and watched in the morning. Afterwards, we began converting the videos from mp4 format to wmv, so we could use them on Movie Maker. While we were doing this, some workmen came in to fix my sink lamp! I have light now! I’m happy. We were also trying to come up with titles while we waited. There were some things “Lions, Dragons, and Unicorns, Oh My,” “A Political Mind,” “The Teacher and I,” “Citizens’ Gain,” and other titles along that vein – none of which we ended up with! When converting took a while, we took a break – I took the time to read some Tina Fey and catch a couple minutes of sleep.
We started editing before dinner. There are some fun little montages I got to edit. We all went as a group to dinner. Afterwards, some people went to a beer factory tonight, I stayed with Kelsey and we finished a rough cut of our video project! I really love our project – there are parts that look great. I love being able to see something in my head, and then see it realized into something real! It’s the most amazing feeling! Most everyone who stayed spent the time working on the projects – the kitchen was turned into a computer lounge! Our video progress was pretty much more than I thought we’d get to do – so tomorrow we can put the finishing touches on it and be ready for our presentations on Friday!
Today was our last day of volunteering. Unfortunately, since the end of term is near, the teachers were busy wrapping up and we weren’t able to talk to any of them. However, we were able to see Sonny and Liam one last time which was really nice, and we were also able to sit in on a PSE class (Personal and Social Education I believe.) It was interesting – today’s lesson was on netiquette – it was interesting to see that being taught in a more formal environment – I never had a formal class lesson with that. They were also watching the show “Being Victor” – produced by MTV, it’s a bit like a sitcom meets a soap meets Skins (though I’ve never seen Skins, so I’m not entirely sure) – but it deals with online etiquette, sex and drugs, and other things of that sort. Also interesting was that it was a class with some of the more troubled kids in the year – the teaching style and way the class behaved was much different than how my classes were – it was interesting to see this from a new perspective. Though we were able to speak to the kids and they asked us some questions – it was quiet for the first time in the period! We left shortly after that – much thanks to Ms. Oliver and the Oasis Academy for hosting us, I had a great time, and it opened up new ways of looking at education for me.
This afternoon, we came back for lunch. There was no hot food, but there was salad, which we ate. We came back and had a couple hours, I took a short nap – I was quite tired today, even though I bought a tea at the East Croydon train station. In the afternoon, we had our packed dinners brought to us – various salads (again) with paper bags with the crisps and biscuits and fruit. Adam and I went with the tuna salad. We all got dressed in our best clothes too – me in my new ASDA shoes – for a Fulbright Reception tonight.
The reception was at the Reform Club in London. It’s a gentlemen’s club, and apparently it’s quite hard to get into the building. It was a very nice building – lots of gold plating, I suppose the ideal version of “British posh.” The clubhouse has a dresscode (jacket at all times, things like that), and yes, it’s hard to get into – apparently it’s the same place where Around the World in 80 Days is based from! It was nice to be there though. The Fulbright people were there, and Gary and Emma went with us. We heard the American Ambassador speak, as well as a former Fulbright Commissioner, and the Minister of Higher Education. There was a lot of mingling – along with wine, soft drinks, and many hour devours – the chicken kebabs and fried mushroom cakes were quite good! We met a lot of new people – a Fulbright Scholar from Chicago, the Minister, a journalist, Fulbright interns, our British Fulbright Summer Institute counterparts, a woman who works at Southampton, and a very talkative and fun Fulbright Scholar from Philadelphia.
All of us in our "lounge suite" dress at the reception
Afterwards, Gary took us to a sports bar – drinks, and nachos and curly fries! (Or curled chips? And chips with cheese.) That was cool. I came back with Kelsey and Nicole, others came back a little while later. Tomorrow will be pretty much devoted to working on our films!
Today’s been a long day – I got about 5 hours of sleep last night. Today was a volunteering day at Shirley Park again. My group, Tom, Alexis, Kelsey, and I went to get the bus and train at 7am. Too early to get canteen breakfast, and we forgot to grab our croissants off the train last night (at least they were only 97p), so I ended up eating my Starbucks muffin, some of the others ate fruit or bought something at the station.
We got to the school around 8:30. Whenever I'm there, I feel a bit like I'm back in high school. Except inside. And people wear uniforms. We got to talk with some of the teachers who work with the English learners. There are a lot of students there who are refugees – we read some heartbreaking stories, about their parents being killed in front of them, riding into England hanging underneath lorries (trucks), and saw some of their writings. The one that really hit me was on a speech bubble of a bunch of students’ experiences, which said “Coming to London was dangerous. Stay home was even more dangerous.” That’s very scary, especially hearing about what some people do to get here. It gives a greater appreciation. They are eager to learn, and hopefully they will continue to have the resources to help them live in London.
After that, we were able to sit in a class with some of the most troubled students in that year – which really provides a sense of prospective. They were learning about how to build a house (or rather what goes into it). I give the teachers props – they are very dedicated and very patient, and stern when they need to be. Though there were some moments of laughter and connection during what some may consider a more rowdy class, and those moments were wonderful.
We were walked down to the primary school, where we were able to talk to the kids there, the head boy and girl, and student council representative, and some others. They have houses too – like Hogwarts! (Or as I suspect, a British thing). We talked to them about different things – food, music, America, plays, museums, etc). Some of these kids really liked to make use of the London museums, and when asked about cultural identity, they associated it with nationality, which I thought was interesting. They were well mannered and very polite, and it was a pleasure to be able to speak with them. And sit on little chairs!
We had lunch, and ran into Liam and his friends again, who ate with us. It was really nice to see them all again. After lunch, we interviewed the history/citizenship teacher whose class we sat in yesterday, and then were able to sit in a French GCSE (that’s their big tests – think of it as an SAT subject test to get into 11th and 12th grade, which is called 6th form school here. Secondary goes up to year 11 (about US 10th grade), then they can go to 6th form school for 2 more years to study for A-Levels (those would be more like real SATs, but harder. Probably closer to AP’s/IB tests) to apply to university. So the idea of 11th and 12th grade IB makes a lot more sense now, if it’s more like a British model of schooling) class, and watch them translate and do some other classwork.
After our day at the school, we came back. Grabbed a banana bread slice at the East Croyden station because the baguette with (some, if you can call it that) chicken wasn't enough. (Got really jealous when I heard of some of the other groups' school's canteens. But I We had a short meeting with Dave to talk about our film project, and I (finally) found some software to convert the mp4 video files into wmv so I can use the awesome Windows Movie Maker (better than Windows Live Movie Maker at least!) to work on the film. Most of tonight was spent on academic blogs by the group (and I also caught up on my Scotland blogs for personal use) – as well as singing with my computer, as ended up not doing our karaoke night out in London. I think I just ended up doing a lot of falsetto. Which Katie gave me some props on. Speaking of her, she has a bunch of pictures from the trip as her desktop background – which I would like to do. I have some amazing pictures from this trip, and I’d love to see them again! Time to do that before I sleep – the midnight academic blog deadline is approaching (8 minutes) – so I’ll do a bit, then get ready for tomorrow’s long day!